HC Deb 30 May 1940 vol 361 cc642-3
72. Mr. E. Smith

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the air-raid precautions report submitted to him by the Association of Architects, Surveyors and Technical Assistants; and, if so, can he make a statement on the report and indicate what action he proposes to take?

Sir J. Anderson

I have studied this report with interest. It may be said, speaking broadly, to assemble the conclusions of a number of schools of thought which favour large, centralised, and so far as possible strongly protected, shelters. It would be quite impracticable at the present time to initiate a new shelter policy, whatever its merits, which deviated so sharply from the general scheme by which shelter has been, and continues to be, provided by the local authorities and by the Government.

73. Mr. Smith

asked the Home Secretary whether he has received a report on the progress made with air-raid shelters since the issue of his circular, H.S.C. 38/40/O; whether he is satisfied that the advice and requests contained in the circular have been acted upon; what action is being taken to see that adequate air-raid shelter accommodation is provided for the lower income grades; whether he is satisfied that the authorities responsible have acted, or are taking immediate steps to act, upon circulars H.S.C. 68/40/O.I. and H.S.C. 77/40/O.I; whether he was consulted by the Board of Education before circular Administrative Memorandum No. 212, 17th February, 1940, was issued; and whether he will make a statement on the whole position?

Sir J. Anderson

It would be impossible within the limits of an answer to a Parliamentary Question to deal fully with all the matters raised in this Question. I receive monthly reports on the progress of shelter construction in the specified areas, and examination of these shows that as a whole local authorities are acting upon the recommendations made in the circulars mentioned and are pressing forward with the use of brick and concrete shelters, including communal shelters, upon which it has now become necessary to concentrate in view of urgent demands for steel for other purposes. It is, however, true that in many parts of the country suitable labour is at a premium and work is thereby delayed, and that some authorities have fallen below the general standard of effective work. The Government will continue to press upon all concerned the vital importance of concerted and vigorous efforts in this matter. I should add that the memorandum by the Board of Education was issued after consultation with my Department.

Mr. Smith

If it is true that the Government have pressed for this matter to be dealt with in districts where labour is available, what is the right hon. Gentleman doing to see that the local authorities carry out the suggestions made in the circular?

Sir J. Anderson

We are doing everything possible by personal calls and by correspondence, and immense progress has been made, especially in some of the worst areas.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Has the right hon. Gentleman any powers to deal with areas that may be termed backward where labour and other things are not available?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, every assistance is given in the way of lending staff from my organisation to local authorities and I have additional powers under the Act recently passed.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the utilisation of voluntary labour for this purpose?

Sir J. Anderson

I have encouraged in every way possible the use of voluntary labour in increasing protection in the homes of the people, but for work which has to be carried out on a large scale it is necessary to resort to the ordinary method.