Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum not exceeding £100 be granted to His Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Home Security.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Sir William Davison (Kensington, South)
With regard to the informal notice I have given you, Col. Clifton Brown, in view of the recent personal appeal made to Members of the House by the Prime Minister and reinforced by Mr. Speaker from the Chair, may I ask for your guidance with regard to to-day's Debate as it would appear that it might give information to the enemy which would not be in the national interest?
There is very little the Chair can give in way of guidance or ruling on matters of this kind. As I heard Mr. Speaker and the Leader of the House say, these matters must depend on the discretion of Members.
I am anxious to reinforce the appeal made by the Speaker to the House and I would ask Members to think twice or even thrice before they say anything which might be of value to the enemy.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
May I put a further point? I understood that the request for this Debate came "from all quarters of the House." Now, it is apparent that a request is coming from all quarters of the House that the Debate should not take place. Will the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House tell us precisely where the demand came from for this Debate, which is now so unpopular?
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Attlee)
It was ascertained through the usual channels that there was a desire on the part of Members of all parties to have this discussion, and no notice has been given to me of the contrary view.
I think we are getting rather beyond what are points of Order, and also outside the Motion before the Committee. If the Committee does not discuss the matter we shall have to report Progress.
§ Mr. Stephen (Camlachie)
Is it not possible for an hon. Member to move to report Progress if we do not wish to debate the matter?
§ Sir W. Davison
May I ask what are the "usual channels" now? I have asked a number of hon. Members and they are all opposed to this Debate.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I do so in order that the wishes of the House may be taken regarding the advisability of any further debate taking place from the national point of view and information being given to the enemy.
§ Mr. Denman (Leeds, Central)
I hope the hon. and gallant Member will not press that Motion at present. [Hon. Members: "Why?"] We can report Progress later, but it is quite obvious that the Government wish to make a statement which may be of extreme value to the country.
Before we discuss the matter any further I think it will be just as well if I say that I am prepared to accept the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member. The Question is, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Sir W. Davison
I think it desirable that this Motion should be carried. We have been told that inquiries have been made through the usual channels and it was understood there was a general desire of hon. Members that this particular Vote should be taken. I am an old Member of the House; I have been here for 21 1279 years, and I know my fellow Members fairly well. I have made inquiries of Members of all parties and I have not found a single hon. Member of any party who wants the Debate to proceed, because it is very likely to give information to the enemy. That is the general feeling in all sections of the Committee. I strongly support the Motion to report Progress, so that this Debate should not now take place. I cannot see how we can criticise the Government without giving valuable information to the enemy. It is a contradiction in terms. It is all very well in times of peace to criticise the Government and tell them that they are not doing enough, but in times like these it is far more important that we should point out things to the Government either in Committee upstairs or in Secret Session and should not publicly draw attention to any defects there may be in our arrangements for Civil Defence. We all want to stand together and give no information to the enemy which may be useful to him.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I think hon. Members are quite right in saying that care should be taken so that information is not made public which will be helpful to the enemy. These times require great discretion in the form of Questions and in Debate. I have greater confidence in the wisdom and common sense of my colleagues than some hon. Members. We are responsible Members of Parliament, and if we are going to suggest that on subjects of importance the House of Commons cannot be trusted in Debate, then the House of Commons might very well be closed down.
§ Sir P. Harris
The hon. Member suggests a Secret Session. As far as I am concerned, I have never taken exception to a Secret Session on appropriate subjects. As a matter of fact, the Minister is going to make an important statement, which the House of Commons desires to hear. Hon. Members who will speak will be making no criticisms but offering constructive suggestions from their knowledge and experience, which they think might help the Minister in the discharge of his difficult and responsible task.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)
May I make a suggestion to the Committee? 1280 I am very impressed by the argument that it might be inadvisable to have a Debate, but, on the other hand, I think the Committee wants to hear the statement of the Minister. I am sure the statement would give us full information and give no information to the enemy. May I suggest that the Motion should be withdrawn, that we should hear the Minister's statement, and then if they so desire, hon. Members could move to report Progress again.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
The problem has arisen rather suddenly, but this is what occurs to me to be the situation. For some time I have felt it would be a good thing if the public came to regard a Secret Session not as something to be alarmed about, but as the normal method of debate and discussion on the war owing to the peculiar circumstances in which debate now takes place. Therefore, as far as I have been able to consult with my colleagues, I am not averse to a Secret Session on subjects where the House as a whole thinks information would be otherwise revealed. At the same time I am anxious that the House of Commons should not be elbowed aside out of all discussion. If it is felt that there is a danger we shall not resist a Secret Session, but we shall resist any Motion to report Progress.
§ Mr. Maxton
I can understand protests coming from an Opposition against the stifling of debate, but now I understand the protest is being made by one who is a complete part of the Government.
I must remind hon. Members that we are discussing a Motion to report Progress and that we must stick very closely to the actual reasons for such a Motion. We cannot go outside it.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
I thought that what I was saying was very germane to the subject. The Committee is put into this position to-day because one section of the Government demands a Supply day and another section of the Government supporters say they do not want a Supply day. I suggest 1281 to the Government that this type of thing should be settled through the "usual channels," and not on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. Maxton
It has not been. It is obvious when we rind protests arising from half-a-dozen quarters among the Government's own supporters and voicing the opinion of the majority of the Government supporters, that the thing has not been satisfactorily settled through the "usual channels." An hon. Member opposite said that he wanted to hear the speech of the Minister and it has been suggested that the Minister is to make a great and important pronouncement to-day. I do not know how these rumblings arise about what kind of speech the Minister is to make. The rumour which has reached my ears is that the Home Secretary is not to make the big speech to-day; that he has a multitude of other interests to attend to, and that the big speech is to be made by the Parliamentary Secretary, who has specialised on this particular job.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
The hon. Member has been complaining about the "usual channels." Through what channels did he get that information?
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. Member cannot have been listening to me. I referred to rumblings which had reached my ears.
§ Mr. Maxton
There must be one set of the "usual channels" running along peculiar courses. [Hon. Members: "Gossip."] Yes, there is gossip and my gossip, as far as the House of Commons knows, is as good as any other person's gossip. Perhaps in this case the channels have overflown. I support the Motion to report Progress, and I make the suggestion to the Government that before they arrange the discussions for Supply Days they should consult—
§ Mr. Maxton
I would say this—that responsible senior Privy Councillors, outside the Government, should be consulted 1282 so that the House should not be made a laughing-stock in the eyes of the community.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I wish to make a suggestion to the Committee. I ask hon. Members, in the first place, to remember that we are working under rather difficult conditions, under which we wish to retain to the full the rights of all Members of the House of Commons, including the right to bring up matters for discussion and to get full statements from the Government on such matters. An endeavour has been made on this occasion to meet the wishes of the House of Commons but at any time, on any Supply Day, there will always be some Members who do not wish to have a particular subject discussed—
§ Mr. Attlee
—and there will always be some Members who do wish to have that particular subject discussed. It was intimated by responsible Members that there was a desire to have a discussion on Civil Defence and I would remind the Committee that it was announced last week that there would be such a discussion and that none of this clamour was raised then. Further, no one has approached me since with representations on the ground that it would be improper to have such a discussion. The Minister is, of course, perfectly willing and ready to make a statement on Civil Defence. I suggest that he should be allowed to make it and if the Committee then wish, they can either report Progress—[Hon. Members: "No."] I am putting the alternatives before hon. Members. The Committee can, if they wish, report Progress; or, if they choose, they can go on as on an ordinary Supply Day, exercising that sense of responsibility which hon. Members must be expected to exercise, or they can ask that the Committee should go into Secret Session. I suggest that the right thing is to decide which course is to be adopted when hon. Members have heard the statement by the Minister.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
I support what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) that it is essential that the House of Commons should not be elbowed aside as regards 1283 the conduct of this war. I think we are all agreed on that, but it does the House considerable discredit that every time the question arises of discussing matters of Defence, there should be a wrangle about how and when and in what circumstances that discussion should take place. It seems to me that the difficulty could be very simply removed if it were understood by the Government that questions of Defence should always be discussed in Secret Session. That would allow, full and open discussion to take place without the chance of inadvertent information being given to the enemy. If a statement is to be made by the Minister and if criticism is to be of any use, inevitably something will be said which may be helpful to the enemy. It is hardly fair to ask the Minister to make a statement in public when rumours are going about among Members as the result of information given to them privately, about possible or alleged deficiencies in Defence. It is impossible for the Minister to answer criticism in public without running the risk of giving information to the enemy. If, on all matters of Defence, discussions were held in Secret Session, it would be a good service to the country and would avoid the kind of wrangle which is bringing the House of Commons into discredit.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
In view of what the Lord Privy Seal has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir John Anderson)
I wish to open this Debate by giving a brief review of some of the main aspects of Civil Defence. Civil Defence is a subject which presents many facets, and it has developed in scope and variety far beyond the original conception of the Government and Parliament. I cannot hope to deal exhaustively in my opening statement with every aspect of the subject. There are, as the Committee very obviously realises to the full, certain aspects of the matter upon which it would not be wise to give full details, but if hon. Members who have taken part in the discussion to which we have just listened have been under the impression that the sort of 1284 account which, as a matter of duty, I should find it right and necessary to give to the Committee would be likely to encourage, our enemies, I should like to say straight away that I have every hope that the statement which I am about to make, a perfectly truthful and frank statement within its limits, will be calculated to have exactly the opposite effect.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be winding up the Debate, and I shall have to leave it to him to gather together the points of detail which may be raised in the course of the Debate. I must confine myself, as I said, to some broad aspects of the subject. In considering what I should include within the scope of my statement, I naturally turned back to the Debate which took place on 3rd November, 1938, when I made my first modest contribution in my capacity as the Minister responsible for Civil Defence. On that occasion I referred to certain outstanding questions which needed to be dealt with promptly and effectively. I singled out the subjects of evacuation, shelter policy, the development of a properly organised and equipped regional staff throughout the country, and the difficult problems that seemed likely to arise in the Metropolis by reason of the complex character of the organisation of local government in that area. I cannot deal with all those subjects this afternoon, because evacuation is to be dealt with, I understand, to-morrow by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. I would only say on that subject that I know that my right hon. Friend will be able to demonstrate to the Committee that the general problem of the evacuation of portions of the civil population from danger areas has been worked out on a far more comprehensive basis and according to a far more flexible plan than seemed at the date of the earlier Debate to be within the region of possibility.
I would like to say just a word about the organisation of the regional staff which has been established up and down the country. That staff has been organised in 12 regions, and in each of those regions we have been able to establish what is in fact a microcosm of the central Government. Under a regional and a deputy-regional commissioner, we have in each region, closely linked together, responsible officers of all the main civil Departments concerned with 1285 every aspect of Civil Defence. We have attached to the regional commissioners an adequate technical staff capable of dealing with air-raid precautions in all their aspects, with the problems of shelter, with fire brigade organisation, and so forth. We have made possible a degree of decentralisation of responsibility and work which, under the conditions which may arise in the course of the war, will, I am certain, prove to be of the most vital importance. In London, where in the area covered by the London region there are 101 separate local authorities—and it is a curious fact that that number, which in colloquial speech is usually taken to signify an infinite diversity, does happen to represent the exact number of local authorities which are called upon to collaborate in Civil Defence within the Metropolitan Police area, which is the area of the London region—we have been able to establish an exceptionally strong regional staff, and that staff has developed relations with very numerous authorities which will ensure that those authorities and the representatives of the Government Departments can apply themselves to their tasks, whatever they may be, working together, despite their diversity and number, as a coherent whole.
I propose to reserve to a later stage in my speech a discussion of the whole subject of shelter, which is a matter of great importance and of no little concern, as I know, to hon. Members and to the public, but before I come to that may I say just a few words on the subject of equipment—the equipment of the Civil Defence Services, including the Auxiliary Fire Service? I have in fact not very much to say on that subject, because I am in a position to tell the Committee that for all practical purposes the issue of the necessary equipment for those services is complete, complete with reserves. I will give a few illustrative figures, which I do not think will give any information to the enemy which it is undesirable that the enemy should have, but which will serve to illustrate the magnitude of the effort that has been involved in organising the supply of this equipment. Of respirators of all kinds, including children's respirators and the device known as the baby's helmet, we have issued numbers not far short of 60,000,000; of steel helmets we have issued not far short of 3,000,000; of oilskin suits, over 1,500,000; of stirrup 1286 pumps we have issued a number running into six figures—these stirrup pumps, as hon. Members probably know, form the most important item of equipment required for dealing with attack by incendiary bombs—and of sandbags we have issued roughly 350,000,000. I give these figures partly as illustrative figures, as I have said, in order to show the magnitude of the task which has been successfully accomplished.
Now I pass, because I am going to make if I can quite a brief review, to the very important subject of Civil Defence personnel. The Committee will remember that on the outbreak of war the Civil Defence services were at once fully mobilised, and the local authorities were called upon to take immediate steps to make good such deficiencies as might exist in the ranks of those services. As a result of the action that was taken, and still more as a consequence of the circumstance, perhaps the fortunate circumstance, that the war did not break upon us with the sudden and full intensity that might perhaps have been expected, there was a great deal of criticism, voiced in this House and elsewhere, of large numbers of Civil Defence workers standing about doing nothing, eating their heads off, at great cost to the State, and there was a clamant demand that the Ministry should get to work cutting down the numbers of personnel so organised and brought into action. I declined to take with undue haste measures for the cutting down of our Civil Defence personnel. In spite of the feeling, which I shared with, I think, most Members of the House, that it was most undesirable—especially in time of war, when economy of effort and of expenditure should be the aim so far as practicable—that an organisation apparently in excess of the immediate requirements should be kept in full being. I felt that it was essential, before any sweeping reductions were made, to undertake a thorough review of the position. As the result of that review, which necessarily occupied a good many weeks, the Ministry issued to all the authorities concerned a revised establishment of Civil Defence personnel in the various services. The establishment then laid down was that which it was thought should prove adequate, having regard to the fact that the element of surprise, against which we had at the beginning to be constantly 1287 on our guard, had to a large extent been eliminated. Account was also taken of the fact that the weeks that had elapsed had been employed in improving the training, and building up the efficiency and the capacity for team work, of the personnel available.
That revised establishment was communicated through the regional organisations to the various local authorities concerned, and it was made the basis of a more detailed inquiry with a view to determining, in relation to the actual circumstances of each area, how far it was possible to adhere to the revised establishment that had been laid down. That process of detailed examination and investigation was completed last April, and as a result a further instruction was issued to local authorities, giving precise details of the organisation of the various services and of the strength, paid and unpaid, of Civil Defence personnel that should be aimed at. I think I may venture quite safely to give the Committee a few illustrative figures, in order that, without giving any information as to the position in particular areas, hon. Members may-have in their minds the general picture as it now is. The total establishment at which in those latest instructions we have fixed the strength of the personnel in the various services of air-raid precautions, excluding for the moment such services as the Auxiliary Fire Service, the auxiliary police, the various casualty services, which come under the control of the Health Departments, and the services established in connection with evacuation—I say that with these exceptions the total establishment, paid and unpaid, that we have thus fixed is just short of 1,000,000, and of that 1,000,000 the number of whole-time paid personnel is roughly 180,000. The net financial result of the process of review which I have just described would be to reduce the annual charge for paid personnel, which falls, I may remind the Committee, entirely upon the Exchequer, by something between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. The authorised establishment of the fire services accounts for an additional 200,000 persons, auxiliary police for an additional 60,000, the personnel engaged in connection with health services and casualties, which I mention here in order to complete the general picture, represents 1288 over 250,000, and for the evacuation services the total numbers enrolled amount to something like 100,000. Therefore, you get a total which I think the Committee will agree represents a very substantial achievement in the organisation and training of personnel for these entirely new services.
I want to make it clear to the Committee that the organisation which I have been describing leaves out of account altogether the personnel organised by virtue of provisions included in the Civil Defence Act passed last year in connection with industrial establishments. Factory occupiers have carried out the responsibilities placed upon them by that Act, not only in respect of training personnel, but also in connection with the provision of shelters, in a manner worthy of all praise. We have available now, in the form of trained personnel connected with industrial establishments, highly organised units, representing in total number, so far as they are available as a reserve to come to the aid of the regular Civil Defence service organisation under the local authorities, something of the order of 150,000 men and women. We have been able to make arrangements, through the regional commissioners, with industrial establishments, whereby, in case of need, this highly trained personnel will be made available as a second line of defence to assist the services provided by the local authorities.
In a number of areas we have been able to persuade employers, not only to train the personnel required in accordance with the terms of the Civil Defence Act to ensure that the Civil Defence services in connection with a particular factory or works are adequately organised, but to go further and train additional personnel, at their own expense, to be available in case of need as a still further reserve to supplement the reserves available to the local authorities. In addition, we have taken in hand the more intensive training of the personnel available, training not only in individual duties, but training in joint exercises involving the collaboration of a number of neighbouring authorities. To assist in that all-important work of developing the training of personnel for the actual tasks they may be called upon to discharge, we have organised under Sir Hugh Elles, at headquarters, a special operational staff.
1289 Hon. Members may be inclined to ask why I have found it necessary in the last few days to issue a new call for volunteers for the Civil Defence services. The explanation is simple. As the war proceeds, we must expect that more and more calls will be made upon the manpower of the country. We cannot hope to be able to retain all the whole-time personnel at present included in the Civil Defence services, and we want to be able to go so far as is humanly possible in the direction of replacing our whole-time personnel by adequately trained part-time personnel. It is for that reason—and not because there are actual deficiencies in the establishments, for with few exceptions there are no such deficiencies—in order that we may be prepared for the future and may have additional men and women trained and available as a reserve, that this call has been issued. We must not only secure economy, but we must also conserve all our man-power if we are to fight this war successfully. It is too early to say what sort of response we shall have to this new call, but I hope my hon. Friend, when he comes to wind up the Debate, will be able to give some indication of the nature of that response. We must recognise that in a number of our most vulnerable areas, especially our munition areas, where the need for industrial workers is very great, and where the industrial army is putting forth its maximum effort, it will be difficult to find people who can spare time to give to part-time Civil Defence work. We must, however, do our best to overcome these difficulties.
We have, as hon. Members know, as a result of the Act passed only a few days ago, certain powers in regard to the employment of men and women on tasks of vital importance to the State. It maybe that, so far as our whole-time personnel are concerned, we shall have to make use of those powers. It might be suggested that the use of these compulsory powers ought to be extended to cover part-time personnel. On that point I would say just this. It is very much more difficult, apart from all other considerations, to apply the principle of compulsion to the organisation of part-time personnel than it is in the case of whole-time personnel. Who is to judge whether a person whose primary employment is in connection, for example, with the production of munitions, is really 1290 in a position to give time to Civil Defence without prejudice to his primary occupation? Who is to tell, if not the man himself? Therefore, I say, we ought, if possible, in the case of part-time personnel to adhere to the principle of self-selection, which is the voluntary principle. I think that I am justified in saying to the Committee that the results which I have outlined in regard to the numbers of men and women now available in Civil Defence services do represent an outstanding triumph of voluntary effort.
I should now like to pass to the question of shelters, and here, perhaps, there is a subject on which a certain degree of restraint, both on my part, and on the part of those who may wish to follow me in this Debate, would be very desirable. There are, however, certain things which I can say quite frankly to the Committee. I am aware of the criticisms which have been current, and I am aware that it has been said that the provision of shelter is, even at this date, after many months of war, short of our real requirements. I am aware that it has been said that we have not provided shelter for everybody, or that the shelter we have provided is not of the requisite standard. I should like for a few moments to pause and examine these criticisms. First, I want to compare what has been done with what we set out to do. May I remind the Committee that on 21st December, 1938, I made in this House the first comprehensive statement of the Government's policy in regard to the provision of shelters. I dealt with shelters of all kinds—with the provision of domestic shelters, a new conception, announced for the first time on that occasion. The central idea was shelter near the home, as against communal shelter to which people would have to go in the event of an air raid warning. I also dealt with communal shelter and with the problem of industrial shelter—that is, shelter at the factory or mine—and with shelters in all commercial buildings where the number of employésmight aggregate a considerable body of men and women. At the conclusion of the statement I said that the total number of persons for whom we proposed to make provision in the various forms of shelter I had described would be nearly 20,000,000. I had a return the other day from various local authorities and 1291 employers, and it will interest the Committee to know that the total number of persons for whom shelter has, in fact, been provided happens to be, for practical purposes, 20,000,000. That is an outstanding fact which should be noted.
I could give further particulars of cost. Perhaps, although we are in Committee of Supply, it would be better not to state them publicly; but I should be glad to give them to any hon. Member, because it is a useful check on the figures—we all know pretty well what it costs on the average to provide shelter of the blast and splinter standard. It is perfectly true that the figure of 20,000,000, although it was our original goal, does not represent the provision of shelter for all. But we did not set out to provide shelter for all, and we made it clear that we were first of all going to discriminate between area and area, and concentrate our efforts on the provision of shelters in the most vulnerable areas. Beyond that, we made it clear that, so far as domestic shelter was concerned, we looked to those who could fairly be expected to provide shelters for themselves to do so. The question may be asked, why, if it is true that we have provided all the shelter which we originally set out to provide, we are going on providing shelters. The answer is that as we gained more experience, and as valuable experimental data increased, we were not content with the goal which we first set out to reach. Therefore, we are still pressing forward to improve upon the existing provision of shelter protection, although it already represents the accomplishment of our initial aim. It is also true that the distribution of shelter protection is not uniform, even in areas of any particular classification, but it is broadly true that the provision of shelter is best where the needs are greatest—that is, because attention has been concentrated on those special target areas. But there are gaps which need to be filled, and I do not conceal the fact, although I will not specify the localities. We shall use all our efforts to ensure that in the shortest possible period these gaps are filled. Powers have been taken under Defence Regulation 29A, and we shall not hesitate to use them. I intend that they should be delegated to the regional organisations and those in close touch with the authorities concerned.
1292 I now turn to industrial shelters. Hon. Members will recall that the Civil Defence Act laid an obligation on factory employers and owners of commercial buildings in that regard. I am very pleased indeed to be able to inform the Committee that, according to the latest reports received from factory inspectors, who have rendered invaluable service in collaboration with employers in securing that these provisions are carried into effect, the provision of shelter in factories is, for all practical purposes, complete. The same is broadly true of the provision of shelters in mines. I do not doubt that here and there there may be difficulties, but broadly it is true that the provision of shelters in mines is complete. As regards commercial buildings, those Members who were present at the discussions on the Civil Defence Bill will realise that the problem was much more difficult because of the diversity of interests involved, but I think that there, too, the returns that have been received from local authorities, to whom the supervision of shelter provision in commercial buildings was entrusted, show gratifying and encouraging results. I will give the figures to any hon. Member who would like to have them. I wish to pay a well deserved tribute to those who have collaborated in bringing this necessary provision of shelter speedily into existence.
There is a further point that I would like to make in this review of the general shelter position. When we were urging upon local authorities, and others concerned, to put every possible effort, into the provision of specially constructed shelters, we advisedly did not make reference to the degree of protection which is provided by an ordinary soundly-constructed house. I would like to remind the Committee that the degree of protection so provided is, in fact, very substantial, and if people who have not special shelters provided in their houses or close to them will carry out the advice given in a booklet which has been widely distributed, called, "Your Home as an Air-Raid Shelter," they will be well advised, when an air-raid warning is given, to stay in their houses rather than rush out into the streets and try to find their way to communal shelters.
We have recently issued to local authorities a memorandum giving particulars of a method of providing really effective shelters by making use of derelict houses. 1293 It is a very ingenious method which has recently been evolved by my technical officers. It takes the form of adapting derelict houses of two storeys. The great problem in the provision of shelters is that of materials and labour, and anything which can reduce the demand on those two rather scarce commodities is all to the good. What can be done with a derelict house is this. Strip the roof, prise away the roof beams, cut the roof beams into suitable lengths for strutting the ground floor, use the bricks of the upper courses to cover the top of the first floor so as to provide overhead shelter, and with the bricks that are over block up window openings and so forth. The result is that, without any expense on material and by using labour which may be more readily available than the skilled bricklayers for which there is a great demand, you can in a very short time provide a really adequate form of shelter. I expect that in that way it will be possible in a number of areas where shelter provision is not quite adequate to make up the deficiency to a large extent very rapidly. These instructions were issued only within the last few days, but there are already indications that some local authorities are proceeding to act on them.
Let me say a word about the finance of shelter provision, because it has been suggested that the arrangements made by the Government have militated against the provision of shelters by local authorities. I do not think there is very much in that contention. The financial terms provided by the Air-Raid Precautions Act were exceptionally generous. They provided for an initial grant of 65 to 75 per cent., according to the classification of the area. After the charge falling upon the funds of local authorities for air-raid precautions had reached the equivalent of a penny rate, the rate of grant was to be increased by 10 per cent. so that, instead of being from 65 to 75 per cent., it was from 75 to 85 per cent. Apart from these financial provisions, the burden on local authorities for the provision of shelters has been substantially reduced by the decision of the Government that, in the case of domestic shelters, and communal shelters which are provided in lieu of domestic shelters—what might be called multiple-unit domestic shelters—the whole of the cost of material will be borne by the Exchequer. The general financial picture that results is something like this. For 1294 a standard type of communal shelter for 48 people costing about £100, all but about £12 10s. is met from the Treasury; and even of that amount of £12 10s. a substantial part would normally be covered by loan because the expenditure is nonrecurring. If one looks at it from the point of view of the total burden falling upon the rates in the various localities, I am told that the average rate burden in 1939–40 for Civil Defence is not likely to exceed very much the equivalent of a 3d. rate. The figures for 18 large cities and county boroughs show that, leaving out of account the cost of certain rescue-party and miscellaneous equipment supplied free by the Government, the Exchequer would be bearing on the average about 86 per cent. of the total expenditure, that the rates would be bearing about 3½per cent., and that the balance would or could be met by loan. It will be apparent that the actual burden on the funds of local authorities for Civil Defence in general and for shelters in particular is, relative to the other charges on local authorities, not very substantial.
Turning to the question of deep or strongly protected shelters, the Government have been criticised because they concentrated attention on what could be provided quickly, namely, on the splinter and blast-proof shelter which does undoubtedly give protection against by far the major part of the risk to which the civil population would be exposed. There has been a long controversy on the subject of deep shelter, and I felt it might be regarded as closed. I have, however, seen several times in the Press of late a tendency to recur to it, and I do not think my statement would be complete if I did not deal with the question. In the first instance I thought it right to keep an open mind, and when I announced the Government's plan for the provision of splinter and blast-proof shelter, I indicated that the possibility of further provision of a more strongly-protected type of shelter, should not be regarded as excluded. I set up a body, which came to be known as the Hailey Conference, to give special consideration to the question. While giving general support to the policy of the Government in the provision of splinter and blast-proof shelter, that conference recommended that more strongly protected shelter should be provided in a limited number of special cases. That report was accepted by the 1295 Government. I want to tell the Committee frankly what has been the result of the further consideration which has been given to the matter.
In the first instance, we took up the question with the employers and representatives of the workers concerned in some of our most vital industrial undertakings. The decision reached after consideration of the matter was that to provide special strongly-protected shelters for the workers in those establishments would involve technical problems so difficult that it must be regarded as impracticable in any short space of time to provide such shelter on any substantial scale. The difficulties were due partly to the time factor, partly to considerations of space and partly to questions of labour and material, but they were also psychological. It was found that there was a definite reluctance on the part of workers to support plans for the provision of shelters for themselves at their places of work which would be out of all scale with the shelter provided in the ordinary course for their wives and families.
I do not want to be controversial, but looking back I must say frankly that I am devoutly thankful we did not adopt a general policy of providing deep or strongly protected shelters. Had we done so, we should at this moment have been in a far worse position, looking at the problem as a whole, than we are to-day. The country would have been caught with a very limited amount of shelter in course of construction and not completed. We should have been faced with the two inevitable shortages of labour and material which have now occurred and which are affecting even the provision of splinter and blast-proof shelter. We have had a lot of experience since the outbreak of the war, and we know a great deal more now about the form which enemy attack may take and the risks to which the general population may be exposed. We know that we have to expect a great number of attacks unheralded by any warning. That is inevitable. We know that the period of warning on which we can rely, which was estimated at from 5 to 7½minutes, may in many cases be much shorter. The period of warning is an important factor in considering the sort of shelter that it is best to provide. The longer the period of warning, the less the 1296 objection to large and strongly protected shelters, which it would take people some time to reach. The shorter the period of warning, the greater the danger of people leaving the comparative shelter of their homes and being caught in the streets and perhaps machine-gunned while trying to find their way to communal shelter.
There is another consideration of perhaps a more subtle but not less important character. In this war we must avoid at all costs what I may call the deep-shelter mentality. Ask anyone who has had experience of modern war what that mentality means and its effect upon morale. There are these further considerations. Think of the menace of incendiary bombs and of the means available for dealing with them. I have spoken of the large number of stirrup pumps which have been issued to local authorities, and we are adding to that number enormously under a new plan of issuing stirrup pumps to the general public on condition that they band themselves in groups to use the stirrup pumps. They will not use the stirrup pumps if they are in deep shelters. They would not know what had happened to their houses, which would be burning merrily in their absence. Then think of the possibility of attack by parachute troops. If that happened, would people like to be underground in deep shelters? We must assume that the enemy will adapt his tactics to our protective arrangements. Looking at the matter broadly, and I hope quite dispassionately, and bearing in mind all those considerations, I say again that I am devoutly thankful that we did not adopt a policy of deep shelters.
There has recently come into prominence an idea that, without going to the length of providing deep or heavily-protected shelters, we might have provided a type of splinter and blast-proof shelter which would serve its purpose well in the first instance and could be converted later into something intermediate between the splinter and blast-proof type and what is called a heavily-protected shelter. I do not dismiss that idea at all. In fact, I believe I thought of it first. A long time ago, I put it to my technical advisers, and they said then that it looked a good idea, but that they believed it was impracticable for the reason that in order to provide a more strongly protected shelter at a later 1297 stage you would, at the beginning, have to make the surrounding walls so substantial that the task would be almost as complicated and difficult, and as heavy in terms of material and labour, as if you set about providing heavily protected shelter from the start. I tell the Committee frankly that further examination of the problem has led us to the conclusion that that was an erroneous view, and we now consider that a 50-unit communal shelter of the splinter and blast-proof type can be built which could, without great difficulty, be adapted later to afford substantially increased protection; and I have made arrangements to ensure that where local authorities provide splinter and blast-proof shelters, according to designs to be modified on the lines I have indicated, the Government will pay the full grant.
In conclusion, I would say that the whole problem of Civil Defence has taken a new turn as a result of the course of development of the war. We have to reckon not merely with the risk of a bombing attack, but with the new menace of invasion, of parachute attack, for which we must be prepared. It is giving no encouragement to the enemy to say that we recognise that we must be prepared for these risks. In the arrangements for providing the people of these islands with the fullest possible protection against those dangers, I believe that the regional organisation which was established for the purposes of our air-raid precautions scheme will prove quite invaluable. I believe that the collaboration which has got to be established all over the country between the military and the civil authorities would be almost impossible if we had not already in being the well developed regional organisation which exists to-day, with its network of connections with the local and public authorities all over the country. It is absolutely vital that there should be, in these critical days, the fullest collaboration between the military authorities, on whom a heavy responsibility rests, and the civil authorities. It is not only necessary that there should be that fullest collaboration, but it is equally necessary that it should be made clear to the public that there is that fullest collaboration, and any obstacle standing in the way of such collaboration ought to be ruthlessly swept aside. In the Ministry of Home Security we are 1298 bending all our energies to that new task, and I have been encouraged by recent contacts with the military authorities to think that they are well satisfied that, despite the inevitable difficulties, difficulties on both sides, of adjustment to new ideas, the Civil Defence organisation which we have been able to establish will make a notable contribution to the cooperative effort of the country.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."
I move this Motion in order to give hon. Members an opportunity of deciding in what way they wish the Debate to continue. The point of view of the Governmnet is this, that Members have a sense of responsibility and can discuss these matters in public without giving away secrets, and therefore we should propose that the Debate should continue in the ordinary way; but I make this Motion in order that any Members who think that it should be continued in secret can make that proposal. If a Motion to that effect is submitted, the Government will leave it to a free vote of the Committee.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I think the Lord Privy Seal has taken the wise course in moving to report Progress and leaving it to any Member who so desires to "spy strangers" and turn this into a Secret Session. I myself am most anxious that, whatever happens, we should not be brushed aside from the possibility of the House of Commons discussing the war through any difficulties about Defence questions being discussed in public, and, therefore, I am not averse to making the Secret Session a fairly normal method by which the House conducts its business, and am rather anxious that the public should not regard the holding of a Secret Session as something to be alarmed about. When I come to discuss with myself whether, if anyone "spies strangers" to-day I shall support him, there are one or two considerations in my mind which I should like to submit to the Committee. The first is that the Minister has already made his statement, and although I am not averse to Secret Sessions. I should not care for a Secret Session in which the Minister speaks in public and the curtain descends upon Members when they begin their observations. All of it must be 1299 secret or none of it. The other observation I would make is that if we take the Minister's statement as an example, there could be nothing more harmless or innocuous, and I do not believe that any Member will give away any more information than the Minister has given away. I think that a Secret Session on a topic of this kind would mean that the House of Commons was becoming alarmed to the extent of becoming silly. Therefore, if it is proposed to go into Secret Session this afternoon, although I do not object to Secret Sessions, I shall on this occasion vote against it, because I do not think a Secret Session is necessary.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Sir P. Harris
I want to endorse what the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) has said. It entirely expresses my view. Each case has to be considered on its merits. A good deal of discretion must be left to the Members of the Committee. As far as I am concerned, I believe the Debate could be carried on without giving any information to the enemy, and it would give the public greater satisfaction to know that the House was alive to the problem; but if other Members feel otherwise and can persuade the Committee that I am wrong, I think the matter should be left to the opinion of the Committee.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Denman
I feel about the Motion to report Progress exactly what I felt about the previous Motion to report Progress, and that is that it is premature. Surely the right course in these Debates is for us to go ahead and see how they develop. It is quite possible that after a certain number of very useful public speeches, meant to give advice and assistance to the general public, we should get on to topics that we wanted to discuss that were secret, and at that moment it would be open for any one of us to "spy strangers" and for the Committee to resolve itself into a Secret Session. It is premature for us to decide on that course now without waiting to see how the Debate may develop. We can all imagine points of view which we should like to put to the Government and on which we should like to have their answer in private. I trust, therefore, that the present Motion will be withdrawn, but that we shall not thereby debar ourselves 1300 from "spying strangers" at a later stage if we think it right to do so.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Sir W. Davison
I disagree with the statement of the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) that because a Minister has made a statement in public it is undesirable that we should go into Secret Session. It may well be desirable in the national interest that the public should be informed by a reasoned statement, such as the admirable statement we have just had from the Minister of Home Security, of what has been done by the Government, but it does not follow that Members may not wish to raise certain criticisms, and while I think it is desirable that the public should know what the Government have done or propose to do, I think that, generally speaking, it is desirable that all Debates on Civil Defence, or Naval, Military or Air Force matters, should be held in Secret Session, as otherwise it is impossible, in my view, for us to criticise the Government when it may be desirable that there should be criticism. We may feel that there are certain items in connection with Civil Defence which might be improved, but it is impossible for us to put them forward without indicating what, in our opinion, is defective in the Government's proposals, and it is most undesirable that that should be made public. The House of Commons would not be losing its democratic standing in the country. We are all popularly elected, and surely the country can trust us to conduct its affairs—
The hon. Member is getting rather wide of the Motion before us. The point is whether we should have a Secret Session now, and we cannot discuss the whole question of Secret Sessions.
§ Sir W. Davison
I agree. I would only point out that I do not think the fact that we go into Secret Session should mean that there is anything sinister about the proceeding. It simply means that the popularly-elected representatives of the people want to be able to assist the Government in perfecting the arrangements which are proposed without disclosing every suggestion to the enemy. But I am to a large extent in agreement with the right hon. Member for Keighley, having regard to the tone and to the 1301 matter of the Minister's speech, which is an admirable example of how a subject of this kind should be dealt with; and having regard to the general feeling which I see in the Committee, I think we might very well continue this Debate on the same lines, unless, as suggested by the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman), something arises which makes it desirable that we should go into Secret Session, but that, in the future, where there are matters of this kind for discussion, it should be recognised that, in the national interest, it is desirable that the discussion should be in Secret Session.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I did not wish to take part in this Debate, since I understand, from your Ruling, Colonel Clifton Brown—and I do not in any way question it—that we are not dealing with the whole subject of secret Debates; but I think I ought to say that I am in strong agreement with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from this side, and not in agreement with my hon. Friend who has just spoken. The mere fact that we are popularly elected persons makes it more desirable that we should discuss publicly everything we can, so that the public may know what we are saying. My hon. Friend answered his own argument when he said that this is not a military, naval or air Debate, but a civil Debate. I hope that we shall accept what has been the general rule of the House, and continue to discuss the matter in open Session. Particularly, I hope that we shall not prejudge in this Debate the whole subject of Secret Sessions.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
There is only one point I would put to the Committee, in answer to the speech of an hon. Gentleman opposite. If there is any time when we should not have a Secret Session, it is when a Minister has made a statement, because if we did so, it would give the impression that something was being said which the general public ought not to be allowed to hear, and that would be a most undesirable state of affairs. For that reason alone we should not have a Secret Session. I shall confine myself to that remark, and I hope that the general sense of the Committee is with me.
§ Motion, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair," by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, North)
I would congratulate the Minister of Home Security on the statement which he has made. I do not think that anything which I propose to say will give information to the enemy, but if any hon. Member thinks that I am doing so and that any statement I make may be of value to the enemy, I hope that he will draw my attention to it. My object is rather to make constructive suggestions on a matter which is recognised to be of importance in the country and to the House of Commons. We have not had a Debate on the subject since just after the beginning of the war, and it is—without giving information to the enemy—of growing importance every day. Moreover, as the war has developed, it may be that the Government's advisers have been able to obtain from the war itself a considerable amount of information about protection from bombardment. On one or two of the points which I shall raise I know that experiences gained up to now can be given—again, that is not giving information to the enemy—because they are largely mere recapitulation of the enemy's tactics and the type of bomb he is using, as well as of what has been found to be effective against them. The enemy has full knowledge of all those matters.
The largest part of the Minister's speech dealt with personnel. That is a side of Civil Defence which has engaged much attention, and I would like to add my word of congratulation in regard to that enormous organisation of A.R.P. workers and others who have, through a very difficult winter, performed their tasks with growing efficiency and enthusiasm, which has not waned, in spite of the absence of raids in most districts. I do not know why it is, but in this country we seem to go in waves of enthusiasm. In the autumn of 1938, when the evening papers were telling us to keep cool, there was a tremendous wave of enthusiasm for A.R.P., and there was again at the beginning of the war. Perhaps there is a little less enthusiasm now, and a little more experience. The organisation is better trained.
1303 Can the Parliamentary Secretary give us any information about the response to the appeal for additional staff, to replace some of those who are going into the Armed Forces and to make a reserve of trained personnel? I have heard from some districts that the response is not too good. Indeed—I do not know whether I may mention a particular place, but as I am quoting from a newspaper cutting perhaps it does no harm to say it—for instance, in Manchester, the regional commissioner tells us that he is desperately short of additional volunteers to meet the appeal which was recently made by the Home Office. This refers to various branches of Civil Defence personnel. I know there have been appeals on the wireless that auxiliary firemen who may have moved from one district to another should report at the fire stations in the districts to which they have moved. There has been a certain amount of personnel slipping away from the services. That personnel has been trained at some expense. A man may be only a stretcher bearer, but I am told that it takes three months to train a stretcher bearer, who must have a considerable knowledge if he is to be efficient in first-aid. He must also be a strong man to be able to do his work properly.
If men who volunteered are now drifting away, sometimes into other services, attention must be given to the matter. I know that in country districts the enthusiasm which at one time obtained for volunteering for A.R.P. services has gone to the more fashionable "parashooter" corps or Local Defence Volunteers. That tends to deplete the services. With admirable motives, people may feel that the Local Defence Volunteer Corps is a more dangerous occupation. Quite unnecessary slurs have been thrown on A.R.P. workers, and I know that in a particular district these services have been much reduced by reason of persons going into the Local Defence Volunteers. Industrial work is being keyed up, and, as the Minister said, in munition areas men are working for very long hours and cannot be relied upon for training, and sometimes not for the necessary practices to make them efficient in their work. I know of one small town where there used to be great unemployment but now, in the day-time, practically none of the 1304 A.R.P. staff is in the town; they are all working on munitions in camps, at a distance, it may be, of 10 miles. If there were a raid on that town, the A.R.P. and defence services would be entirely depleted.
I am dealing with the question of whether it is necessary to have a closer control over the personnel of the services. The Minister rightly said that, owing to the great number of people involved, it was necessary to have the voluntary system. I am not necessarily advocating a compulsory system, but I would point out that there are different degrees of compulsion. There is the extreme form of compulsion which empowers the local authorities' officers to commandeer the services of individuals. I do not think there is any need to use that rigorous form of compulsion, but to put those who have volunteered, and who have been trained, upon a more definite basis of service would be an advantage at the present time. In all voluntary organisations, the tendency is for a few people to do all the work, and perhaps that tendency exists in some parts of these services. I believe that the time has come to give to those in authority greater control over the personnel.
It has been suggested to me that something like the sort of control which is exercised over Territorials in peace-time would be applicable. A man who voluntarily joins the Territorials undertakes to do certain training. If he fails, he is liable to a fine. It has been represented to me by a number of persons working in Civil Defence services that such an arrangement in their service is now due. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that if the response to his appeal for volunteers is ineffective, he should not hesitate to go further in the direction suggested. Agricultural workers and miners are not allowed to leave agriculture and mining, and I do not know why A.R.P. workers should be allowed to leave A.R.P. work. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary, if he can, to give us some information on the response to the appeal. These Civil Defence services are of very great importance, and there has been a tendency, partly due to the necessity for cutting down the paid staff last autumn and partly due to other causes, to under-rate their value. So far as I know, the experience has been that 1305 efficient Civil Defence services are invaluable in saving lives during air attacks.
Turning to the other main question, that of shelters, I was glad that the Minister was able to tell us that immense progress had been made, but even so I would like to impress upon the Government that their slogan should still be "More and better shelters." The Minister told us that some 20,000,000 people were now covered by the provision of shelters, but, of course, that figure of 20,000,000 includes every kind of shelter, and some of them are better than others. I disagree that it is defeatist to talk about shelters, and I disagree with the point of view of the Minister when he said that the deep-shelter complex is one to be avoided. Surely that is a remnant of the old spirit that stood in the way of our troops in France during the last war getting tin hats or concrete pill-boxes. That is a fundamental mistake. Let us by all means be realists. I understand the point of view of the workers, to whom the Minister referred, who said that they did not want better shelters than their families, but let us be realists. We are very short of skilled engineers. We do not want them killed by bombs any more than we want our soldiers, sailors or airmen killed by the enemy. If it is possible and if we can provide the material, surely it is fantastic to suggest that the personal consideration of the skilled aircraft mechanic, that he does not want to be better protected than his wife, should stand in the way. He must be better protected because he is vital to the war effort of this country. I agree that that case of the skilled engineer is an extreme one, but the better protection we can get for the whole of the population, the less likely we are to be subject to air attack, and the less effective that air attack will be if and when it does come. Experience from the war in Spain onwards has shown, I believe, the immense advantage which protection gives. I believe it has been found that the shelters erected mainly against blast and splinters give very satisfactory results in such raids as there have been on this country. That is excellent, but I did not understand the attitude of the Minister on this question of improved shelters.
I hope that considerations of mere financial cost are not influencing the Government's opinion at the present time. If that were so, it would be a great misfortune. 1306 The only consideration should be that of the availability of labour and of materials. The argument which the Minister used, that it was better to spread shelter as widely as possible rather than have a few very good shelters, certainly appeals to me. But, having spread your shelter very widely and having apparently provided shelter for nearly half the population of this country—shelter of some sort—surely what he himself went on to describe, namely, the sort of shelter that could be improved as time and opportunity allowed, is the right principle to adopt. I refer to the two-stage shelter—a shelter that is now blast and splinter proof and which can be improved later on if labour and material are available and if other factors are favourable.
The real consideration which must govern the amount of shelter provided is the availability of materials and labour. I understand that the existing programmes of the local authorities are being held up by a shortage of bricks, that is to say, not in brickyards but on the sites. I have always been told that the brickworks are not working to capacity, that they are working short time and that the difficulty is one of transport. That is a matter with which the Ministry should be dealing energetically. We know that the railways have been very much overtaxed in recent months and that brickworks have rather widely used road transport, which also has been difficult to obtain, but the provision of bricks is a matter of urgency, and plans should already be in existence to deal with this matter. I should like to see the Government commandeer all the transport necessary to ensure that the brickworks are kept working full out, as fully as if they were working for the Ministry of Supply instead of the Ministry of Home Security. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says—and I quite agree—that the bricks should be in stock in each area, but I am afraid that the areas of which I am thinking are in rather a different position. They cannot get hold of the bricks to complete their shelter programme, and until they have completed their shelter programme it is no use trying to lay in a local supply.
Then we come to the question of labour. The last returns that I was able to obtain applied to the middle of March, 1307 when undoubtedly the bad weather had been having an effect upon employment in the building industry, and there may have been more men unemployed then than there are now. The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) made a public speech recently and said there were 150,000 building-trade operatives unemployed. I would like to know what is the position about building operatives. If there are any unemployed in England at the present time, it reflects upon the whole programme. We may get raids in time, and if there are unemployed men and materials available, the fault lies in the organisation. There is, of course, a shortage of steel, but are there any substitutes for steel for reinforcing concrete? Is it a fact or not that thicker concrete will make up for the absence of reinforced steel? What is the objection in these days to making an appeal for volunteers to work after their usual occupations in order to do some of the unskilled work connected with building shelters? I can see no reason why they should not do so. There are volunteers in all sorts of other work. Volunteers, including schoolboys and others, are asked to do agricultural work. If there is full employment in the building trade—not if there is unemployment—and if the difficulty is shortage of labour, then people should be asked to do overtime after they have finished their work in their offices, shops or other sedentary occupations, at a time like this, when nothing should stand in the way of getting these jobs done.
There is a very considerable variation between the standards of protection of one local authority and another. I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for the answer that he gave me last week, saying that the Ministry were taking power to bring those who have lagged behind up to the standard that the Ministry think desirable. However, I must remind him that in the past the impression has been created that the Ministry were more anxious to damp down some of the boroughs which were most enterprising than to push on those which were not. I see him smiling. It may have been that some of those boroughs concerned—and they should not be mentioned by name—had plans which for technical reasons were arguable. However, that impression has been created widely, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will 1308 obliterate that impression by saying very insistently that he is putting the fullest possible drive into the task of seeing that all authorities complete their programmes. Then I would say, "Do not be satisfied with that but go on and have more shelters." I am not clear from what the Minister said whether this proposition of the two-stage shelter has really been put before the local authorities or not. I would like to be sure that it has been put before the local authorities, because, after all, they initiate these schemes, and unless expert advisers of the Government recommend a scheme to the local authorities, it will not be taken up. I spoke to the head of a county organisation the other day, and he was not aware of what shelters were provided by industrial firms and commercial firms in his area.
Under the Government's scheme so far, there has been a certain amount of overlapping. As I understand it, local authorities are not responsible for what a private firm provides for its workpeople, and, therefore, the position is a little anomalous. There are various people responsible for shelters. The local authority is not responsible for all the shelters provided in its area. There are persons with means above £250; there are businesses, commercial firms, and, above all, there are local authorities. It may be that some firms have shelters which are used only during the day. Those shelters should be available during the night. It may be that the local authority is providing shelters for a man while he is in the street, that the landlord of the flats in which the man lives is providing a shelter for him at his home, and that the employer is providing him with a shelter at the factory where he works. There may be some waste of available shelters in that way. Should not the officers of the local authorities be instructed to obtain from all sources the facts about the shelters in their districts?
I would ask the Home Secretary's Department to adopt the slogan of the Ministry of Supply, which we see everywhere, and "go to it." An immense amount of work has been done recently: a great deal of experience must have been gained from the progress of the war up to now; but there are still serious gaps, and we ask that those gaps should be filled, and that then a further stage should be covered. I hope that, having spread the shelter accommodation as 1309 much as possible, the Department will not be satisfied, but will go on, especially in the east coast and other vulnerable districts, to use all the available manpower to improve, and again improve, the shelter accommodation.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
I find it difficult this afternoon to keep my mind very closely on the Debate while the battle rages in France upon which the fate of the country may depend. If the front in France is our front, a front of vital importance to us, we are quite prepared to face with courage a future in which there may be a front in England, which will be vital to France. For that reason, the Committee listened with interest and appreciation to the statement of the Minister this afternoon. We have never treated air-raid precautions as a party matter in this House, though we on these benches have sometimes thought it our duty, without any party spirit, to say that we thought that the Government were making too slow progress and to express our alarm at that lack of imagination which they showed. For that reason I take the greater pleasure in saying that in recent months there has been a great improvement, and it would be foolish and ungenerous not to recognise the progress which has been made. There is to-day, what there was not two years ago, a real central and regional administration. It may not be strong enough; some may think that it is not rightly manned; some may think that it is not inspired by a living picture of what air raids are like when one comes to live through them. But at least a central administration exists to direct and guide the country.
There is a warning system, with sirens which really work. We have had a universal distribution of gas masks, and now of new filters; a large proportion of the population know how to make an ordinary room reasonably safe for an hour or two—and that may be enough—against a gas attack; and that I think of great importance because it may well be that Hitler is saving poison gas as the big strategic surprise for his campaign against England. There is the system of fire brigades, with some training, and, as the Home Secretary said, not only with adequate, but with complete equipment. We have casualty, first-aid, and hospital services, which are not only adequate but 1310 efficient. Demolition and decontamination squads exist, are equipped and are under competent direction. These are not negligible achievements, and we ought to express our appreciation to the Ministers who have initiated them, to the local authorities, which have worked them, and to the great army of paid workers and volunteers. We owe a great debt of gratitude to these volunteers, and I was glad to hear the Home Secretary say that he thought the whole thing a magnificent example of voluntary effort. Sometimes it has not been easy to be an air-raid warden in the last nine months. They have been made the object of public ridicule, even of public obloquy and contempt. It is hard to maintain such an organisation over a long period when nothing happens; it is still harder to maintain it against the other sorts of work which seem more urgent in the public interest. It is not an accident that the Home Secretary had to make a call for more volunteers in the past week.
I know that there are some of my hon. Friends on these benches who think that the army of A.R.P. workers is beginning to lose its man-power, and that perhaps drastic steps will have to be taken to reorganise it. Some say that the whole service should be put on a new footing, under more direct public control, as a kind of Civil Defence Corps. I do not want to enlarge on that: I hope that my hon. Friends will do so later on; but I want to pay my tribute to these workers. The other day in Derby I had the privilege of seeing a practice demonstration of these services in action—fire fighting, first-aid, ambulance, demolition, and all the rest. It was a demonstration that did credit to all concerned, and certainly it was an encouragement to the citizens of Derby. Last week I met the chief air-raid warden of one of the districts of London, and he told me that he had organised the distribution, by house-to-house visits, of no fewer than 12,000 new filters, out of a possible 13,000, in the space of 48 hours. Such things show that this service is alive and that it is inspired by a splendid spirit. But I am not yet convinced that we have done all we can, all we ought to do, in face of the dangers with which the nation is confronted.
We are beginning to understand those dangers all too well. We have seen the Blitzkrieg in action in five different campaigns, in Poland, Norway, Holland, 1311 Belgium and France. We have seen that everywhere it follows a common plan; it is all based on the experiment of Guernica a few years ago. It is the knock-out blow in the air which is the decisive factor in the success which the Blitzkrieg attains. That knock-out blow in the air consists in dropping thousands of tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs, not on military objectives, but indiscriminately on the civilian population. It is designed to smash the whole civil and military administration, to add to military confusion by breaking down social life, driving the civil population on to the roads, and machine-gunning them when they get there. It is designed to throw the defence into disorder, and to break the national will to resist. How successful it has been up to date is shown by the fact that in the countries of four of our Allies the righting is over, and that on the soil of France and Britain we harbour four refugee Governments to-day.
So far, this air attack has worked as Goering meant that it should. It has driven the population out of their homes. The casualties, in fact, have been pretty heavy; but even if they have been light, it has been shown that this air bombardment is far more demoralising than any other bombardment we have known, and that it succeeds in hampering the national defence against invasion and in breaking the national will. It may be that the magnificent valour of the French Army and the heroic calm of the French people, combined with the work of our Navy and Air Force, about which no one can say too much, may save us from invasion. But no one can count on that. We have no right to think that air attacks on this country will be less heavy, made with a lesser weight of bombs, than they have been in France and Belgium. Are we adequately prepared against such attacks? We have done a lot, but I think we could do more, and that we could do it more quickly. We have, as the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) said, the framework of administration, we have the labour, we have the materials. If there is anything that we have not done, as the hon. Member said, we should go on and do it.
There are two aspects of air-raid precautions about which I feel anxiety. The first is, not evacuation—we are to discuss 1312 that to-morrow—but the movement of population from the most menaced regions. I admire in many of their aspects the plans that the Government have made for evacuation, but I do not believe that they are on a large enough scale, and I am certain that the French Army in its desperate fight has been greatly aided by the much larger-scale evacuation which the French Government had planned and carried out. I am certain that France has been right very largely to evacuate Paris in the last few weeks. That evacuation has caused great hardship and loss to Frenchmen: you could not be in France for a week without hearing about it; but events have proved the Government right. The choice is not between evacuation or not evacuating. There is bound to be a very large movement of populations, far larger than the movement for which the Government have planned. The choice is whether you are going to have it planned or not planned. In the last war millions of people left London. I am certain that if bombs were coming near, many more people would leave our big centres of population to-day—and I think they ought to do so, in the national interest.
I am not proposing that the Government should make plans for the billeting of x millions more of refugees—they have not the time—but I hope that they have already made plans for dealing with a large exodus of people from the south of Britain. I hope that they have planned the roads for one-way traffic. I hope that they have made big stocks of food in the western parts. I hope that they have moved or are moving animals, particularly cows and sheep, so as to keep up the food supply, apart from the other great advantages which would be obtained. I hope they are building up stocks of simple equipment which will be required for making improvised camps. If these things were done—I hope they have been—we could look forward to a very big movement of population without anything disastrous resulting from it. Again I point to the example of France, where great panic, suffering and loss have been avoided as a result of the careful preparation that was made.
The second thing to which I want to draw the attention of the Government very specially is that of shelters, of which both the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend 1313 the Member for North Cumberland have spoken. If anyone was inclined to say that I over-stated the movement of population that will take place, I would reply that, if they are right, that only increases the obligation of the Government to protect the population against bombs by shelter, because, of course, evacuation is part of a common policy with shelter itself. We have always said on these Benches, we who have sat here in recent years, that the population ought to have the best bomb-proof shelter which it was practicable to give, that the cost should not be regarded as an objection, and that the Government themselves should pay; and many hon. Members in all quarters of the House have agreed with us when we have put that forward. I can quote my right hon. Friend who is now the Minister of Supply. He said after Munich, in November, 1938, that we ought to have effective shelter of some kind for every man, woman and child in the country. We ought to have shelter accommodation for the whole of the population. He knew that that would cost a lot of money, but we had to face it. It was bound to be a highly expensive proposition, but the Government, nevertheless, should carry it through.
We have never felt that the Government have really shared that view. Long ago—it seems very long ago, but it is only three years—they still believed in what was then called the policy of dispersal and the refuge-room; and, if I remember rightly, the Parliamentary Secretary himself was one of those who used to criticise their attitude in that regard. The refuge-room really meant that the average citizen was to stay downstairs at home until his house fell about his ears. The first bomb in Spain blew that policy to pieces; but the Government, in fact, clung to it until October, 1938. Then at last the Minister responsible, who is now our Ambassador in Spain, said in the same Debate, in answer to the present Minister of Supply, that the experiences of the last 12 months had changed his view and we must have a more comprehensive shelter policy than had been contemplated in the past; and he went on to say that that policy must not only include blast-proof shelter, but, where possible, bomb-proof shelter as well. But I am afraid that the Government have never fully accepted the implications of that speech. I think that, subconsciously at least, they have been 1314 guided by two principles: First, that it would be too difficult, it would make too big a dislocation to provide what used to be called deep shelter—and I will say a word about "deep" in a moment—for the whole population; and, second, that as you could not give anything but blast-proof and splinter-proof shelter to everybody, you must not try to give anything better to anyone; it would not be fair to do so; it might even be dangerous, because everybody would rush for the best shelter. For these reasons, they concluded, you must aim at giving a minimum shelter available to all. These principles, if they were in fact accepted by the Government, either consciously or subconsciously, were, I believe, utterly pernicious, and I want to urge upon the Government that, at this moment of national peril, they should sweep them completely away, should make a new start, and should now use every effort, as the hon. Member for North Cumberland demanded, to provide more and better shelter for the people, to ensure that everybody has a shelter to which he can go, and to improve the quality of the protection which the shelter gives in the highest possible degree.
If they are to do that, they must really abandon another principle upon which their policy has been based. That policy has been this. They said that when a man was at work the employer must provide the shelter, and they made that a statutory obligation; but when he was at home he must provide it for himself. The Government would provide it for him when he was neither at home nor at work; in other words, when he was in the street. Therefore local authorities were allowed to provide 20 per cent., 15 per cent., 12½per cent. of the population with public shelters in the street. But when it was pointed out to the Government that the individual could not provide a shelter for himself that was any good, because in a great number of cases he was too poor, they said, "All right, we will provide it for him if he has less than £5 a week, or £300 a year if he has some children"; and they invented the Anderson shelter. But anybody who has more than that minimum income still either has, in accordance with the principle of individual responsibility, to provide a shelter for himself or go without.
I think that that principle was always wrong. It was wrong in theory for two 1315 main reasons. First, most individuals, as we found out in practice, could not make shelters for themselves; and even if they could, they would not. They were too idle, too careless, too busy. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary will think that I am helping the enemy if I say that he told me in private conversation the other day that he himself would have no shelter, if the Germans caught him in bed. If he has not, how many other people above the £5 a week limit are without shelters? In the second place, the individual cannot make as good a shelter as the public authority can make except at a much higher cost per head. A public authority can make a shelter for 50 people which will give much greater protection at a given sum of money per head than the private man can obtain for himself and his family at that same sum. For these reasons, the thing was wrong in principle. And it has certainly been proved wrong in practice, because unless the Government had departed from it and had provided Anderson shelters, would the Home Secretary have been able to give his figure of 20,000,000 this afternoon? Certainly not. A very large proportion indeed of the shelter which has been provided consists of what the Government themselves have done. I hope that the Government will now wholly abandon the principle of personal responsibility and will make a completely new start. I ask them to consider very seriously the deficiencies which the Home Secretary said existed this afternoon. I have figures about these deficiencies. I believe that the Germans know them. I believe that if I told every figure in my possession, both general and local, the enemy would gain no new knowledge. I do not propose to do it, but I will tell the Ministers in private what my information is, and I am sure that they will agree with me that it means that we need a new effort of the kind for which the hon. Member for North Cumberland asked.
There are two special points which I want to put to the Parliamentary Secretary about this general shelter situation. The first is this. The lack of shelter is perhaps worst where the danger is greatest, namely, among the very poor, in districts where it is not possible even to have the Anderson shelter. These are just the places where the houses give the least 1316 protection, where the congestion is greatest—in some parts of London it is 200 inhabitants to the acre—and where escape is hardest. The second thing is, as I have said already, that a very large proportion of our shelter, outside the factories, consists of the Anderson shelter. I do not want to run that shelter down. When it is properly erected, it is pretty good. I think that it would reduce casualties by at least two-thirds, and perhaps even more, but it certainly has weaknesses. One of them is the entrance, which is very seldom properly protected, though it can be by a very elaborate arrangement of sandbags. The second defect is an extremely important one. If you think of what air warfare has really been like in Poland, Belgium and elsewhere, you can readily understand that the Anderson shelter might not make you feel very safe. You have no protection against the noise; and I do not believe that the families of the workers are going to stay, with only Anderson shelters, for a prolonged period of bombardment. I think they will either go to other shelters or they will go away. That being so, I want to urge upon the Government that they should in the danger areas—and we all know what they are—press on with the provision of more and better shelters. That means in practice erecting where they do not now exist either the strong brick shelter or the trench concrete shelter, such as the City of Westminster and many other places provide; it means taking off the 12½ per cent. or 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. limit of the total population which has been imposed upon the local authorities, and encouraging them to make more of those shelters if they are at all likely to be needed by the population.
It means improving those shelters, if you can do it; and I was very particularly glad to hear the Home Secretary say that he thought that that could be done. Experts tell me that many of these shelters, for example, the Westminster trench shelters, could be improved enormously by very simple means. You could dig a moat round the sides—what miners call a "give"—so that the blast does not come direct against the wall of the shelters if there is a near miss. You could take the earth off the roof and put on more concrete. I am told by experts that if you did that to some of these Westminster shelters, if you added another 1317 15 or 18 inches of concrete to the root, which the structures would easily carry, you would make them stand up to the 100–lb. bomb. That is a fact of supreme importance.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland very rightly said that a great deal of confusion had been introduced into this subject by the use of the word "deep." Of course, if you want absolute protection against all bombs, either you have to go very deep into the earth or you have to have a very great thickness of concrete. But not all bombs will be of the heaviest character. The heavier the bomb that the German is obliged to use to get his result, the fewer bombs he can drop. Quite a light shelter will stand up to the 20–lb. bomb, the so-called "personnel" bomb, which the Germans use for aerodromes and such places. The Anderson shelter will certainly stand up to it if it is properly prepared. But the bomb which the Germans have used in by far the greatest numbers is their 50 kilo. bomb, about 100 lbs. If we could make a lot of trench shelters to stand up against that, we should go very far in wiping out the effect which the Germans could hope to obtain by their air bombardments. I think that many more good shelters could be quickly prepared in places which have not yet been used. Every steel-frame building in the country ought to have a shelter in its basement. I remember the Parliamentary Secretary—it was only at the end of 1938—complaining to the Government that they had not allowed the local authority of Leeds to make a shelter under an omnibus station, where for the cost of £1,500 they could have given real protection to hundreds of people. In the light of history, that was a crime; and I am glad to say that that policy has been changed. In Derby, in the municipal buildings now being erected there, there are to be strong shelters for 1,200 people, perhaps for more. In many such buildings a high degree of protection could be given. In some perhaps, the use of sandbags would be required; that might be done by voluntary labour, although I know the objections to that. In any case, the basement and perhaps the first floor of every building in the country could be turned into a public shelter. If the Parliamentary Secretary wants an example, there is an admirable one at the King's Cross Garage.
1318 I have not understood, and I cannot find experts who understand, why the Government have not organised the under ground railway stations as additional shelters. Perhaps it would mean new entrances and exits; if so, then make them. I do not know why in some places tunnelling should not be carried out. I know that at Luton it was not successful, because there was not a competent engineer on the job, and there was not the right kind of soil. But I am told that in Nottingham, Newcastle, Birmingham and perhaps Sheffield tunnelling in the rising ground of these places could be carried out at a low cost per head, and that this would give a great deal of very effective shelter. I know that all these things could be done and done quite quickly. I was told the other day by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks)—I hope it is not still true, but it was not long ago—that 150,000 building-trade operatives were out of work. If it is still true, they could be put at once to work. We have ample supplies of bricks and concrete—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Plenty now, says my hon. Friend, and he knows. There are many small contractors and many architects who are not only out of a job, but who are almost starving and who are just the men we need. Their knowledge could be brought together with this unused skilled labour and idle materials to improve the protection of our nation. But to do that the Government must take it in hand, must organise it and give orders. I am criticising nobody, but I would like to suggest that the Government should take a new man of great dynamic power and tell him to get on with the job.
But—and this is the last substantive point that I want to make—if the Government are to do it, they must pay. It may cost £50,000,000 or £100,000,000, but what does that matter? The nation's freedom is worth that sum, and we can certainly afford it. But I do not think the local authorities can afford it. The Home Secretary said this afternoon that the financial factor had not obstructed the provision of shelters. I beg him to believe that he is wrong. I could give him dozens of examples which support the other view. He said that the Government would pay 86 per cent. in any case 1319 and that only 3 per cent. would fall on the rates. If they can pay 86 per cent. why not pay 100 per cent.? It is no longer a question of making local authorities exercise due economy. The trouble is that they are not spending enough money. The Government now want to force them to do these things. I am quite certain that the burden already thrown upon local authorities is as much as they should be asked to bear. The Government used to tell us that the cases where more than 2d. will fall on the rates will be rare. But the expenditure on A.R.P. in my own constituency has amounted to a 1s. 4d. rate—and it was paid out of the rates—and on top of that there is to be another 6d. for the provision of shelters for schoolchildren, towards which they will get only a 50 per cent. grant.
I think the Government should pool our available resources and get on with the job. Experience has proved our danger. It has also proved that preparation pays. Last winter I was in Finland, and there I saw the shelters which the Government had made for the whole population. Everybody had a shelter; and it was a police offence not to go to a shelter when the sirens sounded, unless one had special exemption to stay in one's own home or above ground. That policy enormously reduced the casualties which Finland suffered from Russian raids. Two years ago the Japanese burnt thousands of Chinese civilians in the worst of all recorded air raids against the city of Chungking. The Chinese Government made tunnels in the rocky hillside, and I am still getting letters from Chinese friends, written in those tunnels. People work and, if necessary, sleep in those tunnels. As a result, Chungking is still the capital of China, and that fact has been of quite immense importance to Chinese resistance. The preparations for which we ask will cost some money; will mean a great new effort; but may save many British lives and they may be a vital factor in the victory which we shall win.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Quibell (Brigg)
I think that most of us who listened this afternoon to the statement made by the Minister of Home Security found it satisfactory. It was a statement that gave me, at any rate, a good deal of confidence, because a great 1320 deal of work of a useful character has been done and a great deal of progress has been made. But I want to say—and I trust the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some assurance with regard to it—that in some of the most vulnerable areas which one knows not a single bit of earth or covering of any kind is put upon the Anderson shelters. The Anderson shelter is a very good shelter, but the consequence of this neglect is that an occupant might as well sit in front of a loose corrugated sheet as be inside. I would like to know what steps, if any, the Ministry of Home Security is taking towards local authorities which as yet have not compelled individuals who have these shelters to spend a few hours of their time in further strengthening and protecting them. In many industrial towns where men are working only eight hours a day I do not think it is too much to expect them to protect their shelters with earth, which is available in nearly every case. The Minister should know that while he may have given a large number of shelters to people who have erected them, many of them cannot be used in the case of air raids, for the reason that there has been a lack of proper advice, either by the Home Department or by local councils, in connection with their erection. Men have been told to dig down three or four feet in the earth, and next morning they have found two feet of water in the place for the proposed shelter. This is not a rare occurrence. Within 20 yards of my own home I have seen 60 to 70 buckets of water taken every day out of a hole. I think it would be wise if a circular letter could be sent to local authorities instructing them to take over these shelters and to give advice as to the depth at which shelters would be safe.
I was concerned with what the Minister said respecting old disused houses. If anything could make me laugh, it was that you could get an old house, totally unfitted for occupation, with timbers from top to bottom full of dry rot, and reconstruct it as a sort of air-raid protection. I hope the Minister does not issue to local authorities a circular letter advising them to provide shelters of the kind he described in his speech to-day. Really, it is almost too foolish to laugh at. With regard to the position of shelters, I think the policy of street shelters has been the right policy. In my experience they are very good shelters, and if we have to 1321 spend money, I would rather spend it in this way than on deep shelters which provide us with grave problems, particularly that of water supply. I entirely agree that in parts of Sheffield, South Wales and other places shelters cut into hillsides would be the cheapest and most efficient form of shelter.
There is no truth in the statement that there is lack of proper labour for the provision of shelters. The Minister is grossly misinformed if he thinks there is a lack of skilled labour. In my own town skilled men are working as labourers because they have no skilled work to do. In a firm with which I am associated skilled men are putting up fencing, and dozens of men in my neighbourhood are working as labourers for labourers' money to-day. The fact is that so far as the Government are concerned they have never attempted to organise the skilled labour in the country for the purpose of providing these shelters. I cannot understand why building contractors cannot be brought together to solve this difficulty. It has been solved, so far as shelters are concerned, in Scunthorpe.
Now I want to refer to a matter which I raised the other day with respect to these shelters. It has been said that there is a shortage of shelters, and I was astounded when the Parliamentary Secretary replied, to a Question that I put to him, that 624 shelters were sent to Scunthorpe and refused by people there. That was his answer, as I understood it. I am gravely perturbed about this matter, because it shows there is slackness in the Department or by the railway company that should have been responsible for delivering the shelters. These shelters, which were wanted in other parts of the country, were sent to Scunthorpe as far back as 16th December. In one case they were sent out of Frodingham works and had to go only half a mile. They could have been carried from the works, which are on the main line, but they are there now. I saw them before I came to the House this week.
The answer that I got was that 624 people in the Scunthorpe area refused to accept the shelters. All that I can say is that the Minister has been gravely misinformed. I also, like the Home Office, can use the telephone, and I telephoned the Town Clerk of Scunthorpe this morning and found that there was no justification 1322 for the statement. So far as they are aware, they have made no new application for shelters in the last day or two. I should like to know how this has happened. The number of days, including bank holidays, is 1,254, and the amount of demurrage would be nearly enough to pay somebody to look after this matter. Who pays the demurrage charge for these particular wagons? I am not saying that the Department is aware of the fact, but I have seen the tickets on these wagons, and in some cases they have been taken off and other dated tickets put in their place, in a manner too obvious to take in a school child. The tickets have been changed immediately inquiries have been made by the Department. At Scunthorpe, Chapeltown and other places these wagons have stood there for six months. We want trucks badly. Even the men in the coal yard have been talking about this matter, seeing that these 10 wagons have been standing there for six months.
From information given to me similar happenings have been occurring all over the country. I have information which the Minister can have if he chooses, which is correct. Indeed, the position is so disgusting that even some of the coal-owners have taken the matter up, because they are short of wagons. They are wondering why the Minister of Home Security has not taken steps to see that these shelters were transported to places where they are wanted. I do not absolve the railway company of some responsibility in the matter, but I should like to know whether someone is to be called to account for keeping these wagons there for six months and thus depriving some of the public of these Anderson shelters. It is nothing less than a scandal that public money should provide these shelters, that they should be kept in rolling stock for this length of time, and that on the top of that we should have to pay a huge sum for demurrage. It has to come out of the taxpayers' and ratepayers' pockets in one form or another, and it is nothing less than a gross scandal if somebody is not called to account, including, if necessary, the goods agent in this particular case. I should not have raised this matter again but for the fact that a similar state of affairs has existed at Wombwell, Doncaster, Barnsley, Chapeltown and other places. I cannot personally substantiate these cases, but 1323 they were given to me by a responsible man on the railway, and if it is true, it is a scandal that nothing so far has been done.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
The Minister in his statement referred to the call he is making for additional volunteers for these services, and I want to say a few words on that subject. If you are to get the number of volunteers which are required for part-time duty, there must, in the recruiting, be leadership and some kind of organisation. When we wanted to raise the Territorials, we had the County Territorial Association to help. As to the method of recruiting, you should, if possible, associate together people who have common interests. When people are on duty for a long time together it makes a great deal of difference when they are associating with people who have interests in common with them and things to talk about. With reference to the machinery, I would suggest that the political organisations throughout the country, which are somewhat crippled at the moment, should be made use of. I believe an attempt was made, although not a very successful one, to use these political organisations for the national purpose under the Ministry of Information. There may be a good reason for that—it is very difficult entirely to dissociate politics from anything like propaganda and information.
There is, however, nothing whatever political about air-raid precautions. In these political organisations most of the people are in the habit of meeting together and spending their time doing various things. They all want to render some national service, and if some useful national service could be put upon them, you could not have better bodies to undertake it. I see no reason why political organisations of all parties should not join together for this purpose under the Home Office. I do not think it is impossible to form an organisation, and they would be of great assistance in this respect. Then there is the question of hours. A little time back men were asked to work 12 hours a day and the women eight hours a day. From what I can gather shifts of this kind are very trying and not very convenient to the people. From what I have been told, they would far sooner work 24 hours on and have 24 hours off. 1324 By doing that, you would get a larger number of hours worked by the same number of people, and they would get 24 hours off for other things and for looking after their families. The present shift basis interferes with their lives much more than 24 hours on and 24 hours off would do.
Then there is the question of payment. The present payment is £2 a week for women and £3 for men. I have known some cases of people who have left employment where they were not earning £2 2a week and have gone into air-raid precautions because it is better. On the other hand, you have a great many people doing responsible jobs, which incidentally a great many people would do for nothing, and would give their whole time. These people have not been encouraged enough. As regards those people you have to keep as a permanent staff, who must be paid, I think that the Auxiliary Fire Services and possibly the ambulance services should be considered, and whoever occupies a responsible position should be paid something better than £2 or £3 per week. I know cases myself of people who have actually given up higher paid employment to take on this work, and it naturally becomes a burden if we are in for a long war.
My last point is this: I think it is vitally necessary that every service should know who is responsible. The ambulance service is a very bad example of the point I am putting. It is nominally under the Ministry of Health for payment, and in some other directions it is under the Home Office. Actually it is run by the county council. The result is that the people do not know their father and mother. Whenever a point arises they are told it concerns the Ministry of Health, but that if it is a question of pay it is a matter for the Home Office. The county council, which actually run the service, have always regarded it as a sort of stepchild thrust upon them to look after. That does not make for good service, and it does not make the people happy. It does not make for efficiency. Nearly all the air-raid precaution services are run by the Home Office, and I think that the ambulance services should go there too; they should all be under one organisation.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
During the week-end I had the privilege of meeting 1325 the workshop representatives of a large number of workpeople and of moving about among men who are engaged in one or two of the largest factories in this country. The spirit which finds expression among those men, the energy which is being put into their work, and the atmosphere which prevails in those workshops, are an inspiration. If only this nation will harness that energy and that spirit to the work of providing for our defence, then I say, despite the present international situation, that this nation can become a formidable and powerful, indeed an impregnable fortress. It is against that background that I wish to take part in this Debate and, first, let me say calmly but quite openly, and as bluntly as I can, that that spirit to which I have referred does not find expression everywhere to the extent which is necessary if this nation is successfully to deal with the situation confronting us.
For years I have followed closely what has been happening on the Continent, and my special interest in the problem of providing adequate air-raid shelter accommodation has been increased by the growing realisation, as a result of recent international developments, that the people who suffer most in air raids are those resident in large industrial areas. Recent events have proved that beyond all shadow of doubt. My interest in this matter was quickened recently by a visit which I made to an anti-aircraft unit. Whoever was responsible for the layout of that unit can claim credit for it. Provision has been made to enable the members of that unit to deal adequately with air attack and attention has been given to everything that calls for attention including the men's welfare as well as the efficiency of their equipment. As I came away from that visit, my mind returned to the problem of making adequate shelter accommodation for all the people in areas of that character. As a result of my quickened interest in the matter I made a tour of a number of industrial areas and what I saw in that tour has created some uneasiness in my mind. In order to ascertain who is responsible for the position and also to make sure of my facts, so that if I had an opportunity of speaking in Debate they could not be challenged, I addressed a series of Questions to the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to reply to those Questions and in addition to provide 1326 me with copies of all the circulars sent out by the Home Office during the past 12 months. Had those circulars been acted on by those whose responsibility it is to do so, my uneasiness would not be as great as it is. While, after examining those circulars, I am not satisfied with the Government's policy, yet I say that had the advice tendered in those circulars been carried out, the position would be much better than it is at present. I find that in one circular the Minister himself confirms my uneasiness.
It is particularly for the people in the lower grades of income that I wish to speak. I have read closely the trade journals which are concerned with this matter such as the "Builder," the "Architects' Journal" and publications of that character, and I find that, generally speaking, adequate air-raid shelter accommodation has been provided for those who are relatively well-placed but this has not yet been done for the people in the lower grades of income. I plead with the Parliamentary Secretary, who is largely responsible for the provision of shelter accommodation, and with the officials of the Ministry as a whole, to see that immediate and energetic action is taken to have the advice given in those circulars carried into effect in certain areas which I do not propose on this occasion to name. We find, from the experience of Rotterdam, how essential it is that effect should be given to this plea.
I was pleased to hear the tribute which the Home Secretary paid to those public-spirited men and women who, prior to the outbreak of war, devoted much time to making themselves efficient to play a part in the event of air attack on this country. But, as I pointed out at a conference which took place in connection with this matter, there is a certain small section of the community, whose forefathers were responsible for putting into slums the class of people to which I belong, and ft is this section which is mainly responsible for the recent outcry against the right hon. Gentleman's expenditure on air-raid precautions. Speeches were made by them in much the same kind of spirit as that which existed 100 years ago. Slum houses were considered good enough for our people 100 years ago, and we find that there are those who want slum defences provided for our people to-day. But it is to the everlasting credit of the 1327 right hon. Gentleman and a number of those associated with him that they did not respond to the clamour raised by certain individuals in this country.
Even as it is, the position is still not good enough. I have in mind the fact that with that spirit to which I alluded at the outset, this island of ours could be made a mighty and formidable fortress. That spirit must find expression in organising the defence of our people. The probability is that attacks will be made on great industrial centres in this country. Two months ago in this House during a Debate on the Ministry of Supply, I said that few people in this country had been more critical of the Nazis than I had, but that I have never under-rated them. As a result of closely following the development of that party, some of us have realised that having pursued a certain policy internally, they then proceed to apply that policy internationally. We recognise what is likely to happen if they are successful. Most hon. and right hon. Gentlemen here believe and hope they will not be successful, but we have now reached a situation in which we ought to make provision for the worst eventuality that may occur. The right way of dealing with that position is to devote the maximum of energy to preparing adequate air-raid shelter accommodation for our people.
The right hon. Gentleman said there were gaps to be filled but that he would not specify the areas. As I have already said, I intend to follow his example and I shall not specify any areas but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will instruct his officials to make an immediate survey with a view to seeing that our people are properly protected in the event of air attack. In answer to questions the right hon. Gentleman said there had been difficulty in some areas with regard to materials and in other areas with regard to labour. Those difficulties do not exist in the areas which I have in mind. Professional advice, free of charge where necessary, has been tendered by architects to the authorities in those areas. Building trade labour is available in those areas. The men are waiting at the local employment exchanges. Ample supplies of material are available.
§ Mr. E. Smith
My hon. Friend speaks with knowledge of the industry. Therefore, none of these excuses can be pleaded for the inadequacy of the shelter accommodation in the areas to which I refer. The people for whom I speak have no time for the kind of quibbling which we occasionally hear in the House of Commons. If some of them could hear what took place here to-day, for example, or what took place a few weeks ago, it would break their hearts. They have no time for that sort of thing. If we are to be worthy of the spirit which is now finding expression in the increased production of aircraft and of all the equipment which is so urgently needed, especially after the Dunkirk evacuation, we should take immediate steps in this matter. Nothing is too good for those men who are engaged in this class of production and for their wives and children. They are working until seven o'clock in the evening on every day of the week. If they are to go to their employment with a feeling of confidence, they should know that adequate shelter accommodation is available for their wives and children while they are giving of their best in workshop and factory. It is the duty of the House of Commons and of the Ministry of Home Security to provide that shelter accommodation. I had wished to raise one or two other questions concerning auxiliary firemen, Red Cross work and the co-ordination of essential services, but I content myself with drawing the attention of the Ministers and their officials to the urgency of this problem. I ask them to take steps at once and with energy to see that accommodation is made available for our people, who so well deserve attention seeing that they are responsible for an increase in industrial production such as the world has never seen before.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Salt (Birmingham, Yardley)
I wish to intervene, for a few minutes only, regarding the necessity for an increase in A.R.P. personnel. There is considerable anxiety, especially in large industrial areas, about A.R.P. personnel and I have a resolution from one of the larger cities which reads as follows:In view of the gravity of the international situation this committee deplore the waste of time and labour at present devoted to repeated appeals for recruits for Civil Defence organisation and considers that a measure of 1329 compulsory service for Civil Defence duties should be produced immediately, for all suitable persons of both sexes.I believe that is a question which will have to be considered. One of the greatest troubles confronting us to-day is the amount of man-power which we shall have to use for many different purposes. We have only a limited amount. While I am quite satisfied that everyone to-day is prepared and anxious to volunteer and do whatever he can, it must be remembered that we are up against a country whose organisation is its great strength. We must meet them by building up a similar organisation in this country. If we are to win through, we must use all our man-power, and that, I think, means that we shall have to have compulsion for all those between the ages of 18 and 55 for military and national services. It follows that we should have to set up tribunals, with proper appeal tribunals, under the direction of the Ministry, which could determine what contribution the men should make in our national war effort. Some men would be in the Services, and others engaged in munition production, and they could not be called upon to do outside work. The remainder, however, might be able to give partial or whole-time work, where desired, to meet the needs of a particular locality. Those whose work could be estimated as of little national value could be given full-time work, at £3 a week, the equivalent, I think, of the payment of men in the Services. It is not necessary to do more than offer to pay these men, because there are many people in this country who would be able and willing to give their services, even for full-time work, without pay. All service should be on a contractual basis under penalties.
One of the difficulties has already been referred to by the Minister. It is that the men who have already given much time and have been trained who are now needed for other purposes. The Minister must see that these gaps are filled. We have no time to waste in our present emergency, and the question of compulsion is a matter which will need immediate consideration. Women are equally patriotic and equally anxious to give their services, but again, I think, they should come under definite contractual obligations, and I hope that will be considered forthwith. In conclusion, I would refer to the question of shelters. Many of the 1330 shelters in our parks in London and elsewhere are without any proper ventilation, and I should like to be satisfied that the provision of adequate ventilation is being considered. If these shelters had to be used in such weather as we have had recently, there might be very serious trouble. What arrangements have been made to ensure during the black-out that the public can find where shelter accommodation has been provided? In Whitehall, and in parts of the City, it is very difficult to know where to go for shelter protection. I took the trouble recently to visit many streets in the City, and I could find nothing to show the public where to go in case of need.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
There are one or two matters which I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister. I also wish to ask him several specific questions. I was delighted to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on Civil Defence work, and especially his remarks in connection with A.R.P. He, at least, appreciates the work they have been doing. The only thing I deplore is the evidence of a change in policy. At the beginning we had a considerable number of workers paid for full-time work, but then came the clamour for a reduction in expenditure, with the result that we had a policy of retrenchment. This criticism of the A.R.P. workers is one which ought to be increasingly recognised as something to be deplored. If ever a body of people in this country have not yet been recognised as they should be, it is the men and women who have come forward to do A.R.P. work. Not only the voluntary workers, but the paid workers also deserve recognition, because, when the testing time comes, these are the men and women who are to save pain and prevent casualties. Their work will call for the highest courage and valour, and it is a very serious aspect of our national defence.
The Minister's speech raised, in my mind, a very serious question. Some time ago he made an appeal for more voluntary workers, but the question of increasing the number of workers is complicated to the extent that we are also asking men to do their utmost to increase our production. Consequently, it may not be possible to obtain the voluntary workers 1331 required in areas where there are munition works. I would point out to the Minister that, apart from the areas actually engaged in the production of munitions, we have also to bear in mind those areas which are producing the raw materials. It is no use denying that the miners are responding to the call for increased output, but it is impossible to expect miners to put forth their utmost efforts in the mines if the previous night they have been doing A.R.P. work. That factor must be recognised. I am sorry that under the last instructions the Ministry is evidently prepared to allow some of the air-raid posts to be closed where there is not the necessary number of full-time workers to meet the requirement for the doubling of the personnel. Posts should not be closed unless there have been most meticulous inquiries and it has been proved that these services cannot be met. I am glad the Minister recognised that in certain areas it may not be possible to obtain the necessary volunteers.
It seems to me that in our war efforts we have gone on expecting that everything was all right. I want to be careful in my remarks on this subject; but will the hon. Gentleman tell me whether there is any direct connection between the Post Office and the Minister of Home Security? As I understand it, there is a certain number of telephones and voluntary telephonists in the A.R.P. centres in the control rooms. If there is insufficient staffing at the Post Office, it means that, even during practices, it is impossible to render the services necessary in the control rooms. I am inclined to think, from information I have, that the Post Office is a little parsimonious. I would ask the Minister to go into this matter, because I can assure him that there are grave grounds for complaint. If there is inadequate staffing at the Post Office it means that A.R.P. practices cannot function as they should. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will look into these points, because I understand that the Post Office have laid down certain instructions for their own employés as to what shall happen before, during and after an air raid. Unless these are carried out, there will be grave weaknesses at the very time when we need the acme of perfection in communications.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I do not think that anything that has been said in this Debate will give much comfort to the enemy. The review of the situation given by the Home Secretary showed that we have a Civil Defence army of 2,000,000 men, shelter for 20,000,000 people and an efficient regional organisation divided into 12 areas able to act independently of each other in case communications break down. We have this organisation co-operating with the Army and the Local Defence Volunteers in an efficient way and co-operating also with other services and with the Ministry of Health. When I turn from the general to the particular and think, for instance, of the part of London which I represent and of the part of the rural area around London in which I live, I believe that the organisation in the local areas is as good as a general survey would lead us to believe. I think that Islington, one of the constituencies of which I have the honour to represent, has taken a leading part in the organisation. Every tribute which the Home Secretary paid to the air-raid precautions and Civil Defence workers is, I know from my own knowledge of the admirable work they have done, fully justified. This organisation of Civil Defence has been built up on an all-party basis. It has been criticised vigorously on all sides, and the Parliamentary Secretary himself has been one of the critics, but we have always criticised in a constructive spirit and only because we have desired to help.
I have some constructive suggestions to make this evening. I want to ask whether the whole question of the organisation of Civil Defence has been re-surveyed from the standpoint of the new knowledge of the enemy methods of attack which we have from recent campaigns, notably in Holland and Belgium. The Home Secretary referred to these new methods and spoke of parachutists, but I do not think he referred to the troop-carrying aeroplane. The fact that numbers of parachutists and troops may, subject to our hostile attack, be delivered in areas in this country alters the Civil Defence problem and makes it necessary to reconsider a number of questions with regard to the disposal of personnel and the functions which they shall carry out. Are the present numbers of Civil Defence personnel adequate? It is a large and 1333 efficient army. It is based upon voluntary service, which I hope will be preserved, for it is an admirable basis and makes the service flexible. To institute an element of compulsion, which I hope will not be necessary, would introduce an element which would make the service less flexible and not easy to deal with.
An important point which ought to be considered is whether the paid staff, which is the nucleus of the service, ought not to be increased so as to make it certain that there will always be some people who can carry on. Another question is whether the Civil Defence personnel require extra or any special training, and whether we can strengthen the valuable co-operation already existing between the regional organisations, the military and the Local Defence Volunteers. Another matter arising out of the new methods of warfare is the question of shelters. I have never been an advocate of the very large shelter. I think it should be one for a comparatively small number of people. I prefer a shelter for 50 rather than 100, and for 100 rather than 200. The new methods of warfare make it desirable to ask whether we should extend shelter provision to parts of the country which have not had it—country towns, for instance. I do not intend to refer to evacuation, which is to be debated tomorrow, but it is only too obvious that the new methods of warfare, especially the machine-gunning of the civilian population from a low height, vitally affect this question.
I would say in passing that in the South of England and the London area there is a set of people who may have some value, although possibly not in the minds of some people. I refer to Members of Parliament. In the ordinary Civil Defence organisation in London they are not called into consultation in any way, and it seems to me rather unfortunate that they should not be. I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who is regional commissioner for his part of the country, what happens about Members of Parliament in his area, and he told me that they were called into consultation and were relied on to be useful liaison officers with their constituencies. In London nothing of that kind takes place; in fact, some London Members have felt that they were not wanted when they went about looking into these things. 1334 That is a little difficulty, though not a serious one, which might be corrected.
Another suggestion I have to make is that the regional organisations should get into consultation with the Ministry of Food with regard not only to distribution of food supplies, but to the state of nutrition of the population. When I had the honour of paying a visit to the British Expeditionary Force in France a few days previous to the invasion of Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg, I was able to inspect a large number of units, and one thing that struck me very much was the high standard of nutrition of the men. Whereas in the ordinary way one likes to get in a good standard of diet something like 3,500 calories, the British Expeditionary Force had up to a standard of 4,500 calories. They were 1,000 calories above the standard of what is considered to be in the ordinary way a very good diet. They were extremely fit, their morale was very high, and I have not the slightest hesitation—nor had the medical officers with whom I talked—in saying that that high standard of nutrition of the British Expeditionary Force would be one of the great factors in any fighting in which they were engaged. I am convinced that one of the reasons why they were able to put up such a magnificent fight in those three weeks—
§ The Chairman (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I think the hon. Member's enthusiasm is carrying him away from the subject of this Debate.
I was only intending to show that just as there is a high standard in the British Expeditionary Force, so there must be a high standard in the civilian population, and it is essential that the regional organisations should know whether there are any difficulties in that respect in any areas within their regions. If there are, they should take steps to correct them. In my final word I would suggest that in the organisation of Civil Defence we should try in every respect, not alone as regards nutrition, to live up to the B.E.F. standard, because I am certain that this most important service will be called upon to bear an onslaught almost as great as that which the B.E.F. was called upon to face in Flanders.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
The question of deep shelters has been referred to 1335 by more than one speaker. At one time I was a rather keen advocate of deep shelters, and some time ago I visited an exhibition in the Town Hall of Finsbury at which such shelters were much favoured, but I have rather come round to the view, and the speech of the Home Secretary to-day very much confirmed it, that it would be unwise to lay too much stress upon the importance of deep shelters, and that there are many good reasons why they should not be provided on any extensive scale. I understand that experience so far in air raids indicates that the casualties arise not so much from direct hits as from the effects of blast and splinters. There was a case in this country not long ago when an aeroplane came down and three-quarters of the casualties were caused by glass splinters, and many of them might have been avoided if the inhabitants of the houses in the neighbourhood had taken proper precautions. There are probably three main dangers arising from air attack on the civil population: First, blast; second, splinters; and third, and by no means least, nerves. It seems to me that these three dangers can be overcome without deep shelters. At the same time I hope that where, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has suggested, it is possible to strengthen existing shelters, without perhaps making them completely effective against 500 lb. bombs, the Home Secretary will see what can be done in that direction.
There are one or two points that I wish to raise in connection with A.R.P., more particularly in country districts and country towns. Though we now have some kind of A.R.P. organisation in every corner of the country, we have been inclined to think that the remote areas are not very important, and that it is the big centres which are most likely to be attacked. That was probably true, but recent developments have indicated that if there are parachute descents and landings of hostile forces by aeroplanes, they will take place in the remoter districts. What is to be the position of the A.R.P. personnel in those areas? I think they will be at least indirectly involved, and that we ought to reconsider their duties. I can conceive it possible that an air-raid warden on duty in one of the remoter areas might find himself very close to descending parachute troops or hostile 1336 troops landed from the air. Although I am myselt an air-raid warden in a rural area, I have had no instructions about my duties in a case of that kind.
There is a further point which I raised the other day when the Local Defence Volunteers were under discussion. In the rural areas the A.R.P. service has been manned to some extent by ex-service men. They are just the very men wanted as Local Defence Volunteers, and it has come to my knowledge that at least one county council has informed its staff that they must not join the Local Defence Volunteers but must stay with A.R.P. There ought to be some elasticity in that regard. One can understand the wish of local A.R.P. authorities to keep their men, but there ought to be a reshuffling where necessary, and I hope the Home Secretary will indicate to local authorities that where it is desirable reshuffling should take place, because obviously ex-service men who can handle machine-guns are much more useful as Local Defence Volunteers than as A.R.P. personnel.
Further, I understand that the National Association of Air-Raid Wardens have approached the Home Secretary to ask whether air-raid wardens cannot be armed, in view of the new dangers from parachutists and other forms of attack, and I should like to know the view of the Home Secretary on that point. I quite realise that to arm them would make them a combatant Service, and that their members would be liable, unless they were in uniform, to be shot as francs-tireurs. That raises a large question, but we have to consider the nature of the enemy we are fighting. That enemy has been carrying on totalitarian war against the civil population, and I can conceive that an air-raid warden out on duty might be machine-gunned and shot down like a dog if he had no means of defending himself. It may be desirable not to give weapons to those who have had no training in using them, but if they are capable of using them, it might be worth while to consider arming them, having regard to the fact that the enemy is making war on the civil population.
In conclusion, I want to raise one point on the subject of unity of command. It is difficult, in present conditions, to ensure that there will be rapid action in the event of a lightning attack.
§ The Chairman
I can quite see that, on the subject of unity of command, local Defence services will be affected, but it is obvious that other Ministries will be concerned. It is not a subject, therefore, which can be raised on this Vote, because it relates also to other Votes.
§ Mr. Price
I quite understand, Sir Dennis, and I will not press this point too far. Perhaps you will permit me to say that I feel that the efficiency of A.R.P. services might be improved if, in certain areas, every effort were made to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, immediate steps would be taken to bring all the services under one command. The Question which I put to the Lord Privy Seal the other day elicited an indication that something is being done in this respect through the local regional commissioners, but the efficiency of the services would be immensely increased if we could be sure about it. I am satisfied that there is a great deal of red tape and waste of time, as things are at present. I will leave the matter at that, because I realise that other Ministries are concerned, and that possibly there may be opportunities to raise the matter upon some other occasion.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage (Louth)
I want to raise one point. I think the Ministry are rather apt to put too many of their appliances under one roof. There was the same trouble in the last war, when they always put their munitions in one dump, so that one bomb could get the lot. I am not giving any instances, because it would not be advisable to do so, but, if you take the case of fire appliances, that is certainly so. It is no use the Parliamentary Secretary shaking his head; I know that it is true.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security (Mr. Mabane)
I believe my right hon. Friend said that the Home Office would look into the matter.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
It is a matter which the Home Office should certainly see to. In some places there are no fire appliances, and in other cases the appliances are centralised in one part. I hope that the Ministry will go into the question and get it put right.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton (Barnard Castle)
I have sat here during most of this Debate. I 1338 was very interested in the statement which the Home Secretary made, and I believe that, in general, it will give satisfaction to the nation when the people read it. I was interested also in his call for reserves. I believe that voluntary workers are a diminishing asset. When air-raid precautions schemes were first set up there were many unemployed men and women in this country, and many others working on short time. Now, all that is changed. Spare-time workers are very few now, because the call is for work, and that means that there is less time for A.R.P. work. When a man may be employed for 12 hours a day and for six or seven days in the week, he is not in much of a fit state to render air-raid service, which would either interfere with his output of munitions, if that should be his work, or with his efficiency as an air-raid warden. We all know that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"; all work, whether in factory, mine or field, together with A.R.P. work, will take some of the sting out of people who have already engaged themselves in those great services.
I want, specially, to put three points very briefly. The first of them is that, in his speech, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the protection of the mines. It is not my province to go into the details of the protection of coal mines, but I did not feel so assured about the protection given to coal mines as about the protection of factories. The right hon. Gentleman said that, broadly speaking, the protection of the mines was efficient, and he paid a high tribute to factory inspectors. I hope that mines inspectors were included in that compliment, because they ought to be complimented by the Minister of Home Security for their services. Wisely the Minister referred to those mines, factories and commercial undertakings, but there was one omission, and that was the schools. He did not refer to the shelters provided for schools. We all know that evacuation must affect the plans for shelters. I am aware that the question of evacuation will be discussed to-morrow.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the expenditure to local authorities in respect of A.R.P. I wonder whether he included the expenditure to local authorities for the shelters provided for the schools. We know that the rate varies from 65 per cent. to 85 per cent., and 1339 we know also that the expenditure on shelters to schools is limited to 50 per cent. We hope that the Treasury will not be so mean as to protect the school children on the cheap, but that is the way it appears to many people who have considered the question. In spite of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman one day before, we still think that the matter of the shelters to the schools should be taken into earnest consideration.
My third point has been referred to by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Like him, I come from a rural district. A very large part of my constituency is rural. People in the rural districts are just a bit inclined to think that, in the matter of protection, they have to play a very small part, compared with the part played by the congested and industrial districts. They rather think that they are being neglected. I have heard nothing, or very little, about the protection of farms. We are now wondering about supplies of food, if the emergency really does come. In those farms and farmsteads are stocks of wheat, oats and other foodstuffs, as well as cattle and sheep. They all need protection, and they should all come under the Civil Defence of this country. In the rural districts we hear very little about the protection of the farms and of their stacks.
Civil Defence has become more important during these last few months. In this House and in the country it used to be said that our frontier was the Rhine. Now, I notice that the frontier is getting nearer. It is now the Straits of Dover. If we remember the experience of Holland, Belgium and Norway, we may find that wherever a parachutist can establish himself that becomes our front line. I was pleased, and I think we were all pleased, to hear the Home Secretary say that there was infinite collaboration among the various authorities, military and civil, so that we could have full protection, and so that the people in this country can receive the assurance that we in the House of Commons are doing all we possibly can to make this land safe from attack from any foreign invader.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Brown (Notts., Mansfield)
I intervene in this Debate to make one or 1340 two points. I am sure that in the great national effort which we are now compelled to make it is exceedingly difficult to reconcile some of the conflicting factors that operate when seeking to build up our Civil Defence services. My hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) has already referred to one of the points which I wanted to stress. I wonder how far the figures, which the Minister of Home Security mentioned in regard to the total number of people now engaged in A.R.P. services, represent a sort of static personnel or how far they represent a change in personnel. That is an important point, because I am assured that in some parts of the country it is extraordinarily difficult to keep people in these services for a variety of reasons. They are attracted away for different reasons. Far be it from me to suggest that people should not leave their A.R.P. jobs at £3 a week if they can get other work for £7 a week. I do not blame them. I want to know only how far the figures mentioned by the Minister of Home Security represent a change in personnel. I do not suggest that when a person, who has been trained as an air-raid warden or a first-aid worker, leaves his job, his training is lost, but it means that the new people who are taken on have to be trained. Therefore, although the total figures which the Minister of Home Security mentioned this afternoon may be accurate and complete, how far do they represent at a given moment completely trained personnel? That is an important point, and in general, although I, like everybody else, appreciate the admirable statement which the Minister made to-day, I would like to know a little more about the change in character of the A.R.P. services.
There is another point I wish to make. I think the future will prove that we have intertwined our air-raid precautions services too closely with the local government services. This matter is associated with the age of reservation in regard to Army service. The age of reservation in regard to local government service has just been raised from 25 to 30. I am not suggesting that that should not have been done, but as air-raid precautions have been intertwined with local government services, chiefly because in the early stages the Government wanted to get some of these services on the cheap, it means that local government officers have 1341 gone into pivotal and key positions in air-raid precautions services, they have devoted all their time to air-raid precautions services and in some cases, if the Government do not watch what they are doing in regard to raising the age of reservation, they will take away pivotal and key men, in some cases functioning over an entire county.
In my county there is only one county borough. The rest of the air-raid precautions services are controlled entirely by the county council. If you take out the key men from the vital services you will upset the whole structure of air-raid precautions services in that particular area. Summarising my points, I would like some information as to how far the total figures related to air-raid precautions represent a change in personnel and how far they are static and fixed. Secondly, I would like to know whether, having regard to the way in which the air-raid precautions services are intertwined with the local government services, due care will be exercised in the future in calling upon local government officials to serve in the Armed Forces of the Crown.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) asked whether the Ministry had learned the lesson of the new tactics of the Nazis when they invaded a country, and he referred to the parachutists and to the troop-carrying planes. But he omitted, as is generally omitted, one of the most important factors in the new technique of invasion, and it is necessary that the Ministers in this country should learn that lesson. In every country that has been invaded, before the invasion took place, the Fifth Column specialised in an attack upon the real defenders of the people. The hon. Member on the Front Bench may smile, but in Austria, Norway, Holland, Denmark and Belgium there was the same story. When this question of Civil Defence was raised, a Bill was brought in by the present Ambassador to Spain. That Bill trifled with the question and I, in association with the hon. Member for North Islington and others, had the task of bringing home to the Minister and to the Government what the defence of the people really meant and the steps which should be taken to ensure it.
1342 In the A.R.P. we have many of our party members, but those who until recently were the very closest friends of the Nazis are now making an unscrupulous attack upon the Communists. There is a movement taking place to put Communists off A.R.P. work. If there is a Communist at an A.R.P. post his one and only concern is the defence and the welfare of the people in his area. He is not concerned with profit, industrial undertakings or big financial enterprises. It is a very serious matter for the people of this country because they are in very great danger. I want to make this declaration, and in view of this unscrupulous campaign it is necessary to make it. When the immediate danger faces the people in any district of this country, the Communists in that district, with the spirit and courage which they showed in Spain against the Fascists, when those who are slandering them now were aiding and abetting the Fascists, will be the bravest and most fearless defenders of the people of this country.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
What I am about to say will, I am quite sure, be of no value to the enemy, but I think it might be of value to our own country if my suggestions are adopted. I believe that the A.R.P. services, valuable as they have proved themselves, would be better if the personal injuries to civilians scheme, which was brought in in connection with the A.R.P. services, was overhauled. It is a reflection upon the value which is set upon the personnel of these services that that scheme is made to fit the services. I do not want to go into details, as the Minister knows what I mean. He knows that the scheme is not nearly good enough for these services. A good deal has been said to-day, and is being said in the country, about the loss of A.R.P. personnel. Is it to be wondered at that we have lost personnel? In the months during which they were serving their country by waiting, they stood a good many slights at the hands of the public, they received insults from Members of this House, they were chided for taking up cushy jobs, and it was said that in paying them £3 a week we were overpaying them. When that cut took place in the personnel, we lost the best people. We are appealing to them to come back on part-time work. A good many have 1343 done so in every district; but, with the demand for more and more output in industry, there is a limit to what can be expected; and there is a limit to the field from which you can draw A.R.P. personnel.
Because of that, I am about to suggest a new scheme which would tap a source not yet tapped, and of greater value than any other at present. I refer to the large body of young people between 14 and 18, adolescents, who have just left school. If there is one person in this land for whom the war is being fought, it is the adolescent. He will lose more if the war is lost, and gain more if the war is won, than anybody else in this country. Everything of value in his life is at stake. Could we not bring home to these young people the necessity for some trained service? It should not be difficult to rouse the young people of the country to a sense of all that is at stake, and to get that energy which perhaps is being used in other directions devoted to this work. I have often been to the A.R.P. centres, and I know something of what is being done there. I have nothing but praise for the men and women who spend their time there. If ever it was true of any service that "they also serve who only stand and wait," it is true of the A.R.P. service, and particularly of those who spend so many hours at our report centres. Among the young people of 14 to 18, there are a vast number who could do most of the jobs that are to be done. Messengers and telephone operators are needed, and a vast army of what one might call servants to the principal servants. I see no better source for such recruits than the adolescents. Youths of 17½ to 19½ are now catered for in the "parashots." That leaves a large body, however, of young folk who can be organised in these services. We could use the organisations which are now catering for youth, which are being utilised along with the educational services in the new scheme that the Board of Education has put forward. The one thing essential is that that spirit should be directed to meeting the needs of the present time.
Any objection that there might have been to young people coming into contact with the military machine is removed by the fact that they would be linked up 1344 with the Civil Defence scheme. There is a reservoir which will be of inestimable value if the events which we all anticipate take place. What could be better than that these young people should be given some responsibility for their younger brothers and sisters, and linked up with the machine which is created for their protection? I suggest not only the establishment of this junior defence service, but that it should be given a fillip by our appealing to all that is best in young people, by asking them to come forward and do a job of work for their country at such a time as this. What are these young people doing now? Many of them are doing what we all did between the ages of 14 and 18—playing cricket. That is what we should all want them to do in peace-time, but now they should be given a job to do in this war; and then they would become, in every sense, young crusaders.
There is one other question to which I wish to refer, dealing with another aspect of Civil Defence. I do not know whether it is a fact that all those bungalows on the coast are not to be used during the coming summer. If such an order has been given, I can well understand the reason. But I had a letter the other day from a young man who said that he and his wife had both been called into service, and had had to leave their house in an industrial town. He said that he had to pay £17 in rates, and asked whether I could do anything about it. Not being familiar with the rate collector, I could not do much about it; but I certainly think that he should have some relief. Will these people, if they are not allowed to use the bungalows, be expected to pay their rates during the period that the bungalows are out of use? This is a matter whcih is worrying some people.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I thought that it was under the Civil Defence scheme that these people were prevented from using their bungalows. If the matter arises out of some other kind of Defence, the question will have to be put at some other time.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security (Mr. Mabane)
I do so appreciate what the hon. Member 1345 for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) said when, at the outset of his speech, he referred to the difficulty of keeping one's mind in this House. This Debate is taking place while the German onslaught in France rages with unabated fury, and at this time in every house in the country people are calculating from hour to hour—one might say from broadcast to broadcast—the effect of the German advance upon the military situation by land and by sea and in the air. So far we have been immune from air attack in this country, save for what we might regard as trial flights. Perhaps we have discerned the reasons—the hon. Member for Derby indicated some of them. After the experiences of Norway, Holland, Belgium and France we must expect that the enemy is waiting until the time when he will be able to attack, if ever that time comes, on a wide front with full force, delivering blow upon blow in a fierce effort to paralyse and dislocate our war machine.
The Civil Defence organisation must surely conform to these hard needs. Our aim must be to make it universal, practical and quick. The realisation of all our plans must be pressed forward, and in that those in the Ministry are in entire agreement with those who have expressed such views in the Committee to-day. Our services must have more and more reserves behind them, so that they will be able to resist the full flood of the attack, and we must be ready to alter and to improve our services and our organisation, if attack reveals weaknesses in our armour.
For my part, I am glad this Debate has taken place, for two particular reasons. First, it has enabled the Minister of Home Security to make the statement that he has made to the Committee. I am sure that had it been possible for him to have been here throughout the Debate, he would have been much encouraged by the words which have fallen from many hon. Members during the course of the Debate. I am very glad for this reason, too—that it has allowed many hon. Members, and now allows me, to pay a well deserved and long awaited tribute to the personnel who have been engaged in the Civil Defence Service since the outbreak of war. I would like to thank those other hon. Members for what they have said, because I am certain it will be of the greatest possible encouragement to those who form part of the Civil 1346 Defence services. It has been my good fortune since I have been in this office to pay visits to the various Civil Defence regions and see these men and women at work in various parts of the country. I have seen them in Scotland, in Wales, in the South, in Durham. I have seen men coming off a 12-hour shift and going in their working clothes to do a four-hour shift in the Civil Defence service I have seen them in the valleys of Wales operating the whole service on a part-time basis. I have seen in quiet towns in the South of England people differently occupied providing the service in the same way; secondary school masters who, perhaps, have been running report centres since the beginning of the war, with close upon 80 voluntary workers around them. I am sure this Debate will have been an encouragement to all these people. Those must not be forgotten who have given their full time. Throughout the country these people have been at work, and are at work. I know their morale is high and that they will do the job when the time comes.
This Debate has concerned itself with most aspects of the work of the Ministry of Home Security. Perhaps I might first of all refer to some of the questions that have been asked on the subject of shelter. It was a good thing that at the beginning of the Debate the Committee were reminded that it was really proper to compare shelter as it now exists with the programme originally set out towards the end of 1938. As the Minister indicated, broadly that programme has been completed; the objective has been reached. We know that the butter is not spread evenly, but the shelter is there to that extent. Both the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) and the hon. Member for Derby said that our objective ought to be more and better shelter. I can say that that certainly is the objective of the Ministry of Home Security. As the Minister indicated in his opening speech, the goal has receded as time has passed, and we are now seeking to fulfil a much larger programme than was our objective at the end of 1938. The hon. Member for North Cumberland asked a particular question about the shelter for the 20,000,000 people to which reference was made at the beginning of the Debate, and I am glad to be able to tell him that all that shelter is of code 1347 standard or better, and that in the case of the key workers in factories to whom he alluded special shelter is provided for them because of the considerations which he set out in his speech.
§ Mr. Mabane
Stronger shelter and well above code standard. Reference was made both by the hon. Member for North Cumberland and the hon. Member for Derby to two-phase shelter. I do not think that I can add to what the Minister said on that subject in his opening speech, but I can assure them both that the matter has been most carefully watched.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
The point is whether local authorities have had this new idea explained and recommended to them to be carried out.
§ Mr. Mabane
No, the local authorities have not as yet been informed, because the designs of these shelters are at present in process of being completed in the Department. I omitted to give the answer to that question which I remember the hon. Member asked. Many hon. Members have referred to the problem of bricks and bricklayers. As the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) rightly said, in the past the Department has been able only to issue circulars to local authorities urging action but it has not had power to do more than that. Now, however, as the Minister indicated, further powers have been obtained and will be used, and it certainly will be the intention of the Ministry to secure that shelter is provided at the greatest possible speed, and then if we find that bricklayers are apparently not available for our purpose, we shall have to do what is the proper thing now and appeal to the Ministry of Labour who control these matters at the present time.
The hon. Member for Derby set a very high objective for us to reach. He suggested that everybody should have a shelter that would provide a great deal more protection than, I gather, code shelters provide at the present time. He chaffed me because I, perhaps inadvertently, told him that I myself had no shelter at my home. Perhaps I might say that I have an excellent shelter round the corner, and since saying that, I have 1348 read the booklet published by the Ministry, "Your Home as an Air-Raid Shelter," and I have now managed, with the excellent advice in the book, to construct a satisfactory shelter where I now am; and, of course, in that lies the solution of the problem of many people. I must urge that the recommendations offered to the public in the booklet, "Your Home as an Air-Raid Shelter" are extremely valuable and likely to improve enormously the protective qualities of the house if the instructions in the booklet are carried out.
§ Mr. Mabane
Yes. It costs three pence, and I hope that in a very short time it will be generally available for sale in post offices.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I have read the book, and I think it is a very good book, provided you are living in a house where you are able to carry out the advice contained in it, but the people for whom I am particularly speaking do not live in houses of that character and, therefore, cannot carry out the advice.
§ Mr. Mabane
The hon. Gentleman must remember that those with an income of less than £5 per week are entitled to have a shelter free, so the booklet really does not apply to them.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I would not like there to be any confusion on the matter which the Minister has just mentioned, namely, that he said he had a shelter round the corner. Are not the instructions to local authorities to this effect, that people who are in their houses are not to go out to public shelters, which are for the people who are caught on the streets?
§ Mr. Mabane
I think the hon. Member need not take too seriously the exchange between the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and myself.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The point that my hon. Friend raises is one of great importance. Are the shelters which public authorities are putting up intended to be confined only to those in the streets, or are they to be used for the population as a whole? I ardently hope that the Minister will say they are to be used by the public as a whole, and that the Government 1349 will extend the number of these shelters so that an increasingly large number of people, especially in danger areas, can go to them and get shelter. Otherwise, a great deal which has been done by local authorities is perfect nonsense. The Eaton Square shelter will hold 1,500 people, but there will never be 1,500 people in Eaton Square.
§ Mr. Mabane
In many cases multiple shelters are expressly provided in order that people may go to them from their houses. It is quite proper for them to do so, but, of course, shelters provided for the public caught in the streets are intended for the use of people caught in the streets. It is not a penal offence for anyone else to go in them. It is, however, unwise, for the simple reason that they are probably too far away from where the people live.
Now I would like to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), who asked whether something could not be done to secure that those who had failed to cover their Anderson shelters with the proper amount of earth, or who had failed to erect their shelters, should be subject to some penalty. I am happy to be able to tell the hon. Member that his point has been met and from yesterday, 11th June, it became an offence to fail to cover an Anderson shelter with the adequate amount of earth or to fail to erect it. He also raised the matter of shelters lying in sidings at Scunthorpe. I have many documents on the subject; it is a complicated matter, and perhaps he will allow me to discuss it with him afterwards.
Many Members have referred to the personnel of the Civil Defence service. It is clear that hon. Members in different parts of the House have given much thought to the difficult problem of the Civil Defence army. It might be too easily supposed from some of the remarks that there are general deficiencies in numbers in the service. That is not true. In some parts of the country there are deficiencies, but they are by no means widespread. We are asking for more and more volunteers to offer themselves, not only to make up deficiencies, but in order to provide the service with reserves sufficient to enable it to carry on through a long period of continuous raids. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) asked whether the personnel was 1350 a changing personnel. It would be difficult to say exactly, but my own experience in many parts of the country is that the personnel does not change unless people leave the district or go into another occupation. Then there are the people who have never in any real sense belonged to the service. There is, of course, a large number of people who have enrolled but have never taken an active part in the service. In most parts of the country, however, those who have joined the service and taken an active part have remained extremely loyal.
There has been much interest shown in many parts of the Committee over the degree of control that might be exercised over the personnel of the service. The hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Salt) suggested that there should be compulsion, but I should like to make it clear that the demand for compulsory service in Civil Defence is by no means general. There are many parts of the country where the service is perfectly happily organised on a voluntary basis, and where there would be very much objection to an alteration of that basis. As to control, as the Minister said in his opening statement, there is now a regulation which enables an order to be made to provide a greater degree of control than hitherto has been the case as regards full-time personnel. But if I have interpreted the mind of the Committee rightly, Members are in entire agreement with the statement made by the Minister at the outset of this Debate—that this service represents a great voluntary effort, and it is far better to retain it, if possible, on that basis.
The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) said it was a great pity that full-time paid personnel should be released from the service. At the present time they are not being released unless they are required for the Army, or work of a greater degree of national importance. I can assure him that wardens' posts are not closed without the fullest consideration of the security of the particular neighbourhood in which they are established. The hon. Member for North Cumberland asked me whether I could say something about the result of the appeal made during the past week. The results are interesting. Perhaps it is a little early to give any figures, but I can say that in many places the response has been remarkably good. 1351 Up to the present time 7,000 new volunteers have joined the service since 8th June as a result of the appeal. Those 7,000 are drawn from particular areas of the country—
§ Sir William Wayland (Canterbury)
Is there not competition in recruiting between the A.R.P. and the Local Defence Volunteer Corps?
§ Mr. Mabane
One expected that recruitment for the Local Defence Volunteer Force would have interfered with the existing Civil Defence service, but reports show that the interference has been nothing like so much as might have been expected. In those areas where the response to the appeal made by the Minister has been small, if local authorities will themselves try to support that appeal, they will find that volunteers are more likely to come forward.
§ Mr. Mabane
Certainly. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) and the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) suggested that the political organisations in this country might be used to encourage recruiting. There is one political instrument which I think would be of great use in this connection, and that is the Member of Parliament. Hitherto, we have found that if Members of Parliament take an interest in this matter, then not only do their constituents appreciate very much the interest they show, but recruits are readily forthcoming. Certain matters of what I may call an operational character have been raised by the hon. Member for Morpeth, the hon. Member for North Islington and the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price). I think that as they are of an operational character, they are matters which are best not discussed in the Committee, and I prefer to leave it at that. But if hon. Members will be so good as to visit me or the Department, every effort will be made to satisfy them on the points they have raised.
I should like to refer, before concluding, to one aspect of the work of the Department that has not loomed large in the Debate. I want to refer to it because I consider it a very important part of our work, and that is the education and instruction of the public in air-raid action. 1352 Efforts have been made to secure, by circulars and leaflets, that the public know exactly what to do. Hon. Members know that cards have been distributed to every householder giving detailed instructions as to what to do, where the nearest warden's post is situated and so on. Hon. Members know too that stirrup pumps have been sent to local authorities throughout the country and that they are getting together teams of householders who will be trained in the use of these stirrup pumps so that the danger from incendiary bombs will be much reduced.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is the Minister aware that some members of our party, who have had the greatest possible experience in countering this danger as a result of their work in Spain, and who are giving their services to air-raid precautions, are being pushed out?
§ Mr. Mabane
Stirrup-pump teams are being prepared throughout the country, and in most parts of the country, I wish I could say in all, public lectures are being arranged in order that as many people as wish—and I hope all will—may secure instruction from those who are trained in air-raid action. It is difficult to secure, however, with all the effort made, that people really know what to do. I was interested for example to hear the hon. Member for Yardley say that he was unable to discover shelters in Westminster at night. I have no difficulty. In going about Westminster in the last few weeks I have been confronted everywhere by the poster bearing the wordsSee the blue light. It means shelter at night.Apparently, the hon. Member has not seen that poster yet.
I have tried to deal with all the points which have been raised by hon. Members in the Debate, and I hope I have not missed any point of major importance. We have to-day concerned ourselves with the major responsibilities of the Ministry of Home Security—responsibilities which embrace the provision of shelter at home, in the streets, at work; the provision of protection against gas; the provision of services to deal with casualties and damage, including damage by fire, which will be the result of air bombardment; the control of the operation of these services; and the instruction of the public in air-raid action. These are the major 1353 responsibilities of the Ministry of Home Security. The objective of the work of the Ministry is to enable this country not merely to resist with calm courage an attack from the air, but to enable it also to proceed with the vital work of producing ever more and more war material, although that may have to be done in conditions of great stress and difficulty. May I state as a phrase the object of the Ministry of Home Security? It is to reduce Hitler's dividend when his bombers come. In the year before the outbreak of war much progress was made. That rate of progress has been greatly accelerated in the nine months since war began, and I am sure it is the determination of every one at the Ministry to see that that accelerated progress shall continue.
One last word. Let it be clear to all, and I am sure it is clear to hon. Members, that our preparations are not based on fear. Air-raid shelters are not funk-holes. The morale of our civilian population is high. There are few who would not be willing to accept an additional risk for themselves if by so doing they could put one more weapon into the hands of our fighting forces. I do not believe that in this matter the civilian population are primarily concerned to save their own skins. They take a bolder, a braver, and if I may use the word, a more aggressive view. They desire life, not merely for its own sake, but because they know that if any one goes, and some of us 1354 must, then there will be one less to bring defeat to the enemy and liberation to the world.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. J. P. L. Thomas.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.