HC Deb 06 February 1941 vol 368 cc1057-9
16. Captain Cunningham-Reid

asked the Home Secretary why surface shelters are still being built without sufficient provision being made for bunking, sanitation, lighting and heating?

Mr. H. Morrison

I take it that the question refers to the position in the London region, about which I have accordingly made special inquiry. So far as I am aware, no new public surface shelters are now being built without allowance being made for the provision of bunking, sanitation, lighting or heating. If the hon. Member will supply me with particulars of any cases he has in mind, I shall be glad to have inquiry made.

17. Captain Cunningham-Reid

asked the Home Secretary what is the war's total of deep shelter air-raid casualties in the London area, also the number of surface shelter casualties in the London area?

Mr. Morrison

It would not be in the public interest to give particulars of the kind asked for.

Captain Cunningham-Reid

Is my right hon. Friend aware that deep shelters are not conducive to the dispersal of population, and was not the necessity for this dispersal an important part of the Horder report?

Mr. Morrison

The Government have made it clear through the newspapers that the principle of dispersal should be applied wherever practicable.

Mr. Woodburn

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the penalising of those county councils who were efficient in constructing air-raid shelters prior to 19th October, 1940, the date after which the Government will meet the whole cost; and whether he can agree to treat all air-raid shelters which meet his specification with equality and make reimbursement retrospective?

30. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Home Secretary whether he will make the scheme for reimbursing local authorities who have constructed air-raid shelters after 19th October, 1940, apply equally to those who constructed shelters at an earlier date, in order that those authorities who showed the greatest foresight in shelter construction shall not be penalised as against those who delayed making shelter provision?

Mr. Morrison

I would refer my hon. Friends to the answer given yesterday by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to a Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker).

Mr. Woodburn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is very great feeling and disappointment among the local authorities that those who were efficient and went ahead with this work are to get no reimbursement, whereas those that were not efficient and are now being pushed to do the work are to get full reimbursement? There seems to be an element of injustice in this to which the local authorities take great exception.

Mr. Morrison

The House seems to be very anxious to spend a lot of money. However, I quite appreciate the feeling of hon. Members, and I do not say that there is no justification for it. The decision to give 100 per cent. was not an easy one, and I got it on the basis that I had to move quickly and to have power and authority to compel the job to be done over the heads of the local authorities, if necessary. Therefore, I needed 100 per cent. Having got it on that basis, I do not think I should be justified in going a long way back into the past and making retrospective State grants.

Mr. Sorensen

Does not my hon. Friend appreciate that it is precisely the more progressive authorities that are penalised, and is it characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman to do that?

Mr. Morrison

I could perhaps put the argument even more forcibly than my hon. Friend. I am very familiar with the argument and recognise its force, but on balance I think that the decision which I have reached, in blitz conditions and with an eye to the future rather than to the past, is a right one, and I do not think I should be justified in pressing for retrospective payments.

Mr. Shinwell

Does my right hon. Friend agree that efficiency should be penalised in this fashion, and was the decision reached off the right hon. Gentleman's own bat or was it caused by the attitude of the Treasury?

Mr. Morrison

All these decisions were mutual. I took my responsibilities, and I am still taking them in the House under cross-examination. All these decisions were matters of arrangement and discussion. I admit that there is a conflict concerning the element of justice in the case, and I can only plead that on broad grounds of public policy and expediency I think the decision was a right one, and I cannot go back on it.

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