HC Deb 09 May 1939 vol 347 cc421-40

Amendment made: In page 11, line 38, at the end, insert: (5) Where a notice is served under this Section on the occupier of factory premises who is not the owner of the whole of the premises, he shall, within 14 days from the date of the service of the notice on him, serve a copy thereof on his immediate landlord, or, where he holds different parts of the premises under different landlords, on each of his immediate landords."—[Mr. Fleming.]

10.28 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, in page 12, line 8, at the end, to add: (6) If the council of a county district fail to serve a notice upon the owner of any commercial building in accordance with the provisions of this Section, the council of the county in which the building is situated may, if they think fit and after consultation with the council of the county district, either themselves serve such a notice or require the council of the county district to do so. This Amendment deals with a somewhat difficult point that may arise, although one hopes only very occasionally, in the practice of administration. The county councils are, of course, scheme-making authorities for the greater part of England and Wales outside the county boroughs, and there will be local authorities under them and associated with them in the administration of this Act who have given to them in this Clause the power of serving certain notices. It is, of course, essential that the scheme for the county should be a really well coordinated one, and that as far as possible where equal circumstances reign, equal conditions shall prevail. There have already been encountered in the course of the administration of these matters, as the Lord Privy Seal knows, occasions—I think one can say that up to this stage very rare occasions—of difficulty between county councils and the non-county boroughs, urban or rural councils as the case may be. Up to the present, these difficulties have been got over by a spirit of good will and sweet reasonableness being displayed on both sides. But we are now reaching a very important stage of the Bill, and judging by the Measures which the Government are introducing in respect of other matters, some of these things may now be of the utmost urgency. In view of the fact that there have been occasions when it has been difficult to get one of these county district authorities to move, it may be desirable that there should be given to some appropriate body or person the power to issue a notice in cases where, for some reason that is not sufficient, the county district authority fails to do so.

The words of the Amendment deal with this matter in as diplomatic a way as it is possible to arrange. It is essential that the lives of the people in these buildings should be properly protected. There are on occasion other interests involved which do not believe that there will ever be any trouble. I am astonished at the number of people whom I still meet who think that all this activity on the part of the Government is bluff, and some people go so far as to say that we are using the time of this House on these matters so that we should not be engaged on other matters which they regard as more useful. One still finds people who are not prepared even at this stage to do anything in the way of getting ready for eventuali- ties. Where these people are able, as they sometimes are, to exercise considerable pressure on the council of some small county district, it is essential that somebody should have the power to see that adequate steps are taken. We suggest that the method proposed in the Amendment is one which, in view of the general relationship between county and county district councils, will work reasonably well and will afford an opportunity of getting things done in cases where, for some reason or another, nothing will be done unless there is some body who is able to put pressure to bear on the county district council in order to get them to move.

10.32 p.m.

Sir Joseph Lamb

The question which is raised in this Amendment is purely one of co-ordination. The county councils do not wish in any way to usurp the powers of other authorities, but they think that there should be co-ordination and that, as the premier authority in the county, they should undertake this duty.

10.34 p.m.

Sir J. Anderson

I feel in some difficulty about this matter. I am naturally somewhat diffident about expressing disagreement with the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in support of the Amendment, familiar as they are—far more than I am—with the details of local government, but this Amendment, though it may be wrapped up in what the hon. Gentleman described as diplomatic language, is a form of default. It does, in fact, provide that where a district council—it may be the council of an important municipality—has, in the opinion of the county council, failed to serve some notice that it ought to have served, the county council can step in and, apparently irrespective of their views and wishes, except that the Amendment provides that there shall be consultation, serve a notice or require the council of the county district to serve a notice. That is to say it could give orders to the council of a county district which that council would be required to carry out.

Before expressing any opinion upon this proposal I should like to hear the point of view of representatives of the smaller bodies which may be affected. I do not feel that it would be right on behalf of the Government to give support to a proposal of this kind on the arguments we have heard from the two hon. Members. There is already in the Bill a default Clause, Clause 58, which enables the Minister, after proper inquiry, either to take over the functions of a defaulting authority himself or, in a case where the defaulting authority is the council of a county district, to give the power of that council to the county council, and from the point of view of the Government I should prefer to rely upon Clause 58 in the case, which I hope will be a rare one, of a county district showing itself incapable of carrying out its responsibilities in an adequate manner.

10.37 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

Having sat through some portion of the Debate carried on earlier this afternoon and on the previous day, I cannot help contrasting the slow, deliberate, careful way in which we are proceeding with this Measure and the hasty legislation which we did last night, and which will accupy us on some other night. Here we have two Bills, both concerned with what may be necessary in certain unfortunate eventualities which everybody hopes will not occur. In the one case we are dealing with what may be necessary for the protection of civilian life at home and in the other case are dealing with what may be necessary—

The Deputy-Chairman

I would point out to the hon. Member that what he is saying has little relation to the Amendment which we are discussing.

Mr. Silverman

I hope that I am in order. I am dealing with the attitude of the Minister to the Amendment. He thinks it is not right to deal with this matter until a long series of checks and counter-checks have been taken in order to see that every point of view has been expressed and every detail of every interest properly inquired into and protected, and I am saying that that is symptomatic of the way in which this Bill is being handled, and that it is too slow. Either there is an emergency or there is not, and if there is we have to prepare for it quickly, and it cannot possibly be right in the one case to act with such haste that we are legislating to conscript an army of boys without—

The Deputy-Chairman

The Amendment deals merely with the position of a county council, and the hon. Member is not addressing himself to that point at all.

Mr. Silverman

I am endeavouring to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who desires that certain precautions should be taken and that the Minister should have certain powers, and am commenting upon the Minister's refusal to take those powers until a whole series of precautions, which might be advisable if there were plenty of time, had been taken. I am contrasting that with the haste with which we are pursuing another form of legislation designed to meet the same emergency.

The Deputy-Chairman

That has nothing to do with the Amendment which we are now discussing.

Mr. Silverman

I submit, with respect, that it has a great deal to do with whether we ought to accept the Minister's attitude towards this Amendment or support the attitude of those who moved it and supported it. I will not proceed if you think there is something wrong with it, although I should have thought it was eminently in order.

10.41 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I am glad that my right hon. Friend has withheld a decision on this Amendment until he has had representations from what are called in Scotland the small burghs. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will know that these bodies in Scotland exercise, and cherish almost fiercely, certain rights of independence. In my constituency are perhaps more of these small burghs than in any other constituency in Scotland, and I know the intense feeling of pride that exists in them. If it were put to these small burghs that the county council could, if it thought fit, take certain steps—

Sir J. Lamb

Only in form—

Mr. Stewart

Quite, but certain steps to bring the small burghs up to scratch, I am sure that instead of getting the things done which we desire there would be the waste of a lot of time and a great deal of acrimonious discussion. I would remind the Committee of the Minister's powers under Clause 58. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has received representations from the small burghs upon that Clause. I warmly support my right hon. Friend. If the hon. Member for South Shields will see the Scottish point of view he will not be losing by withholding his Amendment, but would be strengthening the representations which they will make.

10.43 p.m.

Sir W. Brass

I support the Minister, because local district councils are obviously much nearer to matters than are the larger councils. The Minister has pointed out that under Clause 58 he has power to ask the larger authority to deal with this matter if he is not satisfied that the smaller authority is dealing with it properly. He has already such power under Clause 58 that it is unnecessary for the larger authority to be able to override the smaller, which is much closer to matters and is able to judge whether it is necessary to put shelters to these commercial buildings or not.

10.44 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed. Its introduction would lead to the very friction between authorities that we are seeking to avoid. Power is with the Minister, and before an authority can be an authority for the purposes of the Bill, it must have the staff necessary for carrying out the duties, and any default on its part will come to the notice of the Minister, who can transfer its duties to the county council or take them over himself. The smaller authorities are very jealous of the powers they have and in many instances are complaining now about the overriding powers possessed by the county councils with regard to air-raid precautions. The Amendment would create more friction than it would provide for anything that might arise in the future.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

If a district authority—presumably a rural or an urban district council—fails to do its duty, surely there ought to be a reserve authority, namely, the county council which can do it after consultation with the local authority if it thinks it necessary. The point is a perfectly simple one, and my own inclination is to support the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

As representing both the Rural District Councils Association and the Urban District Councils Association, I should like to say that we would much rather deal with the Minister than with the county council.

10.46 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I must say that, the more I hear from the Lord Privy Seal on this matter, the more I am astonished. I feel bound to warn him that he is not helpful towards the progress of the Bill. At a very full conference that was held in his room, including a large number of people from Scotland, who took up the greater part of the time, this was one of the things put forward by the County Councils Association of England and Wales, and it was not demurred to by anyone at the meeting. I gathered that it had been agreed. These words have been on the Paper from the very first day that Amendments appeared, and I gather that the right hon. Gentleman has received no representations from the associations who look after the interests of these other authorities—not even from the Scottish associations; and, therefore, I am surprised at the line he has taken towards the Amendment. I do not, however, want to do anything that will introduce friction between the local authorities—after all, the Minister himself is the cause of friction enough, without any well-wisher desiring to introduce more—and, in order that further negotiations, if he desires them, may be carried on with the other associations, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Spens

I beg to move, in page 12, line 8, at the end, to insert: (6) Where a notice is served under this Section on the occupier of factory premises or the owner of a commercial building he shall within fourteen days from the date of the service of the notice on him serve a copy thereof upon every person to whom he pays rent in respect of such premises or building, and each person upon whom a copy of such notice is served shall, within seven days from the date of the service of the copy of such notice on him, serve a copy thereof upon every person to whom he pays rent in respect of the premises or building to which such notice relates. This is exactly the same type of Amendment as the one which I moved earlier, and which was accepted.

Sir J. Anderson

I am quite prepared to accept this Amendment, which is in line with the previous one.

Amendment agreed to.

10.49 p.m.

Mr. Sandys

I beg to move, in page 12 after the words last inserted, to add: (7) A notice under this Section requiring the provision of air-raid shelter of an approved type for persons working or living in factory premises or in a commercial building shall be deemed to be complied with if, by an agreement under Part II of this Act between the occupier of the premises or the owner of the building, as the case may be, and the local authority for the purposes of that Part, that shelter is provided for those persons in a public air-raid shelter available, in whole or in part, for use by them. This is the first of a series of seven Amendments designed to deal with a problem to which I referred at some length on the last occasion, namely, the problem of factory premises and commercial buildings where it is not possible structurally to provide shelter accommodation. Although the Amendments were accepted in the first place by my right hon. Friend, there has been a certain amount of redrafting in order to overcome the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) and some of his friends on the last occasion. The purpose of the Amendments is three-fold, first to give power to local authorities to designate suitable private premises for use as shelter for workpeople in factories or commercial buildings. The second purpose is to give power to local authorities to enter into agreements with occupiers of factories or owners of commercial buildings for the same purpose. The third is to give power to an occupier or owner to secure the same reimbursement in respect of the shelters as if the works had been constructed on his own premises.

10.51 p.m.

Sir J. Anderson

As my hon. Friend has explained, these Amendments are designed to meet the case, raised on the last occasion when we had the Bill in Committee, of an owner or occupier who is not able conveniently or suitably to provide shelter on his own premises, but who can arrange with the local authority that it will, in fact, as a purely voluntary matter, provide the necessary shelter at the cost of the occupier or owner, and in the case where shelter is provided under arrangement with the local authority, by the local authority, the owner or occupier is deemed to have satisfied the obligations of the governing Clause of the Bill. The Amendments in the form in which they now stand avoid the danger which, I think, was apparent in the minds of some hon. Members, that the local authority might be placed in the position of having to do this work, whether it wished it or not, at the behest of some employer. It is made perfectly clear in the Amendments that that is not the position. The procedure is that a factory inspector goes to the local authority and represents that the case is one in which the local authority might, if it were willing, help the employer, and then the proposition is put forward and, if the employer and the local authority agree on the point, the work proceeds. I am quite prepared on behalf of the Government to accept the Amendment. I would only make the point that I think it may be desirable to supplement the provisions that have been placed on the Paper for the purpose of making the whole position more watertight in a case where this procedure is adopted.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

When this point was before the Committee on the previous occasion, my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) raised the point that there was a possibility that the owner of factory premises could by his own volition, without the concurrence of the local authority, pass the obligation for shelter on to the local authority or, at any rate, utilise the technical services of officers of the local authority. There was no lack of good will on this side of the House to help the small factory owner out of his difficulties. It is the small factory owner we have in mind in this Amendment. Therefore, in principle, the Amendment is a great improvement on the previous Amendment and the Lord Privy Seal is right in accepting it, in principle. The only point that I have any doubt about is where the Lord Privy Seal said, quite rightly, that this does not remove the financial responsibility on the owner of the factory premises to provide shelter, in respect of which financial responsibility he will receive certain grants from the State. That should be so, because if the local authority puts up a shelter for the factory owner the local authority should be reimbursed and should not be mulcted in any financial burden.

There is, however, nothing specified in the Amendment to indicate that the local authority in coming to this agreement may stipulate for such financial arrangement as will avoid a charge on local authority funds. The answer may be that the local authority under the Amendment is not obliged to agree and that before it agrees it can stipulate for such financial provision as it wishes to stipulate. I should be happier if at a later stage words were put in to the effect that the local authority, in agreeing, may provide that it can recover from the owner of the factory premises the cost of the work executed. As a matter of administration I agree that the local authority can say: "We will not agree unless the financial arrangement is incorporated."

Mr. Sandys

May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman the pew Clause which appears on page 1042 of the Order Paper? That Clause stipulates that: The local authority may, if a representation is made to it by a factory inspector that air-raid shelter cannot reasonably be provided in factory premises for the persons working or living therein, agree with the occupier of the premises to provide, on such terms as to payments by the occupier to the local authority as may be specified in the agreement, a public air-raid shelter which will be available for use, in whole or in part, by those persons. I think that meets the right hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. H. Morrison

I am much obliged to the hon. Member. That point had escaped my attention. If it is related to this Amendment, the only objection that I may have had falls to the ground, and I should recommend my hon. Friends to concur in this Amendment being made.

10.57 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris

I should like to thank the Lord Privy Seal for accepting the Amendment. It is of great importance to a constituency such as the one I represent, where there are a very great number of small factories, of old-fashioned construction, and of such design that it would be almost impossible to provide the necessary air-raid shelter inside the building. On the other hand, I should like to reinforce the statement made by the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). The borough that I represent is a very poor one, with a very low rateable value. The produce of a penny rate is a very small sum, and it would be a very serious thing if the local authority were saddled with the heavy expense of providing central shelters for a large number of people from the small factories. Therefore, it is of great importance that the local authority should not be saddled with the expense of doing this very necessary work, and that there should be some financial readjustment. It is not a simple matter because, on the one hand, you have these small factories and on the other hand you have a poor borough with a low rateable value. The right hon. Gentleman will have to work out some scheme to reimburse the local authority and at the same time not to put too big a burden upon the poor factory owner. Most of these factory owners are very small people, such as cabinet makers, who employ perhaps only eight or ten people, and it would be very difficult to spread the burden.

11 p.m.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

I do not wish on this occasion to raise any objection to this Amendment, but I do want to say something very plainly to the right hon. Gentleman. It is said that this is an Amendment to deal with exceptional cases, but in many cases this will be the rule, not the exception, and it will be a sheer physical impossibility for the borough engineer's department in scores of boroughs in this country to tackle this work and to get it done within any reasonable period. Since the Debate on this subject took place on the last occasion, an appeal has been issued by the right hon. Gentleman's Department to local authorities to give priority to A.R.P. work, and most of the authorities are doing that, but even when they have done this, the amount of work that directly comes under the borough engineer's department is more than enough to keep going three times the staff that the ordinary council possesses, and if on top of that comes this extra work, it will be quite impossible for them to do it. Therefore, while there is a considerable improvement in this Amendment as compared with what it was before, I still think that, because the local authority now has to give its consent, the real fact which it will bear in mind will be that it simply has not got the staff and cannot do the work.

If the right hon. Gentleman could only spend an hour in the district of any local authority, looking at the list of works that the borough engineer's department has got to do in connection with A.R.P. work, even if it left its ordinary work on one side for the next six months, he would find that they have scarcely started to do it. There are all the questions of buttressing up and strengthening basements and buildings, and that work has scarcely been started. You cannot take on a labourer from the employment exchange and tell him to see about doing this. It requires technical people, and the engineer's department has not got those people and does not know where to get them. They are advertising, but the Lord Privy Seal does not appear to be doing anything to help them to get the necessary staffs. There are the emergency shelters that have got to be made by the local authority in every business street, every 250 yards. In many cases those shelters have not yet been found, and all the plans have to be got out. It is not just a case of finding a place with a basement and saying, "That will hold 50 people." You have to make all sorts of preparations. I believe the Department will be landed in the absolute breakdown of this scheme unless the right hon. Gentleman gives immediate attention to the question of where the engineering departments of local authorities are going to be able to find the technical people to carry on this work.

11.4 p.m.

Dr. Haden Guest

This Amendment deals with factories which employ 50 persons or over, and in the East End of London there is a very large number of factories, mantle factories and the like, which employ fewer than 50 people. In the case of these workshops and factories, the obligation for finding shelter will fall on the local authority in any case, and, especially in view of the Amendment which we have just heard is being accepted by the Government, this will place an obligation on them to provide shelter for people in factories of that kind, which will be throwing a very heavy obligation on the local authority indeed. I suggest that an inquiry should be made as to what would be the obligation on a local authority in the East End of London. I have personal knowledge that in the East End there are a number of small factories employing 10 or 20, or 30 people each and shelters have to be provided for those employés. These are not dealt with in the Bill and the shelters will have to be provided by the public authority. In view of this Amendment, the argument will be inevitable that these shelters should be provided in the same way as that proposed by the Amendment. In view of the acceptance of the Amendment by the Government, a heavy burden will be placed on the local authorities unless the Government also accept the later Amendment to reduce the number for whom it is necessary for the employer to provide accommodation, from 50 to 25. It seems to me that they will have to put an obligation in regard to factories employing less than 50, not only on the local authority but also on the employer, otherwise the local authority will have to meet a tremendous and unjustifiable expense which will make it extremely difficult to carry on the work.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. David Adams

I agree that this Amendment is necessary, but what is to be the position in the case of the small factory owner who is known to be virtually insolvent. The local authority may find that they are likely to lose the money which they are invited to expend and may accordingly decide to do nothing. Who is to protect the employés in such concerns? Is the Lord Privy Seal to step in, if the local authority declines, or is there to be some mandatory power to compel the local authority to assent to this proposition?

Mr. Sandys

The Amendment put forward on the previous occasion was much more watertight than the present Amendment but the hon. Member was one of those who objected to it then, and as a result of objections by himself and some of his hon. Friends, it is now less watertight. I hope, therefore, he will not object to it, in its present form.

Mr. Adams

The information which the hon. Member is conferring on the Committee is of no value. This is a very serious question. I know a number of small factories which are not making profits but just carrying on in the hope that they will do better in the course of time. I am interested in the case of my own constituents who may be working in such factories and I desire to know what instrument exists to provide them with the necessary shelter. There is another point, who is to reimburse the local authority in the event of a factory owner defaulting? Is the Lord Privy Seal making some provision for that eventuality? If not, a substantial burden will be placed on already overburdened ratepayers.

11.10 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

In my judgment, it is not a question of the desirability of this Amendment, but of its practicability. I am convinced that what my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) said applies not only to districts in London, but to many districts outside. If this additional burden is put on the local authorities—I am not speaking of it now as a financial burden, but as a work burden—will it be carried out? By shelving the responsibility and putting it on the local authority, you are not solving the problem; you are simply changing the individual upon whom the blame can be cast for the provisions not being carried out. I notice that one of the Ministers in charge of the Bill shakes his head. Where is the technical staff to come from for the drawing up of the plans which will be required for all the types of factories; where is the local authority to obtain the staff for the work envisaged in this Amendment?

By making it possible for the local authority to take the responsibility, you are taking the responsibility off the factory owner to begin to make provision immediately. He is to have the opportunity of entering into negotiations with the local authority, which is not in a position to provide the personnel for the work it requires for itself. By changing the responsibility, you are wrecking the possibility of the success of the plans made under the Bill. I am not finding fault with the principle. It seems to me that it is almost the same thing as calling on the factory owner to make up the street outside his premises, and, in the event of his not being able to find the men to do it, making the local authority do the work and find the necessary men. In order that they may carry out the work, they need technical staffs, which are not available at present. If it is said that those staffs are available, I would like some information passed on to the local authorities, who are crying out for these men and cannot find them, although they are prepared to pay the standard rates of salary.

11.14 p.m.

Sir J. Anderson

We ought to regard this Clause as designed primarily to deal with an exceptional case. There is no intention to make it easy for employers, on whom the obligation is being put to provide shelter for their workers, to pass it on to the local authorities. As the Bill is drawn, the owner has notice served on him by the factory inspector requiring him to make provision. It is for the factory inspector to approach the local authority if he is satisfied, on the representation of the employer, that the employer could not reasonably be expected to make provision. The whole thing, as far as the local authorities are concerned, is permissive, and hon. Gentlemen on both sides are agreed that the Clause does fill a gap in the provisions of the Bill. As regards the task with which the local authorities are already confronted in regard to the provision of air-raid shelters, I would be the last person to underestimate the burden that the local authorities will have to undertake if the provision of shelter on the desired scale is to be secured within a reasonable time.

I do not for a moment suggest that local authorities, with their existing personnel and equipment, could face that task. My Department have had the whole matter under consideration for some time, and in a circular issued to the local authorities within the last fortnight, the Department have explained the lines upon which it is proposed to organise the resources of the professional institutions of the country in order to supplement the technical services normally at the disposal of the local authorities. These arrangements were made after consultation with the Association of Municipal Engineers and Surveyors, and I hope that, as a result of the arrangements that are being made, we shall bring to bear on this problem all the resources and professional skill that are available. We cannot do the job without; this task will be sufficient to take up all the energies of all the professional people, engineers, surveyors and so on, all the skilled supervision that is available, and certainly by far the greater part of the labour which is available, and all the materials which are available, and it will require a very great effort of organisation.

The London problem may require special treatment. London from this point of view, I think I may be permitted to say, is not ideally organised. For this purpose, local government boundaries in London have very little significance and very little practical application, and we must contrive, as we have endeavoured with a considerable measure of success to do in the general problem of air-raid precautions in London, to bring into existence some organisation which will overcome the disadvantages inherent in the existing system of distribution of responsibility within the London area. That matter has been receiving very close attention for some time past, and I hope that we shall arrive at some practical solution which will ease the position in many of the London boroughs, where, I frankly admit, the task that confronts them is one of extreme urgency and gravity.

On the points raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams), I would point out once more that the provisions in this Clause are wholly permissive as far as local authorities are concerned, and the point that was raised with regard to the employer who cannot afford to make shelter provision for his workers is not a point that arises primarily on this new Clause. It arises on the general structure of the Bill, and the position that the Government take up is the only position which they can possibly take. When it is decided that this duty lies on the employer, he must be held to his responsibility. It is a responsibility similar to other responsibilities that he is called upon to discharge. If he is financially not in a position to discharge it, he may have to close down, but the Government in respect of their general responsibilities for Civil Defence, could not possibly as a practical matter make themselves responsible for investigating the individual circumstances of every employer and decide whether or not the general obligation which rests upon all employers in this matter should be modified. That is the only answer that I can give on this point.

Mr. David Adams

From whence will protection come for employés who are in a position such as the Lord Privy Seal has indicated, in which the employer is not able to make provision if the local authority declines to do so?

Sir J. Anderson

Does the hon. Member mean those not able financially?

Mr. Adams


Sir J. Anderson

I hope that will be an exceptional case, but if an employer fails to discharge his obligation he would not only lay himself open to a penalty but in the event of war he may not be able to carry on his business.

Mr. Adams

Then who is to protect his employés?

Sir J. Anderson

If the business is not carried on they will not be exposed to risk.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

11.21 p.m.

Mr. W. Joseph Stewart

We have had several Amendments to the Clause dealing with commercial buildings and factories, but we have had no Amendment dealing with the question of mines. In the first Sub-section certain powers are given to mine inspectors to serve notice on mineowners that they must provide air-raid shelter. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman a few days ago as to the position of collieries situate on the north-east coast. Along the coast from South Shields to West Hartlepool there are about 15 collieries, and going three miles inland there are at least another 10. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether anything could be done to safeguard those who are employed in the mines on this exposed part of the coast.

The Deputy-Chairman

The general question of the safety of miners does not come under this Clause; it deals only with certain orders. The whole problem of the safety of mines is not raised by the Clause.

Mr. Stewart

When I addressed my question to the right hon. Gentleman he said that I could raise the point on this Clause, and he made it plain that he was responsible only for the safety of personnel. In the Clause the mine inspector has power to serve a notice to provide air-raid shelter for those who are employed in or about a mine. On this exposed coast line the mines themselves may prove to be permanent shelters for those who are engaged, but I wish to ask whether added safety can be provided in the event of air raids for those who are employed in the mines. I know that the Bill does not deal with the general safety of mines but it deals with the safety of miners in the event of an air raid. It is set out that provision must be made for the safety of those engaged in the mines. I do not want to run counter to your Ruling, Colonel Clifton Brown, but if a bomb were dropped, it might interfere with the ventilating plant of a mine, and so jeopardise the lives of those who were in the mine at the time of the air raid.

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Member is now getting well outside the Clause. It is entirely a question of providing air-raid shelter, and has nothing to do with the mechanism of the interior of the mine.

Mr. Stewart

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal what powers are given to the mines inspectors, in this Clause or in other Clauses of the Bill, to provide the necessary shelter that would be effective in the event of an air raid and that would prevent great loss of life if what I have mentioned were to take place, especially in the mines on this particular coast?

11.26 p.m.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

I want to raise a technical point in connection with Subsection (1). I would like to have some elucidation of the words working or living in the factory premises. I visualise the case of certain retail businesses where the business may have a headquarters in a factory and may have a retail trade which is carried on through the deliveries of individuals, whose headquarters are in the factory concerned. If one of the roundsmen employed in delivering the goods from house to house were asked where he worked, he would say at So-and-so's premises or factory. I should like to have from my right hon. Friend some definition of the words I have quoted.

Mr. W. Joseph Stewart

On a point of Order. May I have a reply from the Lord Privy Seal?

The Deputy-Chairman

That is not a point of Order. I have put the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," and it has been agreed to.

The Comptroller of the Household (Lieut.-Colonel C. Kerr)

I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

11.28 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I must congratulate the Minister on the expeditious way in which he got the last Clause, entirely against the interests of the coastal county of Durham. There was plenty of time for the right hon. Gentleman to get up if he wished to do so. Several times this evening I have heard hon. Members opposite telling him to get up in order to make a reply to the discussion. I think he ought to treat the Committee with a little more courtesy than he has done.

On this Motion to report Progress, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman when we are likely to get on again with the Committee stage of the Bill. There has been no obstructive discussion this evening. A number of Clauses and a great many important Amendments have been disposed of, but it is vitally necessary to the local authorities of the country, and other people engaged in the administration of the Bill, that they should know when they are likely to see it as an Act of Parliament. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has told local authorities that they can get on with their job in anticipation that the Bill will become law. I dislike that method of administration. It is quite wrong to anticipate the decisions of Parliament. We have had an example this evening of the extraordinary way in which the problems of the local authorities may be affected by something that happens during some of the stages of this Bill. By accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys), the right hon. Gentleman has very considerably added to the possibilities—I will not put it any higher than that—of work inside the offices of very heavily burdened local authorities, and it is quite impossible to think that they can satisfactorily deal with this subject until this Bill has become an Act.

I am sure the Government Chief Whip will not allege that there has been any obstruction and I would ask him when we are likely to see the Bill again in Committee and on what date he expects to get it through this House. I am aware of the difficulties of the Chief Whip and I am not trying to make any party point. This Bill is at least as important as other Measures that are receiving urgent attention from the House, and I would ask, on behalf of those who will have to administer it, whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can give some indication when we shall see it in its final form.

11.31 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)

The Government fully realise the great importance of getting this Measure on the Statute Book as soon as possible and they appreciate the difficulties of the local authorities, for as long as this Bill is passing through the House they do not know the final form it will take. I can give the Committee the assurance that the Government will proceed with it as soon as they possibly can. Every available moment that is not occupied by other vitally important Measures will be devoted to the further stages of this Bill. The Government had hoped that to-day there would have been a few more hours available for this Measure, and that the first Bill that was discussed would have been disposed of rather earlier than was the case. They are making no complaint about that, but they do recognise the great importance of making as rapid progress as possible with this Bill so that local authorities can know exactly where they stand. For the moment I do not think it would be right for me to say when this Bill will become law, because it depends on many circumstances, but I am hopeful that with the good will of all quarters of the House there will not be protracted discussions, and that we shall be able to get through the Bill in the briefest space of time.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.