HC Deb 19 November 1940 vol 365 cc1821-3
40. Sir W. Davison

asked the Home Secretary whether, now that the Government have approved of an increase in the number of military bands as likely to be a cheering influence on our citizens, consideration will be given to the provision of a more musical and martial note, something in the nature of a posthorn or bugle call, for our air-raid sirens, in place of the present wailing sound which is most depressing?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security (Mr. Mabane)

The present arrangements for air-raid warnings were decided after careful experiment. Recently fresh experiments have been undertaken to discover whether the substitution of alternative noises would be practicable and effective. It is regretted that the results of these experiments reveal that no better noises are capable of being made within the limits of practical possibility.

Sir W. Davison

Is my hon. Friend aware that since I put this Question on the Order Paper, I have received a large number of letters, especially from women, saying that the sound of these sirens has a much more depressing effect upon them than the bombs, and is he aware that what the country wants is a trumpet call of challenge and not the wailing of the damned?

Mr. Shinwell

Could the hon. Gentleman utilise the services of the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Viscountess Astor

Is it not true that women are showing really more courage in most cases than men? I beg my hon. Friend not to pay attention to a few nervous letters from nervous women.

Sir W. Davison

On a point of Order, Sir. I did not say anything of the kind. I said that the noise of the sirens alarms women much more than the bombs do—indeed that they seemed to prefer the noise of the bombs to the wail of the sirens.

49. Mr. Martin

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the announcement made by him about the system of air-raid warning some weeks ago, he expects to make any improvements in that system in the near future?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

The principal change I had in mind was in the attitude of the public towards the sounding of the siren, which I desired them to take as being an "Alert" rather than an "Alarm." This has been very generally accepted, as has the reduction in the time of the warning to one minute. At the same time the arrangements with industry for working after the siren are well advanced.

Mr. Martin

Is the Prime Minister aware that in many districts no notice whatever is taken either of the "Alert" or of the "All clear" for the simple reason that the general public have no confidence in their accuracy? Is he further aware that not only the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) but other hon. Members have received complaints of a very pressing nature on the subject, and will the right hon. Gentleman cause his advisers to look into the matter?

The Prime Minister

I think that we are solving this problem as we go along. I have no doubt that the solutions in one district are not those reached in another. On the whole, considering the unprecedented character of the attack which is made, I think it is very remarkable how the public have adapted themselves to the conditions and how the maintenance of the output of our factories continues.

Mr. Thorne

Is the Prime Minister aware that bombs frequently drop before the sirens are sounded?

The Prime Minister

I should think that is inevitable.

Mr. Gallacher

Has the Prime Minister never considered the question of a type of warning different from the siren?

The Prime Minister

Suggestions have been made which I did consider, such as, namely, the display of a red flag on particular occasions when it was thought unpleasant things were going to happen.

65. Mr. Silverman

asked the Home Secretary whether he is now in a position to state what powers he proposes to afford local authorities, or himself apply, to protect the workers in textile mills and sheds, so as to enable the workers to proceed in reasonable safety during alerts?

Miss Wilkinson

My right hon. Friend is taking steps to extend to all factories where more than 50 persons work the provisions of the Civil Defence Act which require shelter to be provided for employés. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has been in consultation with my right hon. Friend as regards the danger from broken glass and has now, under powers conferred by the Defence Regulations, made an Order, which will shortly be published, with a view to accelerating protection against this danger in the larger factories.

Mr. Silverman

Is the hon. Lady aware that this matter was first brought to the notice of the Department many months ago, and we were repeatedly told that action was being taken forthwith? When is the Order likely to be published, and when is it likely to be made operative?

Miss Wilkinson

It is in draft, and it is likely to be made operative quite shortly. In regard to the length of time that it has been under consideration, no one knows better than my hon. Friend how complicated is the position and what long negotiations have had to take place with representatives of employers and employed.

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