HC Deb 08 October 1940 vol 365 cc241-6
35. Major Lloyd

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that most of the public air-raid shelters in the Yoker district of Glasgow have no doors, no lights, no lavatories and no seats and are generally in a most insanitary condition, to the discontent of the local inhabitants and danger of their health; and whether he will compel the local authority to make such shelters as least comparable with neighbouring localities outside the Glasgow city area?

Mr. H. Morrison

I am informed that the city authorities are now proceeding with the installation of lighting, and that the provision of seats and doors is now delayed only by lack of materials, of which there is a shortage. It appears that chemical closets, although purchased, have not been installed, because of fear of pilfering. I think that this is a risk which ought now to be taken and have so informed the Council.

Mr. Buchanan

Has my right hon. Friend made any further inquiries about the local position in Glasgow regarding shelters?

Mr. Morrison

That is a matter which has been investigated by the Parliamentary Secretary, and it will receive our consideration.

38. Sir Robert Young

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the insanitary conditions of air-raid precautions shelters in many country districts and the risks to health and physical strength owing to the absence of some method of seating whereby expectant mothers and mothers with young children have to stand for hours during an air-raid; and whether he will consult with the department concerned to provide doors and seats to all shelters under the proper supervision of the local authorities concerned?

Mr. Morrison

I have asked local authorities to take urgent action to improve the amenities in shelters.

41. Mr. James Hall

asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider the immediate building of deep shelters in those districts which are in continual danger from enemy bombing attacks?

Mr. Morrison

My first concern must be to accelerate and complete the work which is already in hand, and I am not at present prepared to make any statement of future policy in this matter.

Mr. Hall

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that the course of events in the past few weeks shows the necessity of digging more deeply than we have done, and of reviewing the policy which has been followed so far? Has not the time come when more adequate protection should be given to the people?

Mr. Morrison

I shall certainly give that point consideration, but I am faced with an immediate situation with which I must deal as rapidly as I can. Immediate rather than long-term things must have my first attention.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he considers this matter one of extreme urgency?

Mr. Morrison

The matter is, as I have said, already having my attention, and it will continue to do so, but now it is a case of first things first. I can assure my hon. Friend that that aspect of the matter has not been overlooked.

Mr. Granville

Does the Minister say that people are to be allowed to stay in the Underground stations?

Mr. Morrison

The Underground is already being used, and, in so far as Underground transport facilities are not interfered with, that will be continued. I think the House recognises that the Underground must run.

Captain Duncan

Is the Minister doing everything he can to provide materials for surface shelters, such as for reinforcing, and bricks?

Mr. Morrison

I am doing all that I can in that respect, but the provision of those materials is a function of the Ministry of Supply. The actual allocation of them between the Departments is somebody else's concern, through the proper interdepartmental machinery. I can assure the House that the late Minister of Supply did all he could in the matter, and I am sure that his successor will do the same.

Sir Percy Harris

Will the Minister see that the new Minister of Supply releases more cement, because the completion of many works is now being seriously held up?

76. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the area covered by a district of which he has been informed is not specified although it is on the coast and is extremely vulnerable; and whether he is aware of the inadequacy of the shelter accommodation in the district, and what action he intends to take in the matter?

Mr. Morrison

As the hon. Member is aware, discussions are in progress regarding the provision of shelter in the area to which he refers, and it is hoped that we shall be in a position very shortly to proceed rapidly with the provision of such shelter as is considered most appropriate to the peculiar circumstances of the area.

77. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the petition and representations from the Buckhaven Town Council requesting the re-classification of the district as an A area to allow for the consequent provision of Haldane air-raid shelters; and whether it is proposed to accede to the request of the council and townspeople of Buckhaven in view of the vulnerable character of the area?

Mr. Morrison

I understand that the local authority are making good progress with the provision of shelter at or near the homes of the inhabitants; and this appears to me, so far as I can judge, to be the soundest policy to pursue in this area.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister not aware that this town is as vulnerable as any other part of the district, and that yet it is an unclassified area and cannot have a public shelter? Will he not consider a re-classification?

Mr. Morrison

Consultations are proceeding with the local authority, with a view to the provision of shelter.

Mr. Shinwell

There are no longer any non-classified areas. Is that the decision of the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

Mr. Morrison

I shall want notice of that question.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister not aware that this town is in continual danger from attack; and will he not consider a re-classification?

Mr. Morrison

I have already informed the hon. Member that I am in consultation with the local authority.

79. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Home Secretary what steps have now been taken to secure effective ventilators, disinfection, heating and other reasonable amenities in public air-raid shelters; and what action he has taken to secure that local authorities act promptly and effectively in this respect?

Mr. Morrison

I could not describe, within the limits of an answer to a Parliamentary Question, all the steps which have been taken during recent weeks to improve the conditions in public air-raid shelters. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend that vigorous action has been, and will continue to be, taken to secure that every practicable improvement is made without delay; and Admiral Sir Edward Evans, one of the Regional Commissioners for London, has been charged with the special duty of expediting and co-ordinating action in this matter within the London Region.

Mr. Sorensen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while we appreciate the action which has been taken, many shelters are in a vulnerable position, and are liable to give rise to injuries?

Mr. Morrison

All that is under active consideration.

Mr. Simmonds

Is not one of the many serious problems connected with these shelters that of drainage in wet weather? Is that problem being faced?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir. That is being looked into.

80. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Home Secretary what further action he has taken to secure the opening to the public of all basements suitable for sleeping those threatened with air-raids in the London area; and whether he has instructed local authorities to take action in this respect, and to provide additional supports in such basements?

Mr. Morrison

I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of a circular on this subject issued by the Regional Commissioner to local authorities in the London Region.

Mr. Sorensen

What steps is the Ministe[...] taking to see that the local authorities carry out the recommendations of the circular? Is he aware that there are still many shelters in the outer parts of the Metropolitan area which are not being used at night time?

Mr. Morrison

I rely to a considerable extent on local opinion and local pressure to push the local authorities on, but I am not leaving the matter there. I am taking active steps.

Major Milner

Will my right hon. Friend consider the suggestion that I repeatedly made to his predecessor that some guidance or advice shall be given to people, so that when one shelter is crowded they may know where there are others available?

Mr. Morrison

Certainly, I will give the matter consideration.

82. Mr. Martin

asked the Home Secretary what the Government's plans are for providing adequately weather-proof shelter during the winter?

Mr. Morrison

I am not quite clear what my hon. Friend has particularly in mind. If it is the question of flooding of domestic shelters, this has recently been the subject of a further circular to local authorities, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

Mr. Martin

Is my right hon. Friend definitely of opinion that surface shelters can be made fit sleeping places for old people and children?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir, we think that that is so.

83. Mr. Martin

asked the Home Secretary how many shelters have been damaged in London up to date; to what types the damaged ones belonged; and how many casualties have resulted?

Mr. Morrison

A detailed review of damage to shelters is now in course of preparation; and as soon as it is completed I will send my hon. Friend the information for which he asks.