§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 37, line 14, after "measures," to insert:including the compulsory reservation of premises and the imposition of restrictions upon transference.Yesterday, when in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility, I alluded to certain functions which have to be discharged by persons under this Bill which the Government, apparently, think they will be able to stiffen up by some arrangements in the nature of Defence of the Realm Act provisions. In the negotiations that have taken place between the great local authorities and the Government there has been a suggestion that the matters covered by the Amendment can be similarly provided for, but I want, on behalf of the County Councils Association especially, to urge on the Government that the problem of evacuation is one which we cannot leave until the last moment. In September last there were thousands of children who were expecting to be moved almost at any moment from London and other great cities into rural areas where arrangements had been made by reception authorities to deal with their housing, feeding and education. In fact I was informed by more than one education officer in the neighbourhood of London that the avoidance of evacuation was the greatest disappointment the children have ever suffered in the course of their lives. The education officer for Willesden told me that two boys came to see him on the Saturday morning when it was decided that no evacuation was to take place, and said, "Are you sure, Sir, that it would have worked? Don't you think we had better have a rehearsal in preparation for the time?"
One can say that, as far as the children were concerned, owing to the way in which the matter had been brought before them, they viewed the difficulties of the situation with no misgivings at all, but 2326 those of us who were in the reception areas had the gravest possible misgivings as to what would happen. In Surrey, for instance, I know of cases where the police were applying at the front door for billets for troops while the officers of the rural district council were at the back door applying for billets for the children, and the husband and wife were trying to ascertain from whom they could get the better terms.
The Minister of Health, in a private conference with local authorities, made the suggestion that the problem of the reception authorities is 10 times as great as the problem of the evacuating authorities. That is no over-estimate of the problem of the reception authorities. These children, if they ever come, will come to us at a time of great stress. They may even have been suffering from certain mischances and misadventures on the way. Certainly there would be the greatest excitement, and it is highly essential that the persons receiving them and responsible for their distribution shall be quite certain that as far as is humanly possible there will be no delay or difficulty in dealing with them.
It is true that the Minister must feel very gratified at the response which was made by the people in the receiving areas when they were asked to say what accommodation they would provide. Those of us who knew the rural areas never had any doubt but that when the invitation was extended to them they would indicate their willingness to undertake this public duty in the spirit of performing a public duty. But, judging by the experience of last September and by something that was repeated even in March last, those of us responsible in the reception areas have our misgivings as to whether all that accommodation will in fact be available. We should regard it as the worst of disasters if we had 100 or 1,000 children allocated to a particular village or small town and we had to take them through the streets in an endeavour to put them into the houses where we thought accommodation was to be available, and then found that a day or two before someone had come out from the great town which was being evacuated and by paying a fabulous sum of money had deprived us of the opportunity of placing the children there.
We, therefore, ask that among the powers that shall be given to us in this 2327 Clause shall be the compulsory reservation of premises and the imposition of restrictions upon transference. It is clear that if we are to be able to perform the very heavy and responsible duties that the Government propose to place on LS and which we accept as our share in this problem of dealing with the dispersal of the population, we must be put in a position whereby we can discharge these very onerous duties with reasonable certainty. We suggest that we should be given power to reserve the accommodation that has been voluntarily given at the moment to the Minister in response to his appeal. We were told that the Minister had produced a card which he was to have distributed in the villages and towns, so that householders could indicate that they had undertaken this particular form of service. No matter what the pay may be, I am sure we all recognise that there will be a very great amount of honorary public service performed by these people, in addition to any remuneration they may receive. I have not yet seen any of these cards in the cottage windows. It may be that they have not been distributed in South Surrey, but I am informed that none of them have been seen in any part of the country. Have they in fact been distributed? They would at any rate be some reminder to these people that they had entered into a voluntary obligation, not enforceable by law at the moment, to provide this accommodation in the event of evacuation taking place.
But we feel that we should be put in an even stronger position than that. Quite clearly we shall not ask that at this stage we should compile a register from which people could not remove their names, but we do feel that we ought to have a register in which the names and the nature of the accommodation would be inserted, and that if a person made an arrangement for relatives in an evacuation area to come to that place they should be able to come to us and say, "We have made these arrangements and we must withdraw from the list the accommodation offered." In view of the fact that everyone is acting on the assumption that if the need arises it will arise very quickly, we should be in a position to have on any given day an exact idea of the amount of accommodation that we shall have available.
The Minister of Health and the Lord Privy Seal know very well the importance 2328 that the County Councils Association and the Rural District Councils Association attach to this particular question. We are very thankful, quite apart from the effect on the nation, that our arrangements were not put to the test last September. We believe that we should then have achieved something, but we are certain that there would have been the greatest possible difficulties in carrying the thing through as we should have liked. We want to be protected against the self-evacuated person who comes out with no real need to come out and is prepared to offer sums of money that must seem to most cottagers really beyond the dreams of any avarice they have ever fostered, for accommodation temporarily. I am told that some of the lawyers in South Wales who have been having a very difficult time for years are now assured of an income for a considerable length of time in trying to clear up the exact legal position of people who started to buy houses there, and then when the international situation cleared, went away, left the deposit money and did not ask for anything further.
We have had an indication of the circumstances that may arise and I am sure that everyone in the Committee would say that it would be a great crime if we took thousands of children out from London or South Shields or other places into the country and then were faced with the muddle that might easily arise unless we are given power to make sure that the accommodation required will be available. We have had the clearest possible evidence that two or three days before the important day some of this accommodation may disappear, and it is essential that we should be armed with sufficient powers to enable us to be quite certain that no repetition of what happened in September last will be possible, and that we shall be able to assure the evacuating authorities that the accommodation we promised the Minister would be available when the time for evacuation comes, is available.
I suggest that it would be convenient if we discuss this Amendment together with that which appears next on the Order Paper—in page 37, line 32, insert:(3) The Minister may make regulations—
- (a) to secure the use of premises for the accommodation and maintenance of persons transferred from one area to another;
- (b) to prevent the transference of any persons without the authority of the Minister or his agents; and
- (c) to impose penalties for any failure to comply with the regulations."
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
May I be allowed to congratulate the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) on being admitted to the seats of the mighty on the Opposition Front Bench? No one has earned that promotion better than he has, not only by hard work in this House and by diligent attendance to his duties, but also by long and devoted service in local government. His maiden speech from the Front Bench could not have been on a more appropriate subject. As ex-chairman of a county council and as a distinguished teacher he was eminently qualified to make that speech. I am glad that he has raised the point that is dealt with in the Amendment. I agree that the whole success of any well thought out scheme of evacuation depends on the smooth working in the reception areas even more than on the work done in actual evacuation. I have felt for a long time that the ultimate success of a scheme, if it is ever to be put to the test, which, heaven forbid, depends on the marriage of the area to be evacuated with the area that receives the people. The more intimate the contact that can be obtained between children, school teachers and the authorities in the areas to receive them, the more likely the machinery is to work smoothly.
When I was on a committee presided over by the present Lord Privy Seal we came definitely to the conclusion that in the long run compulsion would be vital. We felt it was wise to exploit up to a point the voluntary idea. We knew that you were likely to get more good will if the people who were to receive offered their services of their own free will than if you had to use compulsion. I am sure that the Lord Privy Seal will confirm what I say. Nevertheless, behind the voluntary weapon must be compulsion. As a matter of fact, all my information shows that in most parts of the country people have been very willing to have the chance of doing this form of National Service in case of emergency, but, of course, conditions and circumstances vary. I confirm what has just been said by the hon. Gentleman that in some seaside towns, where people earn their 2330 living by letting lodgings or rooms to visitors, the instinct to get people to book their rooms in advance at high prices may be too great, and you may find when the emergency arises that in some areas very little accommodation is available.
We stated unanimously in paragraph 60 of our report that it would be necessary to give authorities power in time of war to requisition accommodation for the billeting of refugees, and we said:We need hardly say that any compulsory billeting would have to be enforced without regard to class or other distinctions.We put those words in, I will not say as an afterthought, but because we felt it was wise to insist upon the principle. It should be made clear that whatever their occupation or social position may be, people who have vacant rooms in the areas to be utilised should share and share alike the burden—in some cases it will be a burden—of making their rooms available to the people suffering from the perils of war. It must be made very clear that this is no small responsibility, and that it is part of the emergency of war. Once people have undertaken to place their accommodation voluntarily at the disposal of the authorities, that has to be regarded as a strictly enforceable contract. If these words are inserted to make the point clearer, they will make people realise their responsibility more, and will ease the work of carrying out the duties in reception areas.
Reverting to what I said in my opening remarks, I think the time has now come for all the secrecy and mystery to disappear. Last September, and in the early days of this new idea, it was not possible or practicable to let school teachers and parents know where children were ultimately to go, but I see no reason why there should not now be full publicity for school teachers and even for parents to know the areas to which their children are to be evacuated. In the reverse order, I see no reason why the people who are to receive the children should not know from where the children are to come. Some opposition to the scheme has come from people who say: "We do not want to receive dirty children," but that is pure ignorance. If people who are to receive London children from the poorer districts were invited to see the children, they would observe 2331 what delightful and charming children they are, how well brought up, how well taught, how clean and tidy and, in most cases nowadays, how well turned-out and dressed they are. Then, instead of the scheme being looked upon with suspicion, it would have the good will of all parties concerned, and many difficulties in reception areas would disappear.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in what I trust will be the first of very many speeches to be made from that bench, confined himself, in commending the Amendment to us, to only one part of the proposal. The proposals are essentially two in number, first, that some provision should be made for earmarking accommodation in the reception areas; secondly, that there should be arbitrary restriction on the removing of people from one area to another. In his argument the hon. Member confined himself almost entirely to the first of those two proposals, and in regard to that he made out a strong case. I was very struck by his significant silence on the other proposal. He has come to the Committee to ask us to agree to giving the Minister power, if he thinks war is likely to break out, to prohibit the movement of any person from one locality to another.
For example, suppose the Minister thought the international situation threatening and thought it undesirable that Labour Members at that time should make inflammatory speeches in their divisions, he could issue an order that no Labour Member then in London should return to his constituency until told to do so. No permission of this House would be needed. With regard to ordinary civilian evacuation, the Minister could prevent an individual in a threatened area from sending his own children in his own vehicle to relatives in some distant part of the country which might not be a reception area. I do not wonder that so experienced a Member thought it wiser to keep silent about that part of the proposal. If anything of the kind were to be agreed it might fairly be described as officialism run mad. It may be, and no doubt is, arguable, that in order that evacuation plans might be carried out, local authorities in reception areas should know with certainty that they had such 2332 and such accommodation available for the persons to be sent to them by another authority. That proposition is acceptable and arguable, but there is no need, therefore, to propose this extraordinary and indefinite power for the Minister, without consulting anybody or without a state of war being in existence, to interfere to any extent with the movement of population from one part of the country to another.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I support the Amendment. I must first express my astonishment at the speech which has just been made by the hon. Gentleman opposite, who has exaggerated certain words out of all possibility.
The actual words on the Paper are:imposition of restrictions upon transference.That is a very different thing from what the hon. Member was saying.
That may, in certain cases, of course, be required. If the words are taken in their normal sense and not in the exaggerated way expressed by the hon. Gentleman they are perfectly reasonable. This is one of the questions of transference which was considered by the Evacuation Committee, relating to the control of unregulated transference from one area to another. It might, as a matter of fact, be control of panic and be one of the essential duties of the Minister. I am not sure whether the words proposed in the Amendment are necessary, because the actual duty might be one of those which the Minister would have to carry out.
I am specially interested in the first part of the Amendment relating to the compulsory registration of premises because I believe it will be essential for the proper working of the evacuation proposals that the places to which people, and especially children, are going, should be definitely earmarked in advance and that there should be no possibility of those premises being used by others. In moving the Amendment my hon. Friend could not, of course, cover the whole 2333 ground. He spoke about people going to reception areas and offering to cottagers or residents there what would appear fabulous sums for accommodation, and so preventing accommodation being available for the children for whom it had been intended, but it will not only be wealthy people who will do that. There will be people of many classes who, because they are so diverse in character, do not come into the Government's normal arrangements. I am thinking of classes of people living in London. There are elderly people, some of them are invalids living, not exactly in retirement, but in semi-retirement, and to whom it would be a great advantage to be out of London during a time of air raids. Under the Government's plan they will have to make their own arrangements, because there will be no other for them. You may add to that class a very large number of people who will be competing for accommodation, reasonably and in the ordinary sense, with those for whom arrangements are being made by the Minister of Health.
Those people ought to be provided for in some other way. There will be all kinds of classes outside the Government's planned scheme. The Minister will remember that in the background of the evacuation proposal is the idea that certain people should be allowed to make their own arrangements, not because it was the only fair thing to do, but because there was no means of preventing them from doing so. In a state of war you cannot possibly control every class of person leaving a town, and it would be futile to attempt to do so. It would be undesirable to attempt to do it by forcible means. The only way to deal with the situation in a reception area is by being quite sure that the accommodation required for children and other people who are dealt with as priority classes by the Minister of Health is definitely reserved. I cannot see any objection to that suggestion. There are other ways, of course, in which that result might be attained.
There is another aspect or the matter. Take the area within 50 or 60 miles of London, to which people are going to be evacuated. The number of people arranged for can go out there in case of emergency, and everyone can settle in quite comfortably; but if there is a sudden rush of a large number of other people 2334 into the area, how is that to be dealt with? There will be a tendency for them to overcrowd the people who are already in the area, and to prevent this the billets for those evacuated under the Government's scheme must be definitely allocated to them and kept for them in all circumstances. I suggest that it would probably be useful in any case, as an addition to the proposal for the earmarking of billets, to have some organisation in the evacuation area for the supervising of billeting and lodging accommodation in order to see that people are not desperately overcrowded, as might easily happen.
I am thinking of a certain little village I know, where at the present time billets have been arranged for something like 100 children. It is a country place, with large barns and so on, and it would be quite easy to get 200 or 300 other people into the area, but it would be extremely disadvantageous from the health point of view. In many cases of that kind there would be insufficient water and insufficient sanitary accommodation, and, consequently, the health conditions would be definitely below what they ought to be. I hope the Minister will give us some assurance on this point. Since the time when the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), the right hon. Gentleman who is now Lord Privy Seal, and myself sat in a room upstairs taking evidence on evacuation, I have always been particularly interested in the subject, as of course I was before, and I hope and believe that the evacuation of people from the great cities will prove to be one of the real foundations of success in our civil defence measures; but to make it really successful it must be thought out in all its details, and I suggest that the question of the compulsory earmarking of accommodation for classes of school children and others included in the present scheme of the Minister of Health ought to be made an integral part of the scheme.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
Like other speakers, I desire to congratulate the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) on his first speech from the Front Bench. I hope, however, that his being there will not cramp his style unduly. There are two points that I want to raise. I have always been one of those who have not had any particular enthusiasm for evacua- 2335 tion. I think it will cause great difficulties, and whether it will increase safety is perhaps open to doubt, despite the report of the Lord Privy Seal and his two colleagues on his Committee who have spoken to-day. But everyone assumes that it is going to take place, and we have to think of it in those terms.
Among those who are contemplating evacuation are many people who are engaged in running the general economic and industrial machine whereby we earn our living and get our food and other necessities of life. There will be a certain amount of commercial and industrial evacuation. Many people engaged in businesses of that kind are thinking it may be wise to arrange for alternative accommodation, and, quite properly, are seeking to find that accommodation now. A number of people who are in that position have communicated with me, and I have passed on some of their letters to the Minister of Health. They are rather wondering how they will stand. One particular firm, I am informed, have purchased premises, I think somewhere in Buckinghamshire, which they are now equipping as alternative premises for the control of an important business, but they have not the faintest idea whether, when the emergency comes, they will be permitted to use those premises. I am not clear whether these Amendments would make that situation better or worse. If a decision were taken to refuse industrial enterprises permission to move, that, at any rate, would be a policy, though I think it is probably wrong, but if there were a war we should still need food, and the normal economic functions would have to be carried on. In my opinion, the finest principle is "Business as usual" as far as possible. Those who criticised that principle in 1914 were very shortsighted; it was obviously necessary to preserve the working of the economic machine. These Amendments might make the situation even more difficult, and I hope the Minister will say something that will clear up the real anxieties of many of those who think they are doing their duty in making such arrangements as will enable their businesses, together with the employment they create and the public services they render, to continue.
The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) was not very happy in his criticism of my hon. Friend the Member 2336 for Colchester (Mr. Lewis), who clearly was right, having carefully read the Amendments. This Clause is a very drastic Clause. It means that, if the Minister makes an order, every road out of London would have to be lined with police or soldiers, who would say to all other people, "Thou shalt not pass." That is a power which could not be enforced in practice. To attempt to close the exits from London to all except those who have some authority from the Minister would create such a situation of riot that it could not be enforced. If I may quote my own case merely by way of example, I happen, without being one of the wealthy ones, to have a cottage by the sea, and last September I thought I would send my children to my own cottage; but, not being unduly selfish, I arranged to take four other children as well, who were school-fellows of theirs. That seemed to me to be a proper thing to do. They would count four, like any other four, but it is much more convenient that I should take four children whom I know and who are friends of my own children. There are hundreds of thousands of people of moderate means who have bungalows in the country; some separate form of shelter to-day is not by any means characteristic only of rich people. Is it to be said to these people that they shall not use their own accommodation for their own children? That is what these Amendments would involve.
I am not concerned with this matter from a constituency point of view; Croydon, having regard to the very moderate views of its Members, might be classed as a neutral area; but from conversations I had last October with colleagues in the House who represent other areas which were then called evacuation areas, I learned that they had been overwhelmed with communications, not from persons who objected to receiving dirty children, but from elderly people who were not fit to look after children, but who had been threatened with having dumped on them numbers of other people's children; or elderly people who perhaps needed the services of one maid, and who, the moment these arrangements were announced, received notice from their maids. These are the practical problems that arise. You are going to have riots in some of these evacuation areas, not because people are selfish, but because they are going to have forced upon them 2337 something which terrifies them. I was speaking to an hon. Member who sits for a constituency which is always regarded as a safe Conservative seat, where there are masses of small houses, many of them occupied by a husband and wife who are both out all day. You cannot billet children in those houses; there must be supervision—
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member can take it from me that the only riot that is really dangerous is a riot of quiet people. When they get angry, you can really be afraid. You need never be afraid of the people who are always rioting, but when these quiet people, who in the ordinary way do not take part in demonstrations, do not go to Hyde Park on May Day and so on, get angry, everyone has to be afraid. They can turn out any Government; they are the permanent rulers of this country. To incorporate these Amendments in the Bill would give rise to a great deal of trouble. I should like to have from the Minister of Health some indication of the policy that is to be adopted with regard to commercial premises in cases where people happen to have premises of their own in an evacuation area to which they are proposing to take their businesses in the event of emergency. I am assuming that they are going to do their duty by their own people; if they do not, they can have others billeted on them, but surely they should have the right to evacuate to their own premises. These issues are of real importance, and are worthy of grave consideration.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I also would like to congratulate the Mover of the Amendment on the way in which he moved it, and on his first appearance on the Front Bench, but I must say that I have some misgivings with regard to these Amendments. They represent, no doubt, the considered view of the County Councils Association, and they are put down, for the sake of convenience, in the names of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and of the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), who is not in his place at the moment. As regards the part stressed by the Mover, I think we shall all agree broadly with him that it is 2338 essential, if we are to evacuate children and certain adults to areas outside London, that accommodation should be secured for them when they reach those areas. On the occasion of the last emergency, when evacuation took place to some extent, it happened in some cases that the premises to which children and adults were expecting to move were not in fact available for them when they reached the area. That is a state of things that would be intolerable if evacuation were carried out on a large scale, as it would be in the event of war or imminent war, and that is the purpose, I take it, of the first part of these proposals. That is all right, but frankly I do not like the remainder of the proposals, and I hope that my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment will reconsider them before he asks the Committee to adopt them.
I, personally, should object very strongly if I wished to go, as I think I should be entitled to do, because of my age and for other reasons, away from the area in which I now live and into an area that might be considered a reception area, and if I were prevented from doing so. But if I desired to do that—which in all probability I should not—I might, if the Amendments were carried, be prevented from going to an area to which I wished to go. There are people who, if they were in London during a war, would probably be a handicap rather than otherwise; and it would be an advantage to allow them to go to some quieter area some distance away. But if regulations are made to prevent the transference of any person without the authority of the Minister or his agent, an enormous staff of agents will be required by the Minister. If I want to go to visit a friend in Surrey—my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), for instance—I shall have to go to some agent of the Government to get permission to do so. I hope my hon. Friend does not wish to prevent me from going, but if he did, he would be able to do so without this Amendment. Frankly, I do not believe that the County Councils Association seriously consider that a person desiring to transfer from one area to another should be prevented from doing so unless he first asks permission. I wonder whether it would be worth while fighting against Hitler if we are going to impose conditions upon ourselves as bad 2339 as Hitler would impose upon us if he won. I hope the Minister will not accept that provision. But it is true that there is a real need for some regulations and some body with power to enforce those regulations, in order that children and adults who are to be evacuated shall not find that the accommodation they require is denied them because of a higher offer having been made by somebody else.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I indicate the Government's attitude to the Amendments. They raise two distinct points: (1) the question of reserving accommodation in the reception areas, and (2) the question of restricting the movements of unauthorised refugees. I think that, on the whole, the consensus of opinion in the Committee is that there is something to be said for the first point, but that there is uneasiness on the second point.
§ Sir William Davison
What is meant by an "unauthorised" person? Is a person, not under a local authority scheme, who has made provision for his children to be removed by his own arrangements, to be prevented from having transport?
§ Mr. Elliot
I am sure that if the hon. Baronet will allow me to deal with the matter he will find that point covered. I was going to say that, on both sides of the Committee, there was some uneasiness of the kind mentioned by my hon. Friend; and nobody expressed it more strongly than the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee). Restrictions would mean that anybody who moved without authority from some official would be an unauthorised person. Whatever the scheme of things to which we had to look forward, it would certainly be undesirable if it involved that as any part of our war-time normal life. Both these points to which I have referred are, however, related to the general evacuation policy, inasmuch as they have an important bearing on the question of the steps which the Government intend to take to ensure the effective carrying out of the evacuation scheme which they have prepared, and their attitude towards evacuation outside the scope of that scheme.
2340 Before dealing with the terms of the Amendment it may be convenient to give the Committee a brief statement of the principles underlying the evacuation policy—more particularly as I have frequently been asked to make a statement of that kind. The Government policy aims at the provision of organised facilities for the evacuation of substantial numbers of people, whatever their circumstances, from the closely built-up areas of many of our great cities and industrial regions. We aim at securing the execution of this movement by a concentrated effort, before the actual outbreak of hostilities if possible. Limiting factors at once present themselves, particularly accommodation and transport, of which the latter is the more immediate. Within these limiting factors, the effort undertaken will be the maximum possible. In the choice of those to be evacuated a first priority has been given to children, and the organised movement under the Government scheme will, therefore, comprise school children, who will travel in school units with their teachers, and younger children, who will go with their mothers or some other responsible person. These classes of persons may be conveniently referred to as the "priority classes" Fortunately, "class," in this sense, has not its ordinary implications.
I have been asked to state clearly the Government attitude on certain points. First, what is the position as regards children not attending council schools, or mothers not attending clinics, in relation to the Government scheme? The answer is, any school child and any mother, either expectant or with children under 5, in evacuable areas may be registered under the Government scheme, and will then share fully in it in every way. There is a second question: What is the position as regards children and mothers in evacuable areas not wishing to come under the Government scheme? The answer there is, Such children and mothers can, according to the family's desires, either remain at home or make personal arrangements for leaving. If they remain at home no compulsory measures regarding them will be taken. Obviously, it would be completely unjust, and, indeed, impossible, to go down to the homes of the people and begin driving the people out of them. If they make private arrangements, no discouragement whatever will be offered to such inten- 2341 tions; indeed, we shall give them all consideration in our power, and they will be able to take advantage, if they wish, of any transport facilities available. But it will be impossible to provide special transport services for such persons to reach their various destinations.
I am further asked to make a statement on the position of those not falling within the priority classes. I shall do so at a later point. Meanwhile, I wish to follow up the position of the priority classes, on which there are still several points to make clear. The first point is the method of transport. It is proposed to do this mainly by rail. Timetables have been worked out. We are at present under what is called Plan 2. It is calculated that the movement of the priority classes under this plan will absorb the available railway facilities during a period of three, and in some cases four, days. We have now to consider the possibility of absorbing into these timetables the further areas and populations which I mentioned to the House last Thursday.
§ Mr. Elliot
No; the hon. Member will be in error if he thinks that. The problem of the East Midlands and many other areas is not less insistent than that of London. The revised plan which I foreshadowed in the House last Thursday will, when completed, be Plan 3. Till it is completed, Plan 2 stands unchanged. The numbers involved are very large, and even the revise may envisage as many as 300,000 to 400,000 additional persons.
The next question is that of accommodation. Here the Government intend to rely mainly, as is well known, on housing already existing in the receiving areas. The main lines were commended to us, as hon. Members know, by an all-party Committee of Members of this House, some of whom have spoken to-day, to whose work and unanimity I should like to pay tribute. Since then we have carried through a very careful local sur- 2342 vey. This survey disclosed a willingness on the part of householders to take children up to, and beyond, the numbers envisaged as evacuable. I cannot speak too highly of the promptitude with which this great survey was undertaken—a survey engaging 100,000 visitors and covering the houses of 16,000,000 people—or of the spirit of willingness and co-operation in which, on the whole, we have been met. Based on the results of this survey, block allocations of the priority classes have now been made to the receiving areas, and the responsible authorities have been notified of the numbers of these persons who will be dispatched to their charge.
The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said there should be an end of the secrecy and mystery which have surrounded the matter. So far as possible, an end has been put to that now, and the local authorities in the reception areas have been notified of the numbers of those who will come down to their areas. He also asked whether we could not, in all cases, secure that the areas from which people were coming should be informed of the exact areas to which they were going. In the case of London, that is out of the question. The mere transport difficulty is so great that it will be impossible to indicate that in advance. That will have to be left to be settled according to the exigencies of the time.
§ Mr. Elliot
No; I am sorry, but, as I have said, one of the limiting factors is transport. We have gone into this very carefully with the railway companies, to whom I should like to pay a tribute for their assistance, and it is clear that they cannot go so far as the hon. Baronet desires.
§ Sir W. Davison
My right hon. Friend said that a number of people who have made their own arrangements in the country for the reception of their own children should make their own arrangements for transport. The majority of these are people of not large means who have not got motor cars. Cannot they be told that on a particular day, in the event of an emergency arising, they can be taken to the nearest station to the 2343 village where their cottage or reservation may be, and that they can get on from there on foot or by perambulator or any other way. In most cases their only way of getting out of London or out of other big towns will be by train. They might be able to go by train, say, from London to Taunton or whatever the place may be; perhaps within 20 miles of their destination to which they would have to make their way.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. H. G. Williams), envisaging the sort of movement that will take place by road, spoke of taking his own two children and four other children with him, and naturally that is the sort of movement that we should do everything to facilitate. We would regard it as a very praiseworthy thing to do. But clearly that is in a different category from the suggestion of this enormous movement. When the maximum possible movement in the shortest possible time is taking place, a movement extending over three days, it is impossible to superimpose on that movement another unorganised movement of the scale to which my hon. Friend has referred. Therefore, you must have an organised movement, and we are warned by the railways that it would not be possible for us to have a movement comprising 3,000,000 people in three days and to superimpose a movement on it which it would be impossible to forecast. The effect might be to maroon those unhappy children going by these trains in a place as much as 20 miles away from their destination and leave them to go by perambulator or in some other way to the countryside to the accommodation that had been reserved for them. I think that my hon. Friend will realise that a movement carried through all the way by private arrangement can be made, but such a movement superimposed upon this great official movement would throw both the private movement and the public movement into confusion.
As I have said, in addition to the children there are adults. The adults can take care of themselves, but shelter is essential, and an extra degree of accommodation will have to be provided for them also.
The Government have always made it clear, however, that, while they rely con- 2344 fidently on the voluntary offers which have been made, they would also ask authority, in time of emergency, for power to billet, that is to say, to invite, and in the last resort to require, a householder to provide accommodation, within the capacity of his house for those for whom in the national interest shelter was necessary. It would be unfair and unwise to require the willing horse to carry not most, but all, of the burden, and the householder who has voluntarily assumed this responsibility will always have our first and most sympathetic consideration. Subject to these considerations, there is no objection to householders in the reception areas making private arrangements to receive relatives, friends and others, provided that this does not entail any restrictions on the accommodation to be provided for the official priority classes. In these plans private arrangements have been allowed for.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
My right hon. Friend has said that people can make private arrangements provided they do not interfere with the official priority classes. If a private individual arranges to accommodate his own family and members of another family up to the limit contemplated, does it mean that the other priority classes can come and turn them out?
§ Sir Irving Albery
I know of people who are arranging to have their grandchildren. Does this mean that they cannot have their grandchildren unless the priority classes have been provided for?
§ Mr. Elliot
I am afraid that I have not made myself quite clear. I said that priority classes were children and mothers of whatever classes. There is no question of priority within the priority classes. The priority classes are children, mothers with young children, and expectant mothers. I hope that I have made myself clear.
§ Mr. Fleming
When my right hon. Friend first spoke of the priority classes he gave the Committee the impression that these were the people who were registered in the evacuated areas. My hon. Friend has referred to people who are not to be registered and who are going to make their own arrangements.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think not. I have my notes before me, and I said quite 2345 definitely that the priority classes would comprise school children and younger children, and that these persons should be conveniently referred to as priority classes. I may not have made myself clear, and I apologise to the Committee. I will do my best to state it again. The priority classes are school children, expectant mothers, and mothers with young children under five. I hope that that is clear. For some of these priority classes the Government take a special responsibility, namely, for those priority classes who have registered under the Government scheme to be moved. We take the special responsibility for finding accommodation for them. Does that meet the further point?
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
The position is not clear at all. Let me illustrate it by my own case. Assume that my wife and two children, and four other children are to go to a cottage. My children are over five, my wife is not an expectant mother, and there are no children under five, and they are not in the priority classes. Can registered people come and say, "You get out because you do not belong to the priority class"? That is a simple question which my right hon. Friend has not cleared up.
§ Mr. Elliot
That is the reason why I deprecate interruptions, because I was attempting to develop the statement as a whole. There may be some points to be developed at the end of the statement. I think that it is desirable that I should make the statement as a whole, and then clear up any points that may arise later. I was about to say that priority classes have been arranged for, but I am asked how we shall ensure that the amount of accommodation available for the priority classes is not so eaten into by unlimited private arrangements that the Government scheme becomes unworkable. That is the point which has been stressed in several parts of the Committee. I now come to the details on that point. The Amendment has probably been put down as much to obtain elucidation as to secure its incorporation in the Bill. I take it that the supporters of the Amendment wish to be assured that the accommodation shown by the survey will remain available for the priority classes and will not be swamped by advance private arrangements or swept away in a sudden indiscriminate rush of refugees at or immediately before the onset of an emer- 2346 gency. I think that it may be assumed that they do not intend that the public body concerned with evacuation—whether the powers are to be exercised directly by the Government or by the local authorities—should reserve accommodation in individual houses here and now, and put a bar on the letting or user of the houses between the present time and a time which, it may be hoped, will never come.
§ Mr. Ede
I was very particular to say in my speech that what the County Councils' Association envisage was that nobody who made the kind of private arrangement mentioned should say to the local authority or the rural district council, "We have now accepted certain people and the accommodation which I said was available is not now available." All we want to be able to do is to keep our register up to date.
§ Mr. Elliot
Clearly, the keeping up to date of a register of 16,000,000 people is a very difficult point indeed, and we shall need to examine it a little more closely, but we are agreed that we do not wish to reserve rooms here and now. I think we are agreed on that.
§ Mr. Ede
The position is that there is no registration at the moment. There is a voluntary offer of accommodation on which the Minister has based his policy, but the effect of bringing in a large number of other people may be that, on the day he wants the accommodation, it will not be there. Clearly, the local authorities must be in a position to know how much accommodation they will be able to offer the Minister when he orders evacuation.
§ Mr. Elliot
I have said, and I will say it again, that it is on the result of that survey that allocations have been made. I do not think that it would be reasonable to take the position at the present time as the unchangeable basis on which action in regard to an individual house in time of emergency should depend, for this also would operate unreasonably and inappropriately in individual cases. As has been said, for the unaccompanied children, the voluntary offers received from householders provide sufficient accommodation. I am confident that these householders who have generously offered to receive unaccompanied children will abide by their offer. I have undertaken to issue a card in respect of such 2347 services. I have copies of the card here. There is an English card and a Scottish card. I was asked by the hon. Member for South Shields how the position stood? These cards have been issued to local authorities, though I believe that they have not been sent out in all cases. They are to go out along with a letter from the mayor or chairman of the council. The cards have been prepared for these householders.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to an English and a Scottish card. Is there to be one printed in Welsh?
§ Mr. Elliot
It is a general card, and I do not think that my hon. Friend will find in it anything to which a moderate Welshman can object.
§ Mr. Elliot
This is rather important. The powers mentioned which will be available for the State in an emergency will secure that whatever private arrangements may have been made will be subject to the over-riding consideration of the priority classes. Each local authority now knows the number of persons in these classes coming to its area under the Government scheme. This number will not be reduced, and it must be clearly understood that, whatever private arrangements there are in the district, room will have to be found for the stated number of persons. The instrument by which local authorities will be able where necessary to find this room will be the billeting powers. These powers would enable the local authorities to require householders to furnish specific accommodation for the priority classes, and the fact that private arrangements have been made and the persons covered by the arrangements have arrived would not be allowed to stultify these powers. I say without hesitation that tact and discretion of a very high order will have to be exercised by those directly carrying out the arrangements in order to reconcile the varying claims.
§ Sir I. Albery
May I ask a question? It is impossible to understand the position unless we can get this matter cleared up. As I understand the matter, school children are in the priority classes; it is not only children under five but also School children. What the Minister does 2348 not seem to explain is, if school children for whom private evacuation measures have been taken arrive at a relative's home in the country, are these children in the priority class? They are school children but they are not registered. That is what we want to know.
§ Mr. Elliot
We should regard them as in the priority class. I have said that great tact and discretion will be necessary. I do wish the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) would listen to me on this matter. I think I can meet his point, but it is very difficult unless he is willing to listen with an open mind to what I have to say. I am no more anxious to turn people out of the occupation of their cottage than he is. I am anxious to discharge the responsible task which has been placed upon me, to the best possible advantage of all concerned. Tact and discretion will be required to deal with the innumerable cases which it is impossible to define or to provide for in advance where the circumstances of the household, even of the willing householder, may have greatly changed since the survey took place. Many of us here have lived for years of our lives under a billeting system, and we know that given tact, discretion and goodwill such a system can be worked. Without goodwill, no system can be worked. It must be recognised that in the early days of an evacuation on the scale envisaged some degree of confusion and overcrowding is to be expected. There should, however, be no serious difficulty in securing where necessary some later redistribution of the priority classes and others who may have found their way into the district.
I will now turn to transport, if I have satisfied my hon. Friends on the accommodation point. If I have not satisfied them it may be possible for me to clear up some points now. Otherwise, I will pass on.
§ Sir W. Davison
Let us suppose that since the survey was made there has been a change in a particular household occupied by adults which had previously been allocated for refugee children. Provided they notify the local authority that their circumstances have changed, would the local authority still be able to say: "Some of your people here are adults, not coming from London but elsewhere; they are not priority classes, and you 2349 must get rid of them and take in some of the children for whom we have to provide."
§ Mr. Elliot
The local authority would be able to take account of any change in the circumstances of the household, whether relating to adults, or children, or any other change in the circumstances of the household. All that will need to be worked out by the local authority in their billeting arrangements. Many of us, as I have said, have had experience of billeting and have acted as billeting officers. If you went to a village in France or elsewhere in order to billet so many people here or there and you came to a household where Madame said: "My husband has come back from the war; he must have a bed to sleep in, and it would be very hard if you billet people in this house," you took such things into account. All these other things which hon. Members are mentioning will have to be taken into account as billeting goes on. I plead for a fluid and not a rigid system.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
I only used my own case as an illustration, not that I am particularly concerned. I should get through some way or other. The one thing I am not clear about is this. If a person has made arrangements for his own children and to accommodate other children, will there be a statutory right for the local authority to turn out these children in favour of another lot of children? That is a simple, plain question, leaving out tact and discretion. Will anyone, who may not be discrete, have the statutory right to say: "We are going to put these children in and we are going to turn out the children you have already in"?
§ Mr. Elliot
The local authority would not have a statutory right to turn out the children, but it would have a right to say that accommodation must be found for so and so. I do not think it would exercise that right.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
Let me put the question to the right hon. Gentleman in another form. A house has already got what is regarded as the maximum number desirable in the circumstances. Because the accommodation is occupied by children who are not on the register, will there be a statutory right to say that that house 2350 which is already overcrowded is to take other children in because the ones who are in and who are causing the overcrowding are not on the priority list?
§ Mr. Elliot
That will not be settled by any priority list. That raises the same point that would deter the local authority from, say, billeting a soldier, or five soldiers or ten soldiers in that house. When war breaks out the Government have power to billet soldiers up to an unlimited number in a house, as it did during the last War but, obviously, no Government, no local authority, no official would billet in an already overcrowded house. I am not now suggesting anything more than the power which already exists and which has been exercised in time of war in this country. For instance, Bedford was informed that a certain number of soldiers were going there. It would be a case of exercising that power with tact and discretion and would not be a case of turning out one set of children in favour of another set of children.
§ Sir P. Harris
Would it not be possible to frame regulations requiring householders to notify the billeting authority of any change in conditions, so that the local authority would be possessed of the information, and we should not be likely to have all this trouble, which might take place?
§ Mr. Elliot
That is the point of the Amendment which I was coining to. I was trying to deal with the general statutory position, which hon. Members were anxious to have cleared up. The statutory position is, that on the outbreak of war billeting powers will exist all over the country. Under those billeting powers children or adults may be billeted, and it is very desirable that we should as far as possible clear the matter up before the outbreak of hostilities and that we should be quite clear as to the position that would arise whether such regulations were passed in time of peace or were passed in time of war. The point is that the billeting power does exist and under it adults and children would be billeted. Obviously, what we want to do is to arrange the safest and best method of billeting, with the least disturbance to householders, and that is the point to which I am addressing myself.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
While the right hon. Gentleman was explaining the point of accommodation cards were passed round the Committee. I understand that those cards are to be exhibited in the windows of houses. For that purpose the card has been printed with the words "evacuation scheme" on them, so that the householder may indicate that they are taking part in the evacuation scheme. If that is not so, I cannot understand why such a substantial card was printed. If that is the purpose of the card, so that the householders may put it in the window to indicate to all interested that they are taking part in the evacuation scheme, ought not the card to indicate to what extent they are taking part, by having on it the number of children that would be billeted in the house? Then it would be much simpler for the problems which we are discussing to be dealt with.
§ Mr. Elliot
That is a detail which I cannot go into now. There is great danger in over-planning. Who would put the number on the card and who would have the power to alter it? The card is a badge indicating that the householder has willingly offered to do service for the country. It is a tribute to the service of the householder and not a rigid record of billeting, which may change from time to time.
§ Mr. Spens
Will my right hon. Friend answer a question of fact, in regard to which I am in some doubt? He told us on the first occasion that he had got voluntary offers of accommodation over the excess quota. He has made block allotments in reception areas. Has he made those block allotments up to the full amount of the accommodation offered, or are they inside the total amount? If they are inside, I do not think there will be any difficulty in any ordinary country village in accommodating the extra people coming in, but if he has made block allotments right up to the total amount of accommodation offered there may be difficulties.
§ Mr. Elliot
It is a little difficult to answer on questions of fact, because the circumstances differ very much from area to area. In general, it is true to say that the allocation of school children is not up to the offers of voluntary accommodation made. The offers cover mainly school children, but we have to accommodate a 2352 certain number of adults also. In the case of adults the block allotment is made only having regard to the survey of the room accommodation available. Asking people to take adults is quite different from asking a householder to accommodate children. In regard to children a certain amount of care is expected and must be given. That is why in regard to children you have to work mostly in regard to the voluntary accommodation, whereas in the case of adults shelter will be sufficient, because presumably the adults are able to look after themselves.
I apologise to the Committee for the time taken so far and I would beg the Committee not to lead me further astray. Now I come to transport, which brings up the question of persons not belonging to the priority classes. The second part of the Amendment provides for restriction upon transference, and this, coupled with the consequential Amendment, would enable the Minister to impose restriction on the movements of the population and make regulations prescribing penalties for failure to comply with these restrictions. It is doubtful whether such action by the Minister of Health would be effective. There would be no effective method of enforcing a prohibition on movement, short of the use of physical force. Quite apart from the Amendment, the Government possess under the ordinary law all the necessary powers for the preservation of law and order, and would in case of need exercise them without hesitation. The problem of law and order would, of course, be for the police authorities and not for the Minister of Health.
As regards transport, those moving under the official scheme will have first call on the road and rail facilities which have been provided for them, and while that scheme is in progress the approaches to stations will be under very detailed control. If unforeseen circumstances arise the Minister, under Clause 48 of the Bill, may authorise the local authorities to requisition any vehicles necessary, subject to the consent of the Traffic Commissioners. The railway and other transport authorities, whose co-operation in this problem the Government gratefully acknowledge, will do their utmost to provide the best services for the general public that circumstances allow, but they will necessarily be much reduced. I have defined 2353 the attitude which the Government are adopting towards the transference of persons who are in the priority classes, outside the official scheme. I have also indicated the Government's attitude towards those in evacuable areas not belonging to the priority classes.
It cannot be too strongly emphasised that persons in the evacuation areas not in the priority classes and who have work to do should regard it as a patriotic duty to remain at their posts until they are told to do otherwise. I do not mean only work, so-called, of national importance. It is very difficult to say what work will not be of national importance in such circumstances. The first word, therefore, would be "stand to." There are, however, persons not engaged in work and not falling within the scope of the Government evacuation plans. There is no objection to such persons transferring from large vulnerable areas, in so far as they can disperse without conflicting with the arrangements for the transport and reception of the priority classes and without injury to the morale of the nation. This last is all-essential. The Government will look to the ordinary citizen so to order his or her movements as to avoid anything likely to lead to panic. We say, especially to those at liberty to move in these early days, "Remember, when you are making your plans, the stress under which we all shall be at such a time, and consider well, if you have not moved before the onset of an emergency, to what extent you should add to the strain on road or rail transport while some 3,000,000 persons are being moved throughout Britain; persons whose lives and health are vital to the future of our race, persons moving on schedules where disturbance or even shortening of margin may well throw everything into confusion."
When that redistribution has been carried through we shall all breathe more freely, then movements which would previously have been unwise and wrong may well become advisable. It will no doubt be asked why it is that if the Government plans are on the lines outlined above the present Bill does not go farther. The answer is that the general plan of the Bill is to confer on the Government and other bodies powers which must be exercised in peace time, while the powers necessary after the outbreak of hostilities will be held in readiness in the 2354 shape of Defence regulations to be promulgated if an emergency arose. In accordance with this general plan the powers for the compulsory provision or accommodation, in other words billeting powers, fall to be included in the regulations and not in the present Bill. We recognise that special considerations apply to the problem of evacuation, firstly because the intelligent and willing co-operation, not only of local authorities, but of a very large number of householders, is required to make the scheme a success and, secondly, because the actual evacuation, or a large part of it, will, if things go according to plan, come before hostilities actually begin. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment is sometimes a little harsh on those who indulge in conversations—
§ Mr. Elliot
That is due to the nature of the statement I have made, and which I think the Committee desire to have. I should be prepared, since the Committee desires, to take a power in the present Bill corresponding to the requisitioning powers which are taken in Clause 48, under which it will be possible for the Minister to promulgate regulations to deal with billeting as soon as he is satisfied that an emergency is imminent. I will undertake to put down such an Amendment and give an early opportunity for discussion through the usual channels with representatives of local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is responsible for the evacuation plans in that country, authorises me to say that while there are certain differences between English and Scottish conditions, the general principles which I have indicated apply equally to Scotland. The proposed Amendment will cover Scotland and Scottish local authorities will be consulted about the regulations concurrently with their English colleagues.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "consulting local authorities"? The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) talked about county councils. I want to know whether the Minister is going to consult other local authorities, urban district councils and 2355 borough councils, who so far have been left out of the Bill altogether.
§ Mr. Elliot
We shall, of course, consult the representatives of all local authorities, but we are specially concerned with the authorities of the reception areas with whom we must operate principally in this matter. If the hon. Member desires I will consult the representatives of other local authorities also.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
From the long statement we have had from the Minister of Health it seems that local authorities in the reception areas will be largely responsible for a certain quota of children from areas to be evacuated, and that these authorities, particularly the urban authorities, will be responsible for the accommodation of these children. The local authority in my constituency, which is substantially a reception area, are expected to take 17,000 children, who, most likely, will come from Birmingham and such like areas. I presume that I am interpreting the statement correctly when I say that that authority will be held responsible for finding the accommodation for these 17,000 children. All this work will be placed upon the authority and an individual living in a given street will be expected to take a certain number of children. In other words, the whole thing is to be averaged out so that the given quota shall be received in the reception area. I wonder whether the Minister has considered that the time has arrived when this problem of evacuation should not be looked upon as a static problem. The approach to this problem implies that it is a constant problem, and does not fluctuate at all. For instance, you have thousands of people leaving South Wales now; the Government are still practising the policy of transference as the only solution for the unemployment problem. Large numbers of people are leaving South Wales to seek employment; they are coming to London now. You are, therefore, permitting the problem to be aggravated. You are permitting industries to bet set up in London now, and, if an emergency occurs, the industries and the people are to be evacuated and probably evacuated to the areas from which they came, which are substantially reception areas.
I am afraid the hon. Member is raising a question of 2356 general policy which would hardly come under the Clause or the Amendment.
§ Mr. Williams
We have had a very long general statement from the Minister covering the whole policy of evacuation, and it seems to me that if he was permitted to make a statement on such general lines, I should surely be allowed to do so also.
The Minister dealt with the problem of evacuation, but he did not deal with the question of migration as well, which is what the hon. Member is doing.
§ Mr. Williams
The Minister certainly covered the question of transference from London to the reception areas. Without debating the general question I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has really thought out that particular aspect of the problem. There are large numbers living in areas which are called reception areas, and it seems to me a waste of time, human effort and transport to transfer them to another area and then in case of emergency to have to evacuate them to the area from which they came. There seems to have been no planning in the matter at all.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Major Colfox
As soon as the survey of military accommodation took place some weeks ago the War Office, I believe, scheduled certain areas in rural districts as training areas for the reception of troops, and in some cases these training areas overlap the areas which have been scheduled for the evacuation of children. Has the Minister worked in co-operation with the War Office and taken this into account?
§ Mr. Elliot
We have worked in co-operation with the War Office. We have to have regard to the movement of troops, and it is for that reason that I spoke specifically of the necessity for keeping this problem fluid rather than static.
§ Mr. Ede
I want to thank the Minister for the care with which he has answered the various points, and to say that I accept the offer he has made. I am sure that the County Councils Association, and rural councils and urban district councils who are all interested in the matter of reception areas, will be very pleased to take part in the inquiries which 2357 he has suggested with the view of getting an agreed Clause in the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Sir I. Albery
I want to raise one short point. The rural district area of Dartford has under the White Paper received the Anderson shelters, presumably because the area is regarded as being sufficiently dangerous to warrant this shelter being provided. On the other hand, the area is to be used, also, as a reception area for children. That has caused a good deal of confusion, because people say that if the area is sufficiently dangerous to warrant the issue of the Anderson shelters, it is not a suitable place for the evacuation of children. There is a further point. If further children are brought into the district, will the shelters that are provided for the normal residential population there provide sufficient accommodation for those children?
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) will remember that I made a statement that the position of the Lower Thames area is being re-examined with the object of providing for further evacuation, if possible. However, it is true that it is not always a fact that an area into which there ought to be dispersal is not also an area which ought to receive a certain amount of shelters. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) asked a question about the position of businesses. That matter is under examination now by a committee of permanent officials. In general, we have been able to formulate certain principles, some of which have been communicated to the businesses concerned. One of them is that movement into any neutral area is not objected to, but is permitted. Secondly, we should of course, do our utmost to see that firms which had bought premises would be allowed to occupy them. As to whether housing accommodation also could be provided in those districts, that would have to be subject to the general overriding power with regard to billeting. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) raised a point which really concerns the location of industry, and I think that his point goes not merely beyond the Clause, but 2358 beyond the Bill. That question is the subject of examination by a Royal Commission, and I think the hon. Member will agree that it is impossible for me to do more than promise that I will take those matters into consideration when we are discussing our general policy towards the location of industry.