HC Deb 11 February 1941 vol 368 cc1215-7
Mr. Simmonds (By Private Notice)

asked the Home Secretary whether he can now make any statement in regard to the provision of indoor shelters; and whether he can say whether any change is proposed in the standard of eligibility for the provision, at the public expense, of these or other shelters?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

Yes, Sir. The course of events in the past few months has given strong emphasis to the advantages of shelter within the home. It achieves not only dispersal, but warmth and dryness, and it avoids the discomfort of leaving home at night and the dislocation of family life. Experience of the effect of the bombing has shown that houses afford more protection than was at one time supposed and that the risks of installing indoor shelters are less than was formerly believed. We have, therefore, turned to the question of designing a shelter suitable for installation indoors which should afford protection against the consequences of being pinned under the debris of a house brought down by a bomb exploding near it. We have reached a stage where I am justified in informing the House that we have succeeded in achieving a satisfactory design for a shelter of this kind, particulars of which, with the Speaker's permission, I will make available in the Tea Room. It is designed for installation on the lowest floor of a house of two or three storeys and will accommodate two adults and one older child or two younger children. It will not be practicable in the early stages of distribution to cover anything like the whole country and I have accordingly, in consultation with the Regional Commissioners, selected a number of areas to which priority will be given. These have been selected with due regard to shelter needs based on recent experience and estimated vulnerability: for obvious reasons I do not propose to give their names, but steps will be taken for suitable local announcements at a later stage. Information will then be given as to the procedure to be followed by those desiring to obtain these shelters, and in the meantime no application by members of the public for shelters should be made or can be entertained.

Mr. Simmonds

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that one of the least satisfactory aspects of the issue of the Anderson shelter was that even in the most vulnerable areas it was not possible to purchase such shelters until the whole of the free issue of the shelters had been delivered? Will he therefore see, in the case of these indoor shelters, that in the most vulnerable areas a percentage of those which become available shall be purchasable by those outside the income limits for the free issue?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend will realise that that might involve many administrative complications, but I should certainly wish to do that.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

Are these shelters now in production?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir, not yet, but they will be, I hope, round about the end of March.

Sir Herbert Williams

Can the right hon. Gentleman say anything about the materials of which they will be made?

Mr. Morrison

There will be a considerable steel element.

Viscountess Astor

Is it not true that the authorities in some of the most vulnerable areas had to send back Anderson shelters because the people would not take them, and is not that one of the reasons why we have had so much trouble?

Mr. Morrison

If there is anyone who does not want his Anderson shelter I should be very glad to have it back.

Mr. Peat

Has the right hon. Gentleman any statement to make on the subject of eligibility for these shelters?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir, the income limit has been considered. Broadly speaking, people got a free issue of the Anderson shelter if the income was below £250. With the concurrence of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that limit has now been increased to £350.

Mr. Cluse

Will it be necessary for a tenant to obtain consent from a landlord before the shelters can be erected?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir.