HC Deb 25 January 1940 vol 356 cc758-9
66. Mr. Simmonds

asked the Home Secretary what steps he has recently taken, and what further steps he proposes to take, to widen the activities of local civil defence organisations during air raids beyond the normal territorial boundaries?

Sir J. Anderson

As the answer is rather long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Simmonds

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the recent investigations he has made has led him to believe that a larger administrative unit is necessary for the efficient operation of civil defence?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes; that is settled policy. You require reserve organised on an ordered basis.

Mr. Ede

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the amount of co-operation coming from the various local authorities involved?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, Sir. I have no cause for complaint.

Following is the answer:

The Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, places on local authorities an obligation to assist each other where possible in making provision against air attack; and many authorities have already made mutual assistance arrangements by which an area which had suffered damage beyond the scope of the local air-raid precautions services could call upon a neighbouring area for help. A circular stressing the importance of mutual assistance arrangements and indicating generally the lines on which they might be planned was issued to local authorities in August last. Considerable progress has since been made with these schemes, and frequent reinforcement exercises are now being carried out. A memorandum giving further guidance based on the result of those exercises is now in preparation and will, I hope, be issued shortly. As regards the fire services, all fire brigades are under a statutory obligation under the Fire Brigades Act, 1938, to arrange schemes of mutual assistance with neighbouring brigades. On the outbreak of war, orders were also made under the Defence Regulations for each Civil Defence Region, putting into effect schemes on a wider basis for the reinforcement of fire brigades whose resources might be overtaxed in time of war. Notes on the arrangement of exercises in connection with regional reinforcement schemes are being issued to all concerned.