HC Deb 20 February 1941 vol 369 cc264-6
4. Mr. Hamilton Kerr

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that able-bodied unemployed on the register are refusing offers of well-paid posts for fire watching; and what action he is taking in the matter?

Mr. Bevin

I am not aware of any such cases. If my hon. Friend will give me particulars, I will make inquiry.

37. Mr. Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that a certain number of fire watchers are receiving as much as £8 to £10 a week; and whether he will enforce a standard rate of pay equal to that received by the air-raid precautions and Auxiliary Fire Service?

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

My attention has been drawn to some cases where fire watchers have been engaged at high rates of wages, but I should prefer to see the effect of the recent Orders concerning fire prevention before considering whether any further action could with advantage be taken.

Mr. Kerr

Does not my right hon. Friend think it is a grave scandal that these men should receive more than twice the wages of A.F.S. and A.R.P. men, and does he not think it would be advisable to set up a special department to enrol these men at A.F.S. rates of pay?

Mr. Morrison

I have considerable sympathy with the point of view of my hon. Friend, and he may be sure that I will keep the point in mind in consultation with the Departments concerned.

Sir W. Davison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in my experience in the City of London men who were engaged at wages of £3 or £4 a week have given notice, with the result that buildings are left unprotected unless these high wages are paid?

38. Mr. Vernon Bartlett

asked the Home Secretary whether, in order to assure that the burden is shared by all members of the community, he will at once use compulsory powers to enlist an adequate supply of fire watchers in areas where there is an insufficient number of volunteers?

Mr. Morrison

Two separate Orders concerning lire-prevention duties have been made. The Business Premises Order imposes compulsory obligations on the occupiers of business premises to make adequate fire-prevention arrangements for their premises. It also imposes an obligation which can be enforced on all male British subjects of the prescribed age who work at the premises to take turns of duty there, unless satisfactory voluntary or other suitable arrangements have been made. The Compulsory Enrolment Order will be put into operation where under Regulation 27B a local authority is directed to make fire-prevention arrangements in its area, elsewhere than at business premises, and the number of volunteers for that purpose is insufficient.