HC Deb 04 February 1941 vol 368 cc789-91
27. Mr. Brooke

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether shelter-marshals are instructed, or empowered, to require that persons claiming to occupy regular places in public shelters must bring their gas masks with them?

Mr. Grimston (Treasurer of the Household)

I have been asked to reply. No, Sir, but it is, of course, highly desirable that persons using shelters should in their own interests carry a respirator, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is considering what further steps can best be taken to impress this upon them.

Mr. Brooke

Is the Ministry of Home Security taking all possible steps to make sure that in concentrating upon the risk of fire people do not forget the risk of gas?

29. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Home Secretary whether he can make a statement concerning the measures adopted by His Majesty's Government to make trench air-raid shelters waterproof?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security (Miss Wilkinson)

The problem of damp in trench shelters has received very careful consideration. Some of the difficulties are due to the hasty construction of trenches in unsuitable sites at a time of grave crisis. Where they are hopelessly damp local authorities have power to close them. A circular, giving expert advice on the best way of treating leakage through the roofs of trenches, was sent to local authorities on the 11th December last: briefly, the advice was to remove the earth covering and treat the roof with a waterproof layer of asphaltic or bitumastic material.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Can the hon. Lady say whether these measures are meeting with a fair amount of success?

Miss Wilkinson

Where they are being carried out in accordance with expert advice they are meeting with some success. Where local authorities scamp them they are not.

Sir A. Southby

Is it not a fact that in many areas the difficulty arises from the fact that before the collapse of France the areas were considered to be safe, and dormitory trenches not necessary, but that these areas are now vulnerable areas, where dormitory trenches are necessary, and that the whole situation has shifted?

Miss Wilkinson

The matter is continually under review.

Mr. J. H. Hollins

Does my hon. Friend propose to deal with the local authorities which are lax?

Miss Wilkinson

Yes, we are dealing with them continually, but it has to be done through the regional authority.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

Is my hon. Friend aware that the worst cases are those in which local authorities have closely followed the Home Office plans, which have been a complete failure, and will she see that in any future proposals made the local authorities—who know their area better than the Home Office inspectors—are allowed to carry out the proposals they want instead of being compelled, as they have been by the Home Office, to put up shelters that are absolutely useless?

Miss Wilkinson

I cannot accept such a sweeping statement.

Mr. McGovern

You could if you were on the other side of the House.

30. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Home Secretary whether he can make a statement concerning the plans adopted, or approved, by His Majesty's Government for the provision of strong air-raid shelters by means of tunnelling in areas where the subsoil consists of chalk?

Miss Wilkinson

I am sending to my hon. Friend a copy of a circular which was sent to local authorities for their guidance in this matter. I may say that some chalk formations are likely to afford good opportunities for tunnelling and the chalk outcrops in the south-east of London are the subject of special examination by consultants working for the Regional Commissioners.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Do I understand that the hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend have personally examined the possibility of making such shelters on a very large scale within a reasonable distance of the centre of London?

Miss Wilkinson

That is hardly a job for myself or my right hon. Friend. We are having experts to do that; they are working under the Regional Commissioners for the London area and are in process of examination of the problem.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that experts working on this matter have made many mistakes in the past and that if this question receives the personal attention of herself or her right hon. Friend, the time will be well spent?

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