§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn." — [Mr. James Stuart.]
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I am extremely grateful to the Government for having provided this form of Debate on the subject of Civil Defence and for having given us a chance of putting questions to a number of Ministers and demanding a policy which will cover, 216 perhaps, half-a-dozen different Departments. I shall endeavour to confine myself to one main central issue, but I am bound to refer to a number of Departments, because, as every hon. Member knows, Civil Defence covers practically the whole of the home front in the Government. I have told the Government in advance the main points which I intend to bring forward, so that they can deploy their Ministers as they see fit— some may be on the alert while some may be resting at the side..
I am not concerned in this Debate with questions of party. I do wish, from the outset, to try to raise this Debate above any question of party and also, if I can do so—though I am not quite sure whether this is possible or not—above any question of the dispute which has recently arisen as between local government and regional government, or between local government and national government. I realise that that is not an easy thing to do, but I think it would be a great mistake if the main problems of Civil Defence were put aside and we allowed ourselves to drift into an acrimonious Debate on that subject. May I add one more remark by way of preface? The Prime Minister, in winding up a recent Debate, said he did not think it a good thing to have a series of speeches full of criticisms because, apart from the inartistic monotony, it gave a very false picture outside. In anything I say, I would beg my right hon. Friends opposite to realise that I appreciate probably as much as they do the magnificent work which has been done during the last nine months by the Civil Defence army and by the local authorities. I do not propose to describe that work all the way through, because that also would become monotonous. Nor shall I make any attempt to describe chaos as such, because I think that is not in the national interest nor is it likely to help this Debate.
Yesterday we heard about Crete and about the Army and the Navy and the Air Service. To-day we are discussing a fourth arm—the civilian arm, the army of the people. It comprises men and women wardens not yet in uniform and without pay corresponding to rank, firemen who are to be incorporated into a national and regional organisation, rescue and demolition men, decontamination squads, first-aid parties and ambulance men, the commissioners and their staffs, 217 town clerks, who are often controllers and food officers, education officers, who are often billeting officers, teachers, who have manned rest centres and become billeting officers, nurses and welfare workers, who have been trying to make life a litttle sweeter for women and children in the rest centres in different parts of the country, and a thousand other volunteers who are in these services. I want a Ministry worthy of this great army. Quite frankly, I want a Ministry of Civil Defence. I want a Minister in the War Cabinet who can devote the whole of his time and energy to defeating Hitler, Goering and Goebbels on the home front. The war is being waged by Germany on the sea by blockade and by air attacks against our civilian population, just as much as it is being waged against our Fighting Forces.
The war can be lost by the failure of our Civil Defence activities, just as much as by a defeat in the field. I believe that a Ministry of Civil Defence is needed to ensure the living and working conditions of the civil population against air attack. In other words, Civil Defence is a national and not a local interest. Civilian defence, enabling the essential production and services to continue, is an indispensable fourth arm in war, and should be under the direct responsibility of one Minister who has no other interests and who has ample powers. I will remind my right hon. Friend of some of the matters to which he has had to pay attention, to a greater or lesser extent, during the last few months: All matters affecting aliens, internees in Australia, detention cases, dog clubs, race-horses, juvenile delinquency, remand homes, the early closing of shops, the Sunday opening of music halls and theatres, maritime courts, subversive activities, the Grand National, vagrancy, Lady Lucas, to mention just a few. I do not want to make too much of these cases, because many of them are the subject of Questions which my right hon. Friend answers in the course of his duties. He has had to admit, during the course of the Maritime Courts Bill and in one other case, that he has not been quite on top of the subject, but how can that be expected in view of all the duties that he has to perform? I want to free him entirely from the great bulk of these responsibilities. My right hon. Friend has had to devote a great deal of his attention 218 to cases under Regulation 18B and to the question of aliens.
It is my conviction that, if we had adopted the bolder decision seven months ago, we should have been better able to meet the assaults of the enemy, and that we might have saved lives and property. I believe that to be so, and I treat this matter in no other sense than as one of the greatest possible national urgency at this moment. I have weighed the arguments carefully, and I have considered the consequences. Nothing has yet occurred since we last debated this question, on 9th and 10th October, to disprove the case. I have told the Government, for what it is worth, the main lines. They were put on paper 18 months ago, and they were made known to the Lord Privy Seal some time ago. For weeks and months I have been badgering four or five different Ministers —Security, Health, even at times my old Department, and Food—and I have put two direct Questions to the Prime Minister. But now we have been fortified by the Select Committee's Report, not that I agree with everything in that report, but in the main arguments at the end of it. I believe that four Ministers are to take part in this Debate, but there is only one Minister who can give an answer and make a supreme decision. It is the Prime Minister. He has to turn this excellent band of men and women into an army. Others may dispute the precise role of the Commissioners, the future of the wardens' services, and the division of duties between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Home Security, so that one is still concerned with the inside and one with the outside of shelters. I am ready to discuss these points with anyone, but the man who turned the Local Defence Volunteers into the Home Guard, and communal feeding into British Restaurants can now, if he is convinced, turn the remnants of six Government Departments, 12 Commissioners, 315 large local authorities, 1,200 smaller authorities, and 3,000,000 men and women into a civilian army under a Minister of Civil Defence. That is the case I wish to make.
At the present moment there are about 250,000 men in full-time service, which costs the nation about £40,000,000 a year. I want reconsideration to be given to this army, not on financial grounds, but on grounds of experience, security, morale 219 and efficiency. We had a National Service Act the other day, which the Minister of Labour explained was needed because there was a shortage of whole-time workers. He stated that volunteers preferred to enter the Forces, and he told us that the Government were anxious to take men over 35 who were in medical grade 3. We have been told that 4,000 firemen have been returned from the Army, and when asked whether there would be a national or local service, we were told that there may be. Then my right hon. Friend stated at the end of the Debate that it might be regional or national, in the service of the Crown, or it might be moved about by the Regional Commissioners. I could give a great many quotations from my right hon. Friend, showing that he, at any rate, believes in the efficacy of the Regional Commissioners. There are many quotations which I could give to the House, showing that my right hon. Friend visualises this problem in the right way, and I want to press him to take the logical conclusion. He said:…in the course of time we shall make this a Crown service in co-operation with local authorities, and without damaging the local spirit, or rights of local authorities. … If I utilise the service—I am not sure about it, but I merely contemplate it as a possibility—as a regional mobile reserve, it will be a limited number, and they will be always ready to go here and there according to the needs of the situation." — [Official Report, 26th March, 1941; cols. 662-3, Vol. 370]In that speech, for some reason, he did not mention wardens. He mentioned the A.F.S., the ambulance and rescue parties, and the decontamination squads, but there was no reference to wardens. He said, "I should like these men to have uniforms and not be treated less beneficially than the Home Guard, who got uniforms straight away." So we now have a sort of curious combination of volunteers, who cannot leave their employment because of the freezing order, combined with a conscript army.
I want the Minister of Home Security to tell us what his proposals are. Does he know that the men's hours of work are well over the established hours of 72 —I have a list in my own area —the training that is required, the diversity of jobs that are being done, from patrol to shelter marshalling, fire-fighting, first-aid 220 and gas detection? The wardens are the linchpin of the service, and they are feeling once again that they are a Cinderella. This is all part of morale. It is because I want the Minister to give his whole time to this that I want these questions looked into extremely carefully. In some areas they are badly undermanned. They are not asked on registering if they are doing Civil Defence work. They turn out in all weathers, and make their reports. They are even regarded in some rural areas as almost butting-in on the Home Guard. I ask the Minister to make a clear statement. I have a sheaf of letters from patriotic men and women in rural areas and the towns who want to know what is their status. What about uniform? I heard that there was to be a uniform; this morning I hear the contrary. I should like to know. We heard there was to be an increase of pay—5s. and 2s. 6d. —then I heard only last week that there had been delay about that. I should like to know a bit more. I should also like to know what are their duties. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me the number of paid wardens between 30 and 41 and whether they are to be exempt from military service or are to be called up in September? We do not want a repetition of what happened to the firemen who were called back from the Army.
As to fire-watchers, we have had a number of fires in the City. Some compulsory orders have been issued, but no one knows in what sort of organisation and under what direction they are going to work. Two parts of London have compulsory orders, but they do not know under whose direction they are to operate. Are they to work under wardens, police or a fire-fighting service? The right hon. Gentleman said he contemplated no change in organisation. Does he really mean this? What are the plans of his Parliamentary Secretary? In the bulk of cases these men lack supervision, they are uninstructed in practice, and in many cases not properly led. I speak as one of them. Nearly everyone in this City belongs in some way or other to this organisation. They, in fact, constitute an army. Why not organise this army? It is the stirrup pump and sandbag army that I am referring to. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us more about it to-day. Again, why not stimulate the 221 cadet movement? In the last Debate the right hon. Gentleman said he would think about the matter again. I have already asked three questions about it after the magnificent performance of the cadets in a certain Northern city—the invaluable messenger work and fire-fighting for many days. Does he know the story? I can give him the most extraordinary stories of boys who stayed up for nights. Suppose the Air Minister had said "I will think about it" when the Air Training Corps was formed. Instead, he got one of the keenest headmasters in the country and set to it. If you are going to be depleted in man-power, is it not common sense to have a number of people trained in first aid and fire-fighting? They enjoy it. But practically nothing has been done. It is all done pretty well by one man with very little encouragement. Why not send Professor Channon round the country? I have written only one letter, and I got an answer, but I am told by organisations which are intimately concerned with the work that they have written letters to the Ministry of Home Security and that the time lag is three months. Friends of mine have written to the right hon. Gentleman and have not got answers. I do not wonder, because he is trying to do a job which no human being can do, and he knows that I have the very highest admiration for his powers as an administrator. I ask, therefore, that the question shall be looked into.
There is a Fire Council. We see this morning that there are to be 32 independent brigades. I want to know whether there is to be an executive officer under the Fire Officer, whether there is to be a standard rate of pay, whether there are to be quasi-military ranks, so that a man in one area who is called by an officer does not necessarily mean the same thing in a very much bigger area. I believe that the vital thing has not yet been done in this Fire Council. I understand that the first meeting is to take place this week. I am looking for the three experienced men who are going to be on the Council. Otherwise it is the right hon. Gentleman, the Parliamentary Secretary, who has done so much invaluable work, and one or two civil servants, and they are superimposed on the old fire brigade division of the Home Office. I am certain that you have to get new men in and also on the social service side—people who have 222 had experience in the various areas through these last months. I could quote the various speeches and the reasons which my right hon. Friend gave in the last Debate. On this side of the House my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) pleaded for a Minister who would give his whole time to Civil Defence. He said that it was a full 24 hours' job, andI beg of the Minister—and if the Prime Minister were here, I would ask him too—to let this be the first job. … Such a Minister ought not to be troubled with all the other matters of the Home Office. … What we want is not a shifting of personalities but a dividing up of duties and offices." — [Official Report, 10th October, 1940; col. 500, Vol. 365.]The right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said that he thought it would be better if we had one Minister charged with this great duty The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and many others reinforced that argument. What did my right hon. Friend say? He said that the questions of police and fire must be linked with the Home Office and Home Security, and that you cannot sever the normal peace-time functions of health, education, food and transport from the question of security. I believe you can I have here to-day four different schemes prepared by four of the ablest men in the country each acting independently and each coming to the same conclusion. My right hon. Friend must think again about that meeting over which he presides three times a week. I know a little about it, although as an Under-Secretary I seldom attended it. I do not believe that is the right way to run Civil Defence.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Has my hon. Friend taken into account that, even if I were relieved of my duties as Secretary of State and then had added to my existing duties as Minister of Home Security Civil Defence functions and all the '' blitz '' functions of the other Departments, I should be much more burdened than I am now?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I admit that, but I do not want my right hon. Friend to be running six or seven other Departments. There are other Departments and their normal relations with local authorities can go on perfectly well —
§ Mr. Lindsay
As far as the Civil Defence functions of these various Ministries are concerned, I say that one Minister should be in charge. I do not want to go into great detail, but I could give my right hon. Friend what I have tried to work out. In the last Debate he said:I am not yet converted to the view of those who seem to be anxious to undermine and destroy British local government as it is now constituted. I do not like to hear people urging that we should substitute nominated institutions for representative institutions." — [Official Report, 20th May, 1941; col. 1415, Vol. 371.]With that principle most people will agree, but that is not the issue. [Interruption.] I have been in local Government and I have sat up for five or six hours three and four nights a week in Stepney arguing out points with boards of guardians, and I know what it is; it is the grandest thing in peace time, but I do not think that a minute which has to go through five committees in war-time in a city which has been blitzed is good enough.
§ Mr. Lindsay
They have, and in some parts of London the emergency committees consist of 15 persons each. I can give examples of where they still go through this machinery. I know of one big city where a minute had to go through for a doctor to move from one part, 60 miles away, to a Regional Commissioner centre. That is not good enough. After my right hon. Friend had made his carefully considered statement, he gave three good reasons for substituting national regional and nominated organisations for the local fire brigade. He said:(1)Fire-fighting has become a military operation: small units will not suit. (2) Widening opportunities of promotion. (3) The shortage of man-power.Arrangements are supposed to have been made in Scotland. I do not want to describe any particular place, but the Secretary of State knows it—if he does not, I will give it to him—where arrangements were not made. He is now sending down officers from the Department to go over the arrangements with the local 224 authorities. What is the role of the Regional Commissioners? What are they doing if that is not their role? The Regional Commissioner has become a no-man's land and his functions are becoming completely vague. Let us do away with him if he is not necessary. I am not tied to any nominated or regional organisation. I thought that this was a short-circuiting of authority and a simple form of executive authority. If we do not achieve that simpler form, if it makes for increased circulars and for fresh instructions having to go to one more person, then it does not simplify the machine. My right hon. Friend made many other remarks in his speech and dealt with many other questions about the commissioners, the Ministry of Health and the various parts of the Civil Defence machinery, and if they are all put together they contradict each other.
Last week we had a speech from the Minister of Health, and if we were not to have this Debate to-day I would have been left in despair. My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly asked for a re-classification of the areas. I have asked for that too. He asked for giving the counties control of evacuation and particularly of billeting—a sensible proposal and one which my right hon. Friend wishes had been adopted before. I never held the view that we should work these things through the smaller authorities. Perhaps I may be criticised for that, but I say it with complete sincerity. My hon. Friend also said—and I suppose he was speaking for his party—that he wanted a national survey of accommodation and a closer relation between priority classes and earmarked accommodation. The Minister of Health replied and said that there was full co-operation at the top and thoroughgoing co-operation at the regional level. He was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) about differences between the Service Ministries and the Ministry of Health and he said they went before a tribunal, a ministerial committee, and finally to the Cabinet. Do these differences really go to the Cabinet? When I asked what this committee was I was told that in an ensuing Debate this matter would be cleared up. My right hon. Friend said that there was no cut-and-dried plan and that county councils 225 were requested to act as co-ordinating authorities. Three weeks after a blitz on a certain city the authorities were called together for the first time. That is not good enough. He said that an interesting movement had begun in one area to obtain material support. What does he mean by an interesting movement? This is preposterous. How can you conduct a war when you have 16 councils each of which are billeting authorities, and yet county institutions are under the public assistance committees and the counties themselves? How can you go on working in that way? I know of cases where people were turned out of an institution in a rural district council area because the institution came under the public assistance committee. I could quote other instances but I do not want to do so because I think this question is known. I want action now and some changes. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health said:We shall not fail, in weighing up the lessons of the new concentrated technique, to see that no homeless person goes without accommodation.''I will ask no more about that. Finally, the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) put a series of questions both to the Minister of Home Security and the Minister of Health. I want to quote one. On the question of local authorities who fail to prepare for air raids, the reply in general was that there were regional officers whose duty was to sec that the best arrangements were made for dealing with such situations. The hon. Member asked what happened when local authorities failed to carry out their duties. The Minister of Health replied:I have no knowledge of any such case. I have been round ten of the Civil Defence regions in the last 14 weeks and I am sure if there had been a case of this kind I should have heard of it." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th May, 1941; col. 1975, Vol. 371.]I had to quote this because it does not make any sense. It does not square with the facts that we know. If the Minister of Health and the Minister of Home Security do not know these facts, then they need to get an intelligence and planning system. You need it; you need a very good one.
If this were a Secret Session, I would say more about it. I wish to ask the Minister of Home Security if he has got an adequate intelligence and planning 226 system. Is there any proper intelligence and planning system for the Ministry of Home Security as a whole? The Ministry of Food, in a pamphlet addressed to local authorities on British Restaurants, say that emergency feeding is not to be confused with British Restaurants. This sounds all right, but in practice what happens? Communal feeding is under the Ministry of Food and the local authorities. Emergency feeding and rest centres are under the Ministry of Health. School children are under the Board of Education. Factories are under the Ministry of Labour. Docks are under the Ministry of Transport. The time has come to put all subsidised State feeding under one direction. There is nothing difficult about it. A young girl known to me, who has been into one of the worst provided areas and made excellent arrangements, was told, by one of the officials—I suppose an echo of the Minister of Home Security—while she was making the arrangements, that she was undermining the local authority. This is an extraordinary situation, when we have cities where there is bound to be a quick change-over from normal to emergency. The essence of the problem is that people are buying and selling, children are being born, in areas which in a night are a battle field, while for three months there might be nothing happening there. You must have two things—a permanent nucleus of highly trained specialists, men who know their jobs, and who can in turn call on volunteers.
The best example is provided by teachers and rest centres. If the Minister will go to one of the counties he will find that the Director of Education is engaged in feeding 15,000, 20,000, 30,000 children. He has a staff with catering experience; the minor local authorities really have no such staff. He has got central purchasing organisation and transport. The Ministry of Food sends out circulars exhorting all local authorities to start British Restaurants without considering the existing facilities, resulting in the spending of a great deal more per capita than is spent by the Board of Education on their catering work. This dualism is causing the same friction that was caused over nursery schools. Can you imagine the attitude of mind, the strain and stress, of local officials who have had to put up with this organisation for month after 227 month? They do not know whether they are dealing with the Board of Education or the Ministry of Health for a specific area. There should be one organisation responsible for State-subsidised feeding, and private enterprise should be encouraged to get on with its own scheme. The whole should be submitted to the Regional Commissioner for his vetting.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Would the hon. Gentleman say whether that authority should be in his proposed Ministry of Civil Defence?
§ Mr. Lindsay
Certainly. Coming to local authorities, I must not be expected to go into too much detail. Civil Defence must obviously be the responsibility of one person who has oversight of the various emergency aspects of feeding, everything to do with billeting, rest centres and housing, with the aspects of transport which particularly affect blitzed cities, and with the repair of houses and all the main public utilities. You come down to the Regional Commissioner. At the moment—I want to be precise—the Regional Commissioner has no power over the Ministry of Health regional organisations. I admit that in many cases it is a question of persons. Persons are the essence of the problem. They do work happily together in some cases, but in many cases no arrangements can be made.
I put it to the Lord President of the Council or the Minister of Home Security, how can the Regional Commissioner know what is going on if he has not power to look into all Civil Defence questions? How can he know what is happening in regard to the many difficult questions arising in reception areas? In reception areas the war does not mean Bardia, Tobruk or Sollum, but three more people in the house, and if people have to feed for many months one child who has to pay and another who does not have to pay, that leads to the lowering of the morale on the civilian front. I am glad that the question of the under-fives has been settled, but in my view it has been settled the wrong way. I am absolutely convinced that they ought to be under the Board of Education, but I do not want to raise that point now because it is one for a separate Debate, for I feel 228 strongly upon it and so do most educationists. All these matters must be reported to the Regional Commissioner. How can the Regional Commissioner satisfy the Minister of Civil Defence that things are all right in his region if he cannot look into these various questions?
Now I come to the lower level. My right hon. Friend must be aware that at the county level, or at the group level, there are in existence perfectly good schemes. There is one in London, and in that case the essence of the business is that the man who is the controller is also responsible for the emergency social services. He has round him an O.C. Food, an O.C. Transport, an O.C. Works and Buildings and an O.C. Billeting. That scheme is working. It has come through several blitzes. They have had their rest centres and have cleared them in four days. I am not going to say where this has happened, but theirs is a perfectly good and practicable scheme. Why cannot it be repeated, with modifications, all over the country? I believe that every Regional Commissioner should take hold of his region and divide it up into target areas and into areas which are mostly for reception and put somebody in charge in each of those areas. That person will have at his beck and call a number of officers, and I am sure they will not consider themselves as being treated in an ignominious fashion because they are working with the deputy town clerk. I have discussed this matter with scores of them. The town clerk or the deputy town clerk does, in fact, give orders to them. I have inquired in rural district council areas and in urban district council areas, "How do you get on with the local officials?" and the reply has been," They are my deputy controllers. We get on perfectly well."
But there things had been carefully worked out and rehearsed. My right hon. Friend is only talking about rehearsals. It is in a circular which he has issued. [Interruption.] Well, at any rate he has been re-emphasising it. But these rehearsals have been going on for many weeks among authorities who really have a well-conceived plan. [Interruption.] If that is so, how is it that the arrangements—I cannot mention places—did not prove to be satisfactory? I know that when there are fires and when 229 high-explosive bombs are falling a lot of things which we are talking about here are pushed aside. I quite appreciate that position; but the organisation which I am talking about was not ready. I cannot mention places, but I am sure my right hon. Friend must admit it. I want to see these preparations completed. The hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink), whom I see in his place, was appointed several months ago for London, and I thought the rest of the regions were going to follow London. Why have they not done so? The problems are only different in degree. Why is there not someone with the position of the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon in other regions? Why is there nobody who has charge of the emergency social services in the other regions? If the Government cannot go the whole way, if we cannot have a Minister wholly concerned with Civil Defence Services, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he might go so far as to give us a Minister or an officer who is responsible right the way down the chain, from top to bottom, for the emergency social services; because everyone knows that when the injured have been put into hospital and the dead have been buried, when the "all-clear" has gone, that it is then that the problems start. It is the aftermath, the weary weeks and months that follow. German propaganda knows all about it, and there fore I am not revealing anything—
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
Will the hon. Member say what he meant a moment ago by his reference to an officer right down the chain?
§ Mr. Lindsay
In the Central secretariat which I wish my right hon. Friend to preside over, these services, which mainly concern certain aspects of education—but only certain aspects—certain aspects of feeding and rest centres, which affect teachers and directors of education, billeting and rehousing—will be represented at the top. In London the Regional Commissioner has either another Commissioner or a Deputy-Commissioner who is responsible for all this. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Croydon is responsible for co-ordinating work for the homeless throughout London, and there is no reason why there should not be such a Commissioner in Manchester, in Bristol or anywhere else. It 230 would save an enormous amount of trouble. When you get down to the county or group end there are the men waiting, the officers of the county: I would not go lower, but would leave the urban and rural district councils to be the agencies of the slightly bigger authorities. There would have to be a certain number of administrative changes, but I think they could be effected in an evolutionary way, and I do not want any drastic action which would upset the susceptibilities of local government in this country. "Susceptibilities" may be the wrong word, and possibly I should have said "traditions." We should have to work through the smaller local authorities acting as agencies.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us precisely what he wants to do with the local authorities, what powers he wants to take away and what he will leave them with?
§ Mr. Lindsay
Should a Regional Commissioner give an order to a local authority—probably he will be trying first to find out something—I believe that in most cases they will work happily together. But, it is asked, what will happen in other cases where we have to deal with a recalcitrant authority? I do not believe that the people concerned will object to his giving an order. He takes away no power with authority. The people who are the victims of the bad organisation do not object to that at all. It will not happen, except in a few cases. My hon. Friend can say that we get it anyhow, when the Regional Commissioner can take away the complete power, and that it has been done. I know, but will he be honest? It is a big thing to do. You can do it only in rare cases. I want a quicker day-to-day machinery for dealing with the matter.
If we go on as we are going at present, with four main Ministers—Home Security, Health, Education and Food—sending circulars to different local authorities, some to 300 and some to 1,200, I believe you can never get the efficient machinery for Civil Defence which we require. If my right hon. Friend thinks we can, I would ask him how he accounts for the widespread critical feeling. Is it just because things have been a bit more difficult than we expected? Why is it that letters are appearing, not about one aspect 231 only of Civil Defence but many aspects, and not in one paper only but in many papers? Is it because people are satisfied or because they feel that, underneath, there is something wrong with this fourth army and that it is not working properly? I do not say that the scheme which I put forward is watertight, and I will not give details right down to the last man, but I say that, in essence, one man ought to be held responsible, and Regional Commissioners should be given greater responsibility, especially for social services and emergency services, and greater control over billeting, food and all these matters. It is confusing and worrying to authorities who are understaffed—people have been removed from their offices and put as privates in the Army—when they have thousands of evacuees in their new areas. I can give instances to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education of officers who have gone. Let him consider the poor, wretched, welfare workers who have been sent down to cope with problems which, in many cases, are beyond human control. I have not mentioned the shortage of housing, because I do not want to say very much more. I have spoken far too long already. The Minister of Health knows only too well that people in London now, with children under five years of age, cannot get out because there is nowhere for them to go. I have that information on the best evidence from people who are living on the job, social workers in London. I do not want to go into the matter. I am sure the Ministry of Health know about it, and they must do something about accommodation, perhaps by rationing housing, or by hutments or the like, before the winter comes.
It is because I see these things not being done that I have been more critical to-day than perhaps I ought to have been. I see the camps about which we have spoken so much not being filled. My right hon. Friend says it is because of the ins and outs, the ebb and flow, but that is not the fact. The Secretary of State for Scotland said, "We are putting another 100in this week," but the weeks have gone by. The camps are ideal places and there is no reason why they should not be packed out and why there should be any empty places at all, but when people have gone from blitzed areas to the camps and 232 then have gone back to the blitzed areas, from those ideal surroundings, there must be something wrong.
I ask that the four Ministers, under the direction of the War Cabinet and the Lord President of the Council, will, before tomorrow night, give this matter their very closest and deepest attention. If they do, I believe they will be helping in a very signal way to win the war on the home front. It is a subtle business. It is not so spectacular as some things, but the people who are living 26 in a house and 10 in a room, as they are in many places —I do not want to underestimate the difficulties of accommodation—feel the pinch before the soldiers. They will feel the difficulties long before the people even in the bombed areas, where it is something to have been through it all, after weary days. I plead, with all the earnestness I can, for a simplification of the machinery of the Ministry of Health in all the reception areas of this country. Cut out more red tape than you have already cut, and make it more possible for officials—directors of education, town clerks and the rest who are working overtime—and women and children to go through the war with the deep conviction that they are fighting for better things.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Before my hon. Friend sits down can I ask him— [Interruption] —well, a serious allegation was made. The implication in my hon. Friend's speech was that it was not infrequent for there to be a three-months' delay in replying to letters to the Ministry of Home Security. I wish my hon. Friend would prove that statement. If it is so, I very much want to know, because there will be a row with somebody.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I want there to be a row with somebody. I quoted the case of a body of civil workers —
§ Mr. Lindsay
I quoted it as one case, but I said that there were other cases of letters which had not been answered. I said that either the machinery was getting clogged or my right hon. Friend had too big a job.
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Ramsbotham)
The Ministries of Home Security and Health are, of course, mainly and primarily concerned with the 233 subject matter of this Debate, but the hon. Member who has just sat down said that other Ministries were involved, including the Board of Education. It may be for the convenience of the House if I deal now with such references as were made to the Board, and leave aside the main thesis which he propounded, in order to clear the way for the more strictly relevant issues. This course may be more convenient to the hon. Member himself, whose administrative experience at the Board of Education formed the basis of some of the conclusions at which he arrived to-day. I shall not attempt to turn the Debate into a discussion of the Education Estimates or to make a long speech. I believe that numerous and long Ministerial speeches are not so welcome as the uninitiated might imagine they would be.
Two main points it appears to me arose out of the hon. Member's speech, one closely related to the other. The first was in connection with this fourth army, that there was not adequate co-operation, or quick enough co-operation, between the Departments concerned. Consequently, there must be some sort of remedy to provide greater unity of control and direction, and it was desirable to set up another Ministry. I think the hon. Member called it a Ministry of Civil Defence, presumably with the purpose—I use this word with reluctance—of coordinating the activities, in relation to Defence problems, of the Ministries at present concerned. Of course, the criticism of lack of co-operation between Departments is not a new one. It is of long standing, and I do not suppose it will ever be finally quelled. Indeed, the hon. Member himself, about a year ago, met similar criticism in the House of Commons on the education Debate. 1 heard his answer to that criticism, to which I am going to refer the House. He said:I could go into detail of how we ourselves, the Ministry of Home Security and the Ministry of Health are working together. It is easy to criticise this machinery, but all that I can say is that, though I do not go to the meetings, as far as I know the three Ministers meet most days." — [official report, 5th March, 1940; col. 344, Vol. 358.]That was his answer to the criticism of lack of co-operation at the centre, and as regards lack of co-operation at the circumference the regional officers are constantly working on the difficulties. I may develop 234 these points shortly. When I heard that speech of his, I felt a certain amount of sympathy for him, because I detected a note of sadness and reproach in the sentence, "I do not go to the meetings," and I took steps, when I assumed office, to avoid any similar feelings on the part of his successor, who invariably attends the Ministerial meetings on the appropriate occasions, which occur two and sometimes three times a week. I cannot help thinking that it is possibly because he did not go to these meetings himself—and it is a great pity he did not—that he makes his criticism, because if he had, he would have seen co-operation in actual practice. I do not say it is his fault, although it may be because he perhaps ought to have pressed to go, but if he had gone, he would have gained a very different idea of what co-operation between Ministers means from that he holds at present, because he has not had any firsthand experience of that particular form of working our machine, and I can assure the House it is a very valuable one. At least twice a week we meet under the chairmanship of the Minister of Home Security, with an agenda of points that concern us mutually, and we thrash them out. In 99 cases out of 100 they are settled, and, to answer a point which the hon. Member made, if there should be a clash between two Ministers or Departments which cannot be resolved by arrangements between them, then, of course, as everybody knows, such a dispute must in the last resort be taken to the War Cabinet for settlement.
§ Mr. Lindsay
May I interrupt a moment? I promise I will not do it again. I did not go into details, and I do concede that centrally high officials from each of the offices sit with the Minister two or three times a week, if not every day. But I had envisaged a permanent secretariat for Civil Defence, so that the circulars did not have to go round and round to three or four Ministers and then very often be sent out separately. That secretariat would issue instructions and send circulars direct to the commissioners. There is no such permanent secretariat at the present time, and I think that is partly the difficulty.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
Of course, machinery of that type takes a little time to digest, but at first sight I think that very great 235 confusion will arise if such a central secretariat were sending out circulars to various authorities without consulting with the Department which normally send those circulars out. I cannot see the point, but I will finish with the question of co-operation before I deal with that. I want to repeat to the House that, as the Minister of Health pointed out a few days ago, the method of co-operation adopted is very simple. There are few of us, not a great unwieldy committee, and we carry out our work expeditiously in great harmony. I think that so far as co-operation between Ministers is concerned it is a very satisfactory way of doing it. However, I do not suppose my hon. Friend will agree, because he wants something far more ambitious and, as I think, far more likely to clog the whole machine. I will say why. I also want to find out from him how, in his judgment, this is going to affect my Department, because he ought to be able to appreciate that better than any other. He wants a Minister of Civil Defence to be appointed with a secretariat, that is, I suppose, with a staff of civil servants competently informed and experienced in the work of the various Departments with which such a Ministry of Civil Defence would be concerned. I may say, in passing, that it is not too easy these days to obtain an additional staff of that kind. But that is what the proposal comes to, and I would like to ask him what the effect of that is going to be on the Department of Education.
I am concerned with what is to be my relation to the Minister of Civil Defence, and what is to be the relation of that Ministry to the local education authorities. Is that Ministry to step in between me and the local education authorities? Is it to take part of my work away and deal with it in direct relation with those local education authorities? According to some illustrations given by my hon. Friend, the latter appears to be the course to be adopted. For instance, he dealt with food, and said he wanted all subsidised services to be put under one control, presumably the control of this new Minister. Very well, but under existing methods in connection with school meals there are, as the House knows, free meals and meals that are paid for. I may say in passing that there has been a very great advance made in the number of school meals, 236 which is nearly double that of a year ago. The free meal, of course, is a subsidised meal. The others are paid for and are not subsidised. According to the hon. Gentleman, therefore, the Minister of Civil Defence would concern himself with subsidised meals and I should continue to deal with meals paid for by the recipients.
§ Mr. Lindsay
That is not the position. The Gilbertian situation exists now in any county or in any blitzed area in which there is no one in charge.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Of subsidised feeding. In many cases the educational secretary has had the work put on him because he has staff—domestic science teachers, etc. I want him, and I think it would be the natural solution, to take on that other work. But he must appoint someone; he cannot go on doing it himself. It seems to me that it is a perfectly natural liaison.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I should have to examine that carefully before I should be convinced that great confusion would not arise from it. I have gathered from certain articles by the hon. Member that he rather favours the stimulation of the use of teachers and so forth for communal feeding, but although they have done marvellous work, I do hope the position will not arise in which teachers will be kept away from their own work for that purpose.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I put it as a word of warning. A propos the Ministry of Civil Defence, it seems that the hon. Member finds it very difficult indeed to separate Defence work from the ordinary civil work. But to come back to the Board of Education: the Minister for Civil Defence could not concern himself with what you might consider primarily as emergency feeding arising out of enemy action, and, I suppose, possibly billeting and the evacuation of children—I am not sure. I do not know what part the Department of Education would play. Are we to be just a post office, or are we to have responsibilities of our own? I can see a first-class muddle arising in my Department as a result of this duplication of functions. I shall take a lot of convincing that matters can be made better 237 by superimposing a super-functionary on top of the existing Departments and splitting up the Departments. One activity dovetails into another. Perhaps in the course of the Debate the argument will be developed, but I should be very sorry indeed to split up these functions between two Ministries. At the present time the Ministries work perfectly well in co-operation.
The hon. Member referred to the nursery centres. Perhaps hon. Members are not entirely familiar with what has been done about nursery centres. I do not propose to give a long description now, but steps have been taken which it is hoped will greatly increase the number of war-time nurseries, as they are now called. I am surprised that the hon. Member, with his passion for co-ordination and planning, should think that this is wrong. I will give one instance which convinced me that it was right. I have watched the proposal with the most scrupulous care, because I was determined that if it in any way detracted from the educational responsibility I had over the children from two to five, I would resist it; and that, on the other hand, if I were satisfied that it did not do so, there was everything to be said for it. There were two authorities—the maternity and child welfare authority of the Ministry of Health, responsible for children of all ages up to five, and the Board of Education, with power to assist the local authorities in respect of children between the ages of two and five. To the planner, the co-ordinator, that was a most unsatisfactory state of affairs, and he ought to be glad that it has been removed In my judgment, all these; demands for unification and consolidation, or co-ordination, are very much overdone. There is a type of mind—quite a respectable type—which thinks we can settle a problem by putting somebody on top of those who are concerned with it.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
Yes, sending a circular is sometimes necessary. I do not think that the hon. Member has made out his case. I have said that we have a number of Ministers and their powers are carefully defined by Parliament. Those Ministers are closely co-operating. I cannot see the point of superimposing 238 another important functionary over them, to deal with a portion of their activities which it is extremely difficult to separate and to define. It sounds easy to draw up these plans. I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member, and have read his articles with great interest, but he will forgive me if I say that I am rather apprehensive of planners. Some planners have not conferred much benefit on the human race in the last 20 years. Also, the planners are inclined to be theoretical. I am not in any way attacking the hon. Member, but it has happened sometimes that when I have listened to him, and have read his articles, I think at the back of my mind, that when at school and at the University he got stuffed with the utilitarian philosophy and the "economic man," and that that has stuck to him ever since, without his realising that it is rather outmoded. The planner is apt to forget the nature of the person for whom he has to plan and the machinery and the instruments that have to be used in the planning. He is apt to regard humanity as a mass, and not to realise that it consists of individuals with a variety of tastes, who do not work like a clock or like the members of an antheap. I detect all through the hon. Member's articles and speeches a considerable inconsistency. On the one hand, he presses for unity of control, centralisation, consolidation, and so forth, and, on the other hand, for decentralisation and diffusion. I have his articles here. They contain recommendations for more regional commissioners as an essential part of our life. If that is not decentralisation I do not know what is.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
In peace-time as well. He is a planner, and a planner must think a little beyond the war— quite rightly. I never quite know—it is my own fault, of course—where the hon. Member starts and where he finishes. If I were asked to put down here and now, concretely, what we should do to carry out the hon. Member's proposal, I should, quite frankly, make a very poor shot at it. All I have is a general impression that what is required is some sort of a genealogical tree of bureaucrats, descending from the great man at the top down through a number of functionaries to the bottom. It rather reminds one of 239 the description of the word "mugwumpery," which has been defined as a gentleman sitting on the fence with his mug on one side of him and his wump on the other.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has certainly given us an excellent example of an academic oration. I have not heard a more academic oration for a long time or an oration more remote from the realities of war. While I do not agree with everything that was said by my hon. Friend in his opening speech, I think that the subject deserved more courteous treatment than has been given to it by the right hon. Gentleman, who has just amused himself by exercising his undoubted academic qualifications and showing what he could do. My remarks will be rather more blunt, because I am concerned only with the question of the organisation of Civil Defence and how the job can best be done. In order that we may realise what that job really is, we must form some kind of estimate of the danger that we have to meet. I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for descending to such mundane details. I want to deal with realities and not with superficialities with which he has been entertaining the House.
I suggest that, in future, attacks on this country may be more frequent than they have been in the past, more intense, prolonged and accompanied by air-borne invasion. [Interruption.] Somebody says that I am very cheerful. I am trying to focus the attention of the House on to the realities of this matter and not upon superficialities, and I cannot in that case be cheerful. I am doing this because it is essential that, in calculating what we ought to do with our Civil Defence services, we must calculate the risks that we have to meet, and, as is always done by the wise commander—and I hope that the Government is going to be the wise commander in this respect—we must estimate for a wide margin of unanticipated happenings and prepare against more than we think is likely to happen. That is always done in military calculations, and it should certainly be done in Civil Defence. I was not able to be present at the Debate yesterday, but I understand from what I have read and from what I have heard elsewhere as well as here that 240 some of the happenings in Crete were unanticipated. I hope that there will not be unanticipated happenings in this country for which Civil Defence is not adequately prepared. We ought to prepare and allow a margin for unanticipated new action of something like 100 per cent.
We have to have the very closest cooperation with the other services—all the social services and all the Fighting Services. Civil Defence needs liaison very badly indeed, and we must plan very much better in the future than we have done up to the present. I want to have the organisation for Civil Defence purposes which will work locally very well, regionally very well and on a national scale. We can have a service of that kind if we will organise it. We have had up to the present a good many Debates on Civil Defence over a number of years. None has been quite satisfactory, because there always have been loose ends left to be tied up. I hope that this Debate will end by getting the views of the House clear and definite, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in that respect. My own cards were put upon the table when I put a Motion on the Paper of the House. It still is on the Paper, but the economies of the House prevent it from being put in extenso, and therefore I will read the terms of it now. The Motion says:That in the opinion of this House all Civil Defence services "—I emphasise the words "Civil Defence services "—should be placed under the operational control of a Minister of Civil Defence without other duties charged to co-ordinate the activities of all local government authorities, and other agencies concerned, and that the services should include fire fighting, A.R.P., shelters, evacuation and the ambulance, medical and hospital services concerned with air-raid casualties.The right hon. Gentleman opposite will notice that I did not mention educational services. I have not these services in mind. My hon. Friend has put his name down to that Motion, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith), who is not now present, and in normal circumstances, if I had been as free as I would like to be for Parliamentary duties, I would have pressed to have that Motion debated, because I believe that it puts the matter into focus and would have enabled me, if it had been 241 presented, to get a clear and definite expression of the views of the House. Since that Motion was put upon the Paper the arguments in favour of a Ministry of National Defence have been very much strengthened by a publication which I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not mention, and that is, the Fourteenth Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, and I would like to quote for his benefit and that of the House in general parts of paragraphs 116 and 117 dealing with the administration of Civil Defence. The Committee say that they are convinced that some of the shortcomings with which they have dealt in their Report are due to certain fundamental weaknesses in the administrative machine, and they mention some of these things. They say that the Departments issued circulars which were often difficult to interpret, that these were sent to authorities whom they did not concern, and that they were too numerous to be effective. That is the opinion of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, a responsible body, which, I have no doubt, we all respect. They came to the conclusion in paragraph 120 that:The proposal that Civil Defence should be the responsibility of a single Ministry has much in its favour and secures the obvious advantage of concentrating the energies of a single Minister unburdened with other responsibilities.They go on to say that they recommend that further consideration should be given to this possibility and that there should, in any case, be a decentralisation of Civil Defence, devolving the functions of Civil Defence on to the Regional Commissioners. I want freely to examine that proposal, and to say at the outset how proud we all are of our Civil Defence services; as proud as we are of our Army, Navy and Air Force. We talk of their heroism and are glad to see in the Press that they are given awards for their great gallantry. But while talking of their heroism we do not always provide them with the means of efficient action—with the tools, to use the Prime Minister's phrase, which they need, and we do not provide them with the organisations which they need in all cases. In this case it is not America who must provide the tools, but we must provide them, and provide the organisation which at the present time is not provided. The Civil Defence services should be as well- 242 equipped, organised, staffed, directed and looked after as the Fighting Services, and at present they are not, and those who are engaged in the Civil Defence services know it, and it is no secret to the Germans. A man in the fire-fighting services at the present time, if he is sick for three weeks, is discharged without a pension and left to his own devices. If he is injured, if, for instance, he breaks a leg or falls from a ladder, while on active duty, he is discharged in 13 weeks and left to his own devices. I say this is quite indefensible, and that these men should be put on exactly the same footing as serving soldiers. They should get hospital treatment until they are well and when fit should be returned to their service or, if they are not fit, retired on a pension or a gratuity, as the case may be. But that kind of organisation is bad and needs to be brought to an end.
The present condition is that the Civil Defence services are really an adjunct of local and Government administration. They are not services primarily for action. Let me quote from an article in the "Times" on 16th May which deals with organisation against air attack. In its opening words it says:Air attack is an act of war. Its consequences must be met and fought on the same plane. How much longer are we to keep up the pretence that daily invasion from the air and the crushing down of our large cities can be treated as a new department of local government and tacked on to normal peace administration?I think that is a fair and accurate expression of the view of the country as a whole with regard to the Civil Defence services. There are no real guts; there is no real action in this business. There is too much administrative muddle and this, unfortunately, is characteristic, to a large extent, of all Departments. I am quoting nothing which is not already in the report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. The work done by our defences is magnificent, but are we giving our defence workers the support they have the right to demand? Are we getting the defence which the country has a right to demand? The answer to both questions is "Not enough." Lives which could be saved are lost through the lack of equipment and organisation, and in the Report of the Committee they say, with regard to repair and provision and breakdown parties, that there has 243 been an insufficient provision of these parties with a consequent loss of life. Unfortunately, that is known to be the case.
Let us look at some other definite and concrete problems which must be tackled. I have mentioned the breakdown and repair parties on which rescue depends. There have been deficiencies, as is quite well known; there have been not enough people and appliances, and lives have been lost. With regard to stretcher parties, ambulances and hospital organisation, which for some mysterious reason are administered under two separate Departments, I hope the Minister will not say they ought to be separated. They ought to be joined. They have done admirable work, but not always with the co-operation which is necessary. There is not always co-operation between the Ministry of Home Security and the Ministry of Health. There is not always knowledge of what resources of help are actually waiting and available for use if only they were called upon. Valuable lives have been lost because of these difficulties and muddles. I do not want to refer too much to gas, except to say that there is a possibility that the enemy may use gas. Let us hope there will not be muddles and inefficiency in dealing with that, because it is a menace that will be very considerable indeed. There is another aspect of the matter altogether— the loss of manpower. The lack of organisation at present leads to a very large amount of waste labour. Many people are employed unnecessarily in various services because of the lack of co-ordination and co-operation. How much is there waste of material and money? In all of these things there is a great deal of waste of man-power, material and money.
It is apparently the opinion of some people that the regional organisations will help us out of our difficulties, but you do not get rid of difficulties merely by invoking a regional organisation. If you lack co-ordination and co-operation between different services which make up Civil Defence as a whole, you do not get rid of your problem by handing over that lack of organisation to the region.
It may be easier for the region to control it on a small scale, but you must get rid of your lack of co-ordination and cooperation within, both nationally and 244 locally, before your work will be better. The region primarily was not designed for this purpose at all; it was designed as a local expression of government as a whole— decentralised—in case of invasion or a breakdown of communications, so that government could be carried on in the regions in which the whole country has been divided. I want better organisation inside the regions than you have in the national Departments, because clearly they have not all the tremendous reserves and expert and technical knowledge that the Government Departments have at their disposal. You want good organisation in the regions; you will not get rid of your problems by "passing the buck" to the regions.
I believe we need a Ministry of Civil Defence for the operational control of the services. I would like to make it clear to the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and to others, that operative control and administrative control are two entirely different things. The control of men in action is a different thing from pure administration of them from the standpoint of a Government Department. The suggestion of a change from the top to the bottom was laughed at, but suppose I put the question in different language. Suppose I say, "You want a definite chain of command from the Minister at the top to the humblest worker in Civil Defence." Is there anything foolish about that? That is the procedure on which all the Fighting Services are based. You want that procedure, and you have not got it at the present time. Operational control is a different thing from administrative control. I do not want to interfere in the least degree with the normal functioning of local government in this country. I am firmly convinced, and have been all my adult life, of the supreme advantage of these institutions. I know from my former close association with the London County Council, and now from my association as member for the borough which I have the honour to represent with the Islington Borough Council, the invaluable work that these organisations carry out. It is local government authorities who call for this operational control, it is they who want clear directions, it is they who want to get rid of this chaos of circulars sent to the wrong people, addressed to the wrong places, and containing instructions which nobody can understand. 245 I do not intend to make more than a passing reference to the mess which has been made of the fire-watching business. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, by failing to issue proper directions, has caused very great trouble not only in London but all over the country. The responsibility is entirely his, because he did not realise the necessity for a definite chain of command. How have the people of London and other places dealt with the matter? They have said that they would not have the lack of system and that they would carry on the work themselves as volunteers, independently of the Home Secretary's system. I hope this will shame him into bringing about some reasonable order, as I believe he is now trying to do.
But in any case, if no other changes are made in regard to Civil Defence, the Departments which make up the operational Civil Defences are undoubtedly a whole-time job for one man. In times of peace, the Home Office was a senior Department of dignity and importance and was regarded as whole-time employment for one Minister. I believe that in war time many other things are added to the work of the Home Office. It seems to me that the Minister of Home Security ought not to be at the same time Home Secretary. The Minister in charge of Civil Defence should be a man devoting the whole of his time to the operational side of the business. I should like to see a Minister of Civil Defence provided with an operational staff having the same authority, but not the same numbers, as those provided for the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. Civil Defence is the fourth arm. It is time to give up, saving so, and to treat it as so. The Minister should be given what he requires to carry out his extremely important job, and he should be given authority to deal with all the Departments that are concerned. I put forward for consideration the suggestion as to whether the chief of that staff should be, not a civil servant, but a general from the Army, on the active list, a man who is accustomed to the operational control of men and not only accustomed to the issuing of circulars. Civil Defence is, or should be, operational and not administrative.
I realise that there are very many matters of the greatest importance with which I have had not time to deal; there are so many of these matters that I suggest 246 it is perhaps impossible to deal with all of them even in a two days Debate. I believe that the question of the proper organisation of Civil Defence is of as vital national urgency as the question of the invasion of Crete, which was discussed in a previous Debate, and that it ought to be considered from the operational point of view. I say that with the utmost sincerity and conviction. The suggestion I make is that a small Committee of this House should, be set up to consider the whole question of the functions of a Ministry of Civil Defence in the light of what will be said by hon. Members who speak in the Debate and by the Ministers who reply to the Debate, and in the light of what has been said by the Select Committee on National Expenditure; I suggest further that such a Committee should be charged with the preparation of a plan or the turning down of a plan, and that they should present a report within a very short period, say, a limit of three weeks. Much of the evidence has been collected already by the Select Committee on National Expenditure and very much more is available in the Departments. The keynote of the question should be—how can we best obtain, not administrative control, but operational control, of a Service that is vitally necessary for the safety of the people of this country, vitally necessary for the carrying on of our industries, vitally necessary in the Battle of Britain, which is now entering upon a new phase? I do not want to displace local government, but inside local government I want to build a steel frame of Civil Defence services, leaving local government intact but placing all the power of local government at the disposal of an operational Ministry of Civil Defence.
Mr. Craik Henderson(Leeds, North-East)
The speeches to which we have listened so far in the Debate have dealt with what one might call the higher and wider aspects of Civil Defence. I want merely to deal with one or two smaller but still important matters. I realise fully the difficulties of the Ministry and the enormous complexity of the problems they have to face. In the beginning they had to improvise services, but now that the war has gone on so long, we have passed that stage, and the services have to be treated as more or less permanent and the conditions of labour have to be 247 dealt with on that basis. To give one example only—and this is the first point that I want to raise—I will refer to the conditions of the employés at some of the report and control centres. I have seen these centres in many parts of the country. In some places the conditions are good, but in others they are unsatisfactory. At many of the centres the local authorities have adapted their own premises. The ventilation is most unsatisfactory.
I gather that usually the average number of hours which the women at these centres have to work is about 56 a week, provided that there is not one day's holiday in the week. If it is the intention of the Ministry that these women, whose work is, in the conditions under which they work, of an exhausting nature, should get one day off a week, there can be no complaint, but I am told that, in fact, they very often get one day off only in two or three weeks. I think the Minister will find that in these conditions the health of these workers will deteriorate, if it has not already deteriorated. I appeal to the Home Secretary or to the Minister of Health to carry out an inspection. What may have been all right at the beginning, when there had to be improvised accommodation, is not all right now. I assure the Minister, from my own observations, that a great many of these places are not up to the standards that would be insisted on in an ordinary factory. To put the matter at the very lowest, in the interests of the service and of efficiency, quite apart from justice to the women who are doing this very difficult job, the standard of working conditions at the centres should be at least up to the standard required in the factories. These women, too, have to do one week of night duty in every three weeks, working 10 hours on each night of that week. Unless there is a yellow or a red warning, a proportion of them—say, at least one-half—can be rested, but at a great many of the centres there is no provision of beds or bunks, and they have to rest on chairs. I appeal to the Minister to give some attention to this problem and to the working conditions at these centres.
The second point to which I wish to refer relates to fire-watching, particularly in factories. This question has been causing great concern to those who have 248 any connection with fire-watching. It is causing concern both to local authorities and to firms, because of the lack of clear and definite instructions. Order No. 69, of 1941, seemed to lay down quite clearly in general terms that this was a compulsory service, but I will give the House an example of what has been happening within my own experience. It concerns a first-class firm where the employers relationship with the workmen is of an exceptionally good character. When the scheme was brought out a committee of the workmen was appointed and the scheme was adjusted. It was submitted to the whole body of workmen, and there was no dissent. The scheme was put into operation, and, to begin with, it worked well. But there were one or two absentees. This was reported, but no action was taken, and since then the position has deteriorated until the fire-watching in that particular firm has become unsatisfactory.
That is only one example, but in many firms the position is a great deal worse. I have no doubt myself, from reading the Order, that fire-watching was intended to be compulsory, but the feeling is held by a great many firms that there is some doubt about it. For the information of the business community and of local authorities, I ask the Government to make a definite statement that this fire-watching is compulsory, and to state the date when it becomes compulsory. I take it that it becomes compulsory when the particular scheme is approved by the approving authority. If that is so, what percentage of the schemes submitted have been approved? In many large cities no schemes have been approved at all, and therefore fire-watching is not compulsory. I appeal to the Minister to adopt some method by which schemes can be approved quickly and put into execution quickly. It is not that workmen do not wish to bear their full share, but what they do not like is to be compelled to fire-watch, when X, Y and Z are getting off. They want some definite instruction from the top, as to what their duties are, and if these schemes are approved employers and employés will know where they are. I think the reason why many of these schemes have been held up, is because the authorities want to discuss water supply and other matters. But if they are satisfied with the question of 249 personnel, I suggest that schemes should be approved, and that these other points should be dealt with later on.
Another point arises in connection with this Order and the explanatory Memorandum. Those concerned do not know exactly what are the conditions of remuneration. Unfortunately, I have not a copy of the Memorandum with me, but that Order refers to allowances for refreshments, reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, and allowances for additional travelling expenses. One would have thought that there was no doubt about the intentions of the Order, and that this was to be an unpaid service, subject to certain allowances for refreshments, travelling and out-of-pocket expenses. I am told, however, that some firms are paying as high as 15s. a shift for fire-watching, when within a few hundred yards there are other firms trying to carry out the terms of this Order by paying 3s. in lieu of refreshment. What is the result? The firm which is trying to carry out the terms of the Order has a resentful body of employés. They do not understand why people in other firms are getting 15s. a shift while they are being offered only 3s., and in the same way confusion, dissatisfaction and trouble, arise. I appeal to the Minister to lay down in specific terms the allowances to be paid for fire-watching, and to make it universal throughout the country. If he does so he will go a long way to getting over fire-watching troubles.
In that Order, too, it is stated that there shall be exemption for those who are engaged on vital war work and are employed for exceptionally long hours. The Minister has suggested that the test might be 60 hours or over. Does that mean that a man whose week exceeds 60 hours is not to be available for duty as a fire-watcher during his ordinary working hours, because that view is being held and put forward? Again, this question of a 60-hour week is going to present a great deal of difficulty to the exemption authorities. At the time of exemption, a man may have been working 61 to 63 hours a week, but subsequently the number of hours he works may drop to a much shorter period. In certain industries, such as the engineering industry, men are working over 60 hours a week, but I am told from a very responsible quarter that the amount of fire-watching which would fall to a man 250 working over 60 hours a week could be so arranged in many firms that he did not do more fire-watching than seven hours per month. I do not think that would be an unreasonable demand as part of that time would be spent during his ordinary working hours. I appeal to the Minister to deal with this fire-watching problem at once. It is a matter which cannot stand delay. I beg him to make it perfectly plain that the Order is compulsory from the time a scheme is approved, and I ask him to adopt some method by which approval can be given quickly. I appeal to him to issue his instructions in clear and unambiguous terms, and to apply them throughout the whole country. I ask him to do so quickly, because the situation is chaotic in many respects and has great inherent dangers. I hope he will give attention to it.
§ Mr. Muff (Hull, East)
It has been said that what we should aim at is something operational rather than administrative. I should like the House to consider, not the academic dissertation which was given earlier in the best and truest traditions of the Oxford Union, but what is actually happening and what has happened in Yorkshire, where the Regional Commissioner, no doubt, has many difficulties to overcome and many operational and administrative duties to perform. I am all the more glad to be able to do so because, I believe, the "Yorkshire Post," a paper which circulates in Yorkshire— [An HON. MEMBER: "From Trent to Tweed "]—sent its star reporter to interview the Lord Mayor of Plymouth. He is a very distinguished gentleman. He was co-opted as Lord Mayor not because of his knowledge of municipal administration but owing to other great qualities, and he has bitten the "Yorkshire Post" with the bug that we must have a super-gauleiter. From Trent to Tweed we are not in favour of being gauleited, or even super-gauleited.
§ Mr. Muff
He used the equivalent. But let us see what has been done in Yorkshire during actual blitzes. For a start 251 we were fortunate in having an old Member of the House as Regional Commissioner. He was a jolly good contact-maker, and one of the great qualifications of a Regional Commissioner is to be good at making contacts. I found in a very short time that he knew most of the town clerks and other public officers by their Christian names. Now that he has gone, I wish to pay tribute to him, and to add that the new Regional Commissioner also possesses those great qualities. We have been told that there must be co-operation. Yorkshire has its great townships and cities, with their local jealousies. Even before the fire brigade business was brought before the House, the fire brigade services of Yorkshire had been co-ordinated, and in the great attack upon a town in Yorkshire those fire brigades did their work magnificently. I want to mention how, in the matter of the reconditioning of houses, the great cities, and also the West Riding County Council, made their contribution by sending out what are affectionately known as the Leeds gang, the Bradford gang, and the Sheffield gang to recondition houses, and 15,000 houses were reconditioned in 15 weeks, which is no mean achievement. During the great attack, by 2.30 a.m. the preparation of breakfasts had begun though the place where breakfast was being made had been blitzed. Four thousand hot breakfasts were ready and distributed by 5.30 in the morning and 15,000 hot dinners were distributed by lunch-time.
§ Mr. Muff
I am very glad. It is an honourable competition and I want to keep up with the Noble Lady. The West Riding County Council has built up a great machinery and it provided over 200,000 meals in 10 or 12 days. It provided mobile kitchens, because unfortunately in one place some of the mobile kitchens had been destroyed, and some of the food had been destroyed. The food was brought and was cooked on the way. So I could go on. In 12 days 367,000 meals were provided by the British Restaurants. We call -them National Restaurants, because they have been in existence since the last war. They provide for the feeding of children and 252 can be called upon in emergencies to feed others as well.
The Regional Commissioner has been into one or two of the blitzed areas almost every week since he turned up. I went with him into a badly blitzed area. We walked about the streets. Many of us were dirty, and certainly the poor women were grimy as a result of the salvage work they were trying to do. I asked the Commissioner whether I might tell the women that he had come down himself just to see what was happening, and he said, "Yes." I think it was the first time that he had indulged in street corner oratory, especially in such conditions. He made a moving speech and then we had the perfect vote of thanks from a woman who said, "We have nothing but gratitude for the services which have been rendered to us by the community. I have got what money could not buy,'' and that was a loaf of bread. I thought that was a lovely vote of thanks. We also had a visit from a great American banker who brought with him a cheque to try to help the great distress. He went into the streets as Well. We did not go in for town hall lunches or speech-1 making. We went into the wreckage of a house. A woman was there just about to start in labour with a baby. We got her away. I said, "I hope", if it is a boy, you will call him ' Franklyn Delano Smith,' "and I hope they did so, in View of the cheque that we got.
There is some talk to the effect that if other Regional Commissioners were doing their job of work as well as it is being done in Yorkshire there should be no need for the Lord Mayor of Plymouth to rush into print or to put in either Lord Trenchard or anyone else. We shall not part with but municipal traditions, or our county council or even our urban district council traditions, very lightly. The great trouble before the war was the stone-walling at the Ministry of Health. The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) stonewalled us. I took a scheme to the Ministry on 28th September, 1938. It was complete even to the tin openers, but we were stonewalled. On 20th July, the following year, we went in despair to the Ministry and presented our scheme to them, but they said, "You cannot have blankets, and you have too many centres. You have 90 centres for your city, while London is asking for only 253 70."We needed those rest centres in my city. We do not want strangling with red tape from the Ministry of Health. There has, however, been an improvement with the change in the "high-ups." We want, not red tape, but a Regional Commissioner able to make quick decisions. One calamity occurred, not because of any local circumstances, but because of the Ministry of Supply, and we had not the power to shift certain articles. Give the Regional Commissioner more executive power and allow him to co-operate with the people in our urban, municipal and county authorities. The people themselves know the councillors and aldermen, not a good-looking lot in the main, but they are there to be interviewed and shot at. If the Government interfere with local powers and suppress them, it will be most ill-considered. I appeal to them to continue to seek for that loyal cooperation which has been given in the past. We have shown in our county, at any rate, that We can surmount the difficulties. We are not Coming here to cry stinking fish, for we believe there is something grand and good in our local administration.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I am glad the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) mentioned the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, because not only this House but the country ought to be grateful to him. Unless we had made a row after the first Plymouth blitz, we should not have had a State service. Then we are called gauleiters. I like that, coming from a Labour Member. I do not want to quarrel with the hon. Gentleman, but I thought that he would have cried for a State service.
§ Viscountess Astor
You have nothing of the kind. It is no good talking nonsense like that, and for Labour people to complain about a State service is a little too hot. I have heard inspired statements ever since we pressed for a State fire service—that the Astors were the first of the gauleiters, Nazis, Fascists and everything else. Now we are to have a State service. The war has a curious effect on some people, and a blitz has an even more curious effect. Nobody is more proud of local authorities or believes in them more than I do, but there is a right time and place for everything, and how anyone who 254 has been through a blitz can say that everything can be left to the local authorities I do not understand. I do not blame the Government for not having known what to do after one town had been blitzed, or even after two had been blitzed. Until a town has been blitzed nobody knows how he will act. Some of the bravest people shake, and some people who were thought cowardly are fearless. You ought to be grateful if you do not shake. There is no question of courage; it is something to do with nerves, and you cannot blame the people. But why the Government, after a first and second blitz, did not do something more active about home defence, is a mystery to me. For instance, were the Regional Commissioners allowed to get together and discuss their experiences? If they did get together and had some plans and if the Minister of Home Security turned them down, we ought to know.
We have got to wake up, because there is something definitely wrong. After towns have Seen burned We are at last to have a State fire service. I do not think that is enough, however. We must have not only a State fire service, but far greater co-ordination and co-operation between the boroughs and the county authorities. That never happened until we had the trouble down our way. Why did not the Regional Commissioners see to this?
§ Viscountess Astor
I know Yorkshire, and I am suspicious of people who say that everything is beautiful in the garden. We have too much of that. Things are not beautiful in the garden. I know things that have happened in Yorkshire, and you would not like me to say what they are. Our record in Plymouth is better than most. We reconditioned more houses in a quicker time, although we did not do it by ourselves. We had help. Although we did well, however, we could have done far better if the Government after the first, second or third blitz had had some plans to deal with blitzes and the appalling social problems that come after them. Members of the House of Commons knew about these regional problems. Why did they not talk about them instead of waiting and letting things get as bad as they are? I want to know why there is no co-ordina- 255 tion between counties and boroughs. For instance, people go to rest centres in the county but the boroughs have no control over them; there is not enough co-operation between the county and borough authorities. That ought to be looked into by the Government. They cannot be so complacent about it. The Minister of Education says that he has no plan. Surely it must have been a very impromptu speech, because he knows that you would get no education without a plan.
There must be more foresight and planning. At last we have a central fire-fighting service now and must have far more central organisation if we are to face this winter. I know the courage and endurance which are shown and the wonderful work that is done in every blitzed town. I know how well the people can take it, but there will come a breaking point unless there is better organisation. I agree with the man at Bristol who, when an American asked, "How long do you think you can take it?" replied, "One week longer than the Germans." I am not one of those, like the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who talks about losing the war. That has never entered my mind, and I have never met anybody who thought we could lose the war. We are, however, taking grave risks with our civil population unless we have a better plan for the winter than we have had so far, and I wish to ask the Government whether any of the Regional Commissioners after the first, second, or even the third blitz said that certain things ought to be done, and why they were not done. The House of Commons ought to know. Now you can slightly criticise the Government without being called a fifth columnist, which is such a relief. Are the Government going to say that there is enough co-operation between the county authorities and the boroughs?
One of the real problems of blitzed towns is billeting, not inside but outside the town. If the billeting officers are rural or urban officers, they cannot do the job. How can they go to the people they know and tell them they must take other people into their houses? They just do not do it. It ought to be done by the county or region. I hear talk of great difficulty about large houses stand- 256 ing empty, but that is not the problem; it is the small houses. Owners do not want billetees, and who can blame them? One of the dreadful things about this war is having one's home life invaded. This is a woman's war, and one of the reasons why it is not being more effectively waged is because you have not more women in the Government. I have noticed from my experience in Plymouth that often men have not seen the conditions. There is too much manliness about this Government. I want a little more womanliness; I want a little more common sense about it. I have often noticed that men just write out an order and think that the job is done. A woman will not do that; she chooses to see that the job is done. Take the question of billeting. Billeting officers in most cases are men. They really ought to have some co-operation with the women of the localities, who could help them enormously. I have never heard of a woman being a billeting officer. [hon. members: "There are hundreds."] Head billeting officers?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
I cannot tell the Noble Lady that, but I would almost say that in the majority of cases the people who actually arrange and do the billeting, find the homes, and introduce the children to the homes, are women.
§ Viscountess Astor
I am asking whether there is a head billeting officer who is a woman. You cannot tell me, because you have not got one. I know the women are doing all the work, but if any head jobs have been given to women, I have not found one yet. I have found the men doing the bossing and doing it pretty badly. Let the Government remember that they should not rely on the billeting officer of a small rural area; it must be the county. I beg them to keep that well in mind. As for the suggestion that the Minister of Health had offered to make Plymouth an evacuation area and that we had turned that down, twice the Lord Mayor of Plymouth asked that Plymouth should be made an evacuation area, and twice this proposal was turned down. The problem of some of these targets when there is a blitz is that one finds that the billets outside are full of people from other parts of the country. There is no place for the people who have to be evacuated from the targets. That is because there has 257 been no central planning, no vision. In certain areas, if blitzes continue, I believe you will have to recall people who have been put in reception areas adjoining targets. Take the case of Londoners, for instance, evacuated to Cornwall and Devon. You may have to take them away, and those people will have to go to Wales or Scotland or elsewhere. You cannot expect—
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
Why say Scotland? There is not enough accommodation to take children from the City of Glasgow. If things are bad in Plymouth, do not make them worse elsewhere.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am quite certain about Glasgow's problem. I am told I cannot get these people evacuated. I cannot answer for other cities, but I know something of Glasgow.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am speaking about Glasgow, which I know something about, and the Noble Lady does not.
§ Viscountess Astor
I was only speaking of the hon. Member. It was put to me by a person who has been all round— I do not know it myself—that in the Highlands of Scotland there are plenty of areas where people might be sent. It is certainly a very stupid policy, if you know a town is a likely target, to fill the surroundings with people from distant parts. You ought, in the very beginning, to have kept a ring about that town, to which, if a blitz came, the people could be moved. It was lack of foresight on the Government's part. I do not suppose they are so complacent as they look. I do not think it would be possible. I see them smiling broadly when people are making speeches. It is a brave smile, to keep up courage; I am glad they have it. Where an area has been bombed there have been instances of people not having been given billets for weeks.
258 I am becoming even more distressed by the absence of planning by the Minister of Health with regard to children. There is something to answer for that I would not like to have to do. Before the war began we went to the Minister of Health and the President of the Board of Education and gave them a plan for children between two and five years. We realised it would be difficult later on to evacuate them. I am not one of those people who believe in compulsory evacuation of children under two years. I do believe in compulsory evacuation of children out of shelters. That ought to be done. But I know as a woman and a mother that it is not so easy. Voluntary evacuation of children of from two to five years could have gone on and does go on when you can offer mothers adequate reception facilities—nursery schools—and guarantee that the children will be looked after. We told them that they could get voluntary helpers and trained women. We told them that they would have to have communal feeding in the villages. They turned it down. They have done nothing until pushed and pressed. What we need is a little more lead. We should not always have to press the Minister of Health and the President of the Board of Education. They ought to be giving a lead to the country. I read with horror that the Minister of Labour wanted "minders" for the children in Lancashire and in Yorkshire. By this, when women go to work, they would leave their children with someone for a payment. I would remind the House that the prevalence of rickets where the system has been tried is high.
When we heard that the Minister of Labour was suggesting that minders should be found, we thought there would be uproar about it, but I have not heard of much, except from a few women's organisations. It is a dreadful thing to do. One of the greatest crimes that we can commit at the present time is to allow any preventable disease to continue. Rickets in children is responsible for a great deal of discomfort in after-life, and only after every other resource has failed should children be left to minders. I can quite understand the position which arises when it is necessary suddenly to ask 60,000 women to go into industry, but the Minister of Labour should not have been allowed to recommend minders 259 until the Ministry of Health had combed the whole countryside to provide accommodation for the children—taken over large houses and small houses and put the children in those houses under conditions where they would get proper care and attention and all the necessary food and recreation.
One of the real tragedies is that there have been too many men in the Ministry of Health and too many men in the Ministry of Education, and I must say that the one lady in the Ministry of Health does not understand children. I do not want to be rude; it is not her fault. I am not blaming her. I have often said that the greatest work ever done for children was done by single women, for instance, Margaret Macmillan. I am not blaming her, but this particular lady does not happen to be interested in children— [Interruption.]—If you had been interested in children, you would have done far more.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
It is pleasing to look up the Official Report and to see the great compliment which the Noble Lady paid me when I was bringing in a Bill for the adoption of children. On that occasion she said she complimented me, said that single women had done a great deal for children and there here was another instance of it. Perhaps the Noble Lady will read that, and then I hope she will regret what she has said.
§ Viscountess Astor
I have looked at the record since you have been in the Minis try of Health, and there is not a woman in this House who will not say that when you got into the Ministry of Health we all thought that you would make the children your first problem. You know perfectly well—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I would remind the Noble Lady that when she says "You" she is addressing me.
§ Viscountess Astor
I am not blaming you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. But we all know that there is a plan for dealing with children in residential nurseries, and we wonder why that plan has not been brought forward before. No one who was really interested in children would have neglected the opportunity. The men there think that because they have 260 one woman at the Ministry everything possible has been done. [Interruption.] If you were my sister—I beg pardon—if the hon. Lady were my sister, I would say the same thing. In politics and in public life one cannot be influenced by friendship. In public life one has to take note of who are doing things and who are doing them properly. That is why I am so worried when people say, "How dare you attack the local authorities?" Local authorities are perfectly good in peace-time, but I do not for a moment consider that I am less of a democrat than anybody in the country when I say there are certain things which local authorities cannot do in war-time. They cannot do them, because the problems are not local concerns but national concerns. For another thing, how often do people get on to local authorities for party reasons? They get elected because they have served the party, and sometimes they are there because they are hard up for a job. [Interruption.] There are a good many Members who might be doing better in their constituencies than some of them are doing, but I am not going into that, because "dog does not eat dog."
. Really, there is a war on. An hon. Member asks, "Where?" There has been a war on in Plymouth, certainly, for two years. Never a ship goes down, but there is suffering in Plymouth. No one can live in a port without feeling intensely the sorrows of war. That leaves one with very little regard for personal feelings when it comes to public affairs. Personal friendships have to be wiped out. I beg the Minister of Home Defence, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Labour to remember that the first thought—ahead of the soldiers and sailors and airmen—should be the care of the children of the country. If the children are properly looked after, it will do more to stiffen up the troops than any other single thing we can do. Men who have come back from service almost broken would go back gladly if only they knew that their children were looked after. In Plymouth we have always tried to maintain every interest associated with the welfare of the children. I tell the Minister of Health that he must make more effort to get those 42,000 children under five years old out of London—those that want to go. Further, the Government must make greater efforts in Lancashire and Yorkshire to provide 261 nursery centres and nursery residential schools in preference to turning over children to minders. I thought the idea of minders for children had gone years ago. It never occurred to me that we should ever hear of them again.
I do not attack the Government for fun. I think it is dreadful to have to do it. We all want to stand up for the Government, but we should try to strengthen it where it needs strengthening. That is what I call being loyal—strengthening the Government where it needs strengthening, criticising it when it needs to be criticised, and helping in every way we can. The only thing is that we must not be complacent, as the Minister of Home Security is about Civil Defence. We shall have to be wide awake in the coming winter. There are a great many things that can be done in the way of providing rest centres, shelters, and food, and we must be ready to help any town that has been blitzed. It seems to me that people do not realise the weariness of the local authorities. It is not the case that they are unwilling to do things, but they get tired and worn out. One of the things which has been a great inspiration to me is to see the way in which the people take losses. Their houses and everything they have got may have been lost to them, but I can truthfully say that I have seen no wavering anywhere. The other day I came up from the West of England with five mothers who were returning from a visit to their children. I wish I could give the individual story of each woman. The husband of one had been badly wounded in the last war, and died five years ago. Every one of them had some tragic story. They all lived in bombed areas of London. I asked them, "Have you heard of anyone giving in?" They all answered "No," but one woman added, "Well, yes, there was one woman who said she wished Hitler were coming. And, my goodness, we did deal with her."
In my opinion the spirit of the country is so far ahead of the spirit of the Government that there is no comparison. Look at the Minister of Home Security: frightened to say "Boo" to a goose. Nobody is more frightened of the local authorities than he is. They can go on making one blunder after another before they are pulled up. I do not find that in my town. I find that people are not really interested in politics at all. They 262 are interested only in getting things done. They do not care who does them. They are not so sensitive about democracy. They know perfectly well that when the war is over we shall be free. I do not think anybody is frightened that an Englishman or a Scotsman, or even a Welshman, will not be free when the war is over.
§ Mr. Lipson
Can the Noble Lady give the House an instance where a local authority has failed in its duty and the Ministry of Home Security have failed to take action?
§ Viscountess Astor
My goodness, does the hon. Member really want me to give him instances? What about the mayors of London?
§ Viscountess Astor
It would be almost indecent to do so. Why, the mayors of London were not even in their places when the town was blitzed.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Will it be in order for the Noble Lady to give this information, after what the Prime Minister said? If this subject is to be started at all, and it is a very serious matter, I should like to say a word or two. I should like to know whether it is in order.
§ Viscountess Astor
I would not like to do sit, and I am surprised that anybody could ask the question. The hush-hush policy about local authorities and the lack of courage on the part of the Minister are responsible for a great deal of preventible misery. Look at the Order which has just been put out about clothes. Everybody thought that you could not ration clothes because, for one thing, the women would all make a row about it; but the women are delighted. I repeat that the country is behind the Government, and is ready for sacrifice. The country is ready to do anything that the Government ask them to do, but the Minister of Home Security has not dared to ask the country to do anything. He is too tender about the country's imaginary feelings. Do we, who have been asked to give up our sons and the things that we hold most dear in life, mind giving up our little privileges? No. It is really tragic that the Government have not been bolder and have not given a better lead. After the towns were 263 blitzed they did not have a plan. They have not shown the House what was wrong and how to put it right. I do not think that was fair to the country.
I would like to speak about the women of the country. If any body of persons has ever proved itself brave, gallant, enduring and long-suffering, it is the women of the country. After all, this is a woman's war. They are fighting it in their homes, in the factories and everywhere. I beg the Government and I ask the Minister of Health, particularly where the children are concerned, not to come and give us long accounts of what they are going to do, but to have a more forward policy about the children. Get the help of a great many people who have not yet been asked to help. I ask the President of the Board of Education to remember, in connection with the new residential nursery schools which he is setting up—he said that he was going to have one of his local education inspectors to inspect them—to see that this inspector knows something about nursery schools. It is no good having somebody to inspect schools who does not know anything about them. I am sure the House will agree with me that the one thing men do not understand is children between the ages of two and five years. If the Board of Education really want to be certain that their residential nursery schools and other nursery schools are being run on the proper lines and the children getting proper treatment, they have to increase their inspectorate. They should have people with knowledge of the subject.
I feel very strongly on this subject of home defence, and I am sorry to have kept the House for so long. I hope the Government will take the matter more seriously and will realise that if things had been well, we should not have made this row about it. They have been really lacking in courage, foresight and determination. I think they have misrepresented the spirit of the people of the country; otherwise, they would have gone ahead with the most drastic and revolutionary things. Nobody minds giving up liberty during war-time. We are perfectly certain that when the war is over we shall get it all back again.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
A good many of my colleagues are anxious to speak, and I promise the House that I 264 will not detain it long. Some of those hon. Members have an equal right with any other hon. Member to intervene. The Noble Lady referred to Scotland. I intend to confine my remarks largely to the question of the evacuation of children. She made a remark concerning city children. I do not know about her local conditions, and it may be very impertinent of me to refer to the matter, but she said they could be taken away to Scotland and other places.
§ Mr. Buchanan
One of the reasons why I have risen is because of the question of the evacuation of children. In the main, the Government have been right so far, and particularly the present Home Secretary. Before he occupied his Government post he pursued the very laudable object of getting the children out of London. I think he was right in every effort he made, long before he held his present post. It is much better to get children out before anything happens than to wait until tragedy actually occurs. I represent part of a city that in peace-time was a human tragedy in many respects. Anybody who knows my native city of Glasgow will be aware of the piles of tenement houses. I represent what is probably—and I claim no credit for this —the densest portion of the most densely populated city in the country. Many of the tenements are situated close to iron and steel works, docks and shipyards. One begins to feel how terrible the consequences to such areas would be if the same thing happened there as has occurred in other towns.
I am not a brave man at all. I envy brave men and have a great regard for them. Every week-end I go home to my division, and I fear what would happen in the event of a terrible raid. There are children packed in my city to-day. I rarely speak now in this House. I do not take the interest in it that I used to take, but one of the things I feel something about still is to get the Government to move the children out. I make a plea to the Home Secretary, who, in the past, has not always been hide-bound by what somebody else has done at some other time, to look again at two or three aspects of this problem. It may be selfish of working people, but we have to take 265 people as we find them and not regret that they are not as we would like them to be. I ask him to look at the question of billeting allowances.
When you take children away you start to inquire what their father earns and you start to charge him 6s. a week for each child. Then he has to keep himself. By the time these things are settled, the motive for sending the children off has been taken away. Even if it costs the Government full maintenance, I would rather have the children saved than that the Government should save a few miserable pounds on the billeting allowance. I ask the Government whether the interference is worth while of counting up on a means test basis, and then allocating a billeting allowance, in order to get the children away. It is more important to save the children's lives in these days. Is it not worth while to make a new approach to the matter and that the Government should take on the responsibility for the evacuation of children?
The second point I want to raise is with regard to my own city, but it applies to others as well, and first of all may I say, as a representative of Scotland, that it seems to me to be stupid that the Regional Commissioner and the Ministry of Labour headquarters in Scotland should be situated in Edinburgh? To-day Glasgow has a population of almost 1,250,000, and its whole industrial area represents well over 2,000,000 people. I would never dream of saying a word about Edinburgh, but the centre of industrial population today in Scotland is Glasgow. [Interruption.] But we are told by the Home Secretary to be realists, and the reality in Scotland to-day is that the centre of industrial population is the city of Glasgow. When you want to see the Regional Commissioner or to go to the divisional headquarters of the Ministry of Labour you do not go to the centre where the population is; you have to scamper off to Edinburgh. In peace-time I would not have bothered a say a word, but to-day I say that anyone who knows the industrial situation in Scotland would agree that the two chief offices ought to be in the main centre of the industrial population. I do not say that Edinburgh will be attacked. I hope to goodness it will not. The likeliest place for attack is the West. If I 266 were in the Scottish office and looking at the matter from a war point of view, I would move those two important offices to Glasgow.
What is the situation in regard to young children now in my city? To-day that situation, in my view, is a tragedy. If you are well off, you can get your children out. If I had children, I have no doubt that, as a Member of Parliament, I could get them outside the city, but poor people who have children simply cannot get them out of the city of Glasgow. Who would defend that? I have been to the Scottish office and to the education authorities, and have asked what is to be done with children under five. Their answer is that if a place can be found for them, they will pay the billeting allowance. Who is going to pretend that without some form of compulsion children under five will be received? I do not blame the people who refuse to take them in, but if you take the position of people in Glasgow with children under five and earning a labourer's wage of £ 5s. or £3 10s. a week, it is absolutely impossible for them to find a place for their children. When I raised this issue with the Civil Defence Commissioner the answer I got was that there was no place to send them, and that is what made me intervene. The right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald) and the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) were present at the meeting. They had not got the places. Frankly, it will be no defence for me, nor for anyone else, to go up yonder and say that that is the reason why the children were not taken away. The comfortably-off section of the community can find places. I am not making any accusations, I think they are right to take them away from the city, and I am only claiming that poverty should be no bar to the removal of the children of the poor.
I will quote the case of a man from my Division. He has eight children, and so far the law has not said that that is wrong. He is employed by the Glasgow local authority at a wage of about £3 15s. a week. He wrote and asked me if I could get a place for his children. I found that there were people prepared to take the children of school age, but for the four younger ones nothing could be done. I had courteous correspondence from the Under-Secretary, and I was referred to the 267 education authority. I went to them and could not get a place. I telephoned the county offices in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Renfrewshire, and could not get a place, and the four children remained there. If anything happens, it will be no answer for me, nor, I am certain, for anybody else, to say that nothing could be done. I am quite certain that something could be done. If you cannot get houses, perhaps some other accommodation could be arranged, and, frankly, if I could get away from putting people into other folks' houses, I would. I am not anxious to put two families together. When I was first married my wife and I had to live with her sister in the same house, and after three months even people who have always been the best of friends find that that is difficult. I felt that both of them wanted to run the house their own way, and that did not suit me. I do not want two families in one house if I can avoid it. If I have to accept it in preference to living in a very dangerous district, I will do so, for, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, it is not a choice between two goods, it is often a choice between two bads.
I remember that when the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) was at the Ministry of Health he made great play about school camps. What has happened to all the school camps we were to have? Who is in them? I have never heard much about them, and I do not know. Would it not be possible, even in these days of restricted supplies, to construct some kind of hostel or hutments where there would be a sense of discipline and people could have good food, good clothing and the decencies of life? The local authorities are not to blame. They have no share or part in this at all. If I know my local authorities, they are anxious to get the children out, and I would say it is the Government's job. I agree with the Noble Lady in regard to billeting. I went out last week into a beautiful part of Lanarkshire called Braid-wood with my wife to try and get a house. We went to the billeting officer, who was the local schoolmaster. They could not have made a better choice. He was a good man, but to ask him to go up to the local gentry and say they had to do this and that is not fair. I am a trade union chairman, and I would not have liked to start and do it with my bosses.
§ Mr. Buchanan
You might; you are a brave man, and I am not. I certainly would not have liked to put anybody else in that position. The billeting officers should be either local authority employés or State employés, free from any such pressure. They ought to be men of independent judgment. In the old days, for workmen's compensation we used to have to see the company's doctor, and we always wanted the doctor to be a State servant. The point is the same in this case. May I just say to the two Parliamentary Secretaries that I hope neither of them is becoming too superior. I seem to see a slight tendency in that direction. If I am wrong I shall be glad to be corrected, but some of us feel these days that we are glad to get even a nod from a Parliamentary Secretary.
I hope that I shall not be tempted to discuss local authorities which have not come up to scratch. There are some things that I could say about them which I do not think it would be a good thing, from the country's point of view, to mention. But in one town it came to my knowledge that the provost is 81 years of age. He was a man who in normal times would be, even at that age, a good administrator; but that sort of thing is not right in these days. I have not got a sacred view of local authorities and of national bodies, or even of the State. Just as you should attack local authorities for mistakes, so you should attack the State machine for mistakes. All I want is the best thing for saving human life. If it is the best way, let us do it through the State; if it is the best way., let us do it through the local authorities; or, if it is the best way, let us do it by a combination of both. In the main, I have found the City of Glasgow efficient, although there are one or two things there that I would like to see co-ordinated and improved, particularly in regard to demolition squads and their interchange between towns. I am not anxious to make the police a national bureaucracy under the Home Office, but there is room for improvement in regard to them. In the County of Lanark there are boroughs that have their own chief constables. [An hon. Member: "Why not?"] Because I do not think it is an efficient method. You might as well have a lot of little chief constables in the City of Glasgow. In Glasgow, with 269 its population of 1,250,000, it works well to have one chief constable, but these counties are units. The question should be examined again. What does it matter about a local man's position? If it works more efficiently a certain way, it should be done that way. I ask the Home Secretary to look again at the method of billeting the children, to see whether it is worth while to carry on this petty means test, and whether it would not be better to make it a State charge. He might see whether something in the nature of hutments could not be established. Whatever our views on the war—and my views are certainly not popular—we are all agreed that we should lift the children from the battle-field.
§ Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas (Portsmouth, South)
I should like to congratulate the Home Secretary upon the scheme for the A.F.S., and, above all, upon the idea of a staff college for the officers and sub-officers. Many of the men joined before the war as part-timers. The people who got promoted were those who had no full-time occupation, and who, therefore, had more time to devote to the service. Those who joined up afterwards had no opportunity for promotion, because the early bird had got the worm. Many of the best men consequently left the service. Two men of my own sub-station left because they saw absolutely no future for themselves in the Fire Service, and they are now officers in the Armed Forces, and are both doing well. One of them, quite an exceptional man, who is an officer in the Royal Marines now, said to me before he left, "I have to go, for I see absolutely no future and no chance of promotion here." This new college should alter that state of affairs, and should encourage people who put in a great deal of time and are really keen on their job. There are plenty of good men to select from, without going outside the service. I do not think it is either necessary or desirable to try to get people from the Army or the Navy, who have no fire-fighting experience. We have plenty of men with initiative and experience who will make excellent officers. I will give one example of an early type of officer—a type, I am glad to say, which is not common. In one of the Midland cities, during a blitz, there was a building on fire, and halfway down the street a gas main was burning. This officer had all his jet 270 playing on the gas main, which could not be put out by water, and the building was left to burn. He would not allow anybody to tell him what he should do. Such officers must be got rid of.
Another point which has probably been touched upon elsewhere is that of water supply. It is usual, when you go to a big blaze, to find that all the mains are cut, or most of them, and that Hitler has chosen a night when the tide is out. Static water is a tremendous help, and though the water tanks that you see at the bottom of the street do not hold sufficient water, at any rate, they are a tremendous help if you get to work before a fire gets a hold, and even if the fire has got a hold, it gives you time to get up your water units. But more can be done, and, I believe, is being done in cementing cellars and bomb holes. A certain amount of care will have to be used in residential areas, because it is very easy to fill a cellar with water, which when bombed will then flood somebody else's shelter and possibly drown them. Therefore your cellars will have to be carefully placed and be more or less at the bottom of a hill or be well safeguarded.
There is the question of empty houses, many of which are still locked. When you get into them, you may find the water supply cut off. If you could have the bath filled with water or even the water supply laid on, it would be a tremendous 271 help, and you would often be able to get a fire out by means of the stirrup pump before it had got any appreciable hold. Another question which may well crop up and one in regard to which I do not know whether it has yet attracted the attention of the Ministry, is that of hours. In London the hours are approximately 48 on and 24 off, and I understand that in the country it varies, being sometimes 24 hours on and 24 hours off, or 12 hours on and 12 hours off, with every eighth day off. There is some feeling among certain people who think that, if the force is unified, there should be an investigation into the question of hours. That is a matter which, naturally, must be left for other people, but it will probably have to be looked into. I suggest an extension of the interchange of men for rest periods. People who have been in blitzed towns for months on end, obviously, not only need rest, but they have also had experience which would be very valuable to other men. You may get some men in a quiet country town or village who have not had an opportunity of seeing a fire unless they have been sent to finish mopping-up when the danger is over. If they could be sent to mix with and to relieve some of the brigades in cities or other places, it would be of great advantage to them and a great relief to the cities.
I am particularly glad to hear that there is to be a personnel officer. In the early days of the service there was a great deal left to be desired in the welfare of the various brigades, particularly in the sub-stations. Everything depended upon the local officers, and some of these officers with the best will in the world had no idea of welfare work. One had only to see the difference between a well-run station and one in which people had to put up with quite unnecessary discomforts. One of the early questions, the conditions with regard to which have now been made much better, was that of the standby crews. Often when a district was emptied, all the pumps having gone on to fires, the other crews coming in to fill their places and stand by for orders were wet and cold, there was no shelter for them, and it was an impossibility, owing to rationing, to give them a cup of tea. Things have been very much improved, but there are still cases where improve- 272 ment is needed. When we come back, perhaps from some fire in the early or late morning and we have to standby in case of need, before going home, we would be very glad of a cup of tea but often cannot get it. On one occasion I warmed myself by holding a hurricane lamp between my legs, but there are not enough hurricane lamps to go round. The mobile canteen supply is very much better than it was. I wish to pay a word of tribute to the courage of the girls who work in these vans, the way in which they come out in the blitz and are always brave and cheery and do absolute wonders for us.
There is the question of clothes, which has always been rather a difficulty. The regular fireman has three suits of clothes, and the part-time fireman has one tunic and one pair of trousers, though he is sometimes able to scrounge another one. The ordinary full-time A.F.S. man has still one tunic, which is supposed to be waterproof, and two pairs of trousers. But things are very difficult if you come back from a fire and are still on your 48 hours and you are blitzed the next night, for there are no drying arrangements available. It means that a man takes a tremendous risk of catching a cold, or pneumonia, or rheumatism. In one or two provincial brigades they have hot-air dryers, and the men are looked after in that way. I do not know whether it is possible in London or elsewhere to do anything of that kind. I know that it may not be possible at all stations, but it ought to be possible to do something. Perhaps something is being done, and I do not know about it.
There is the question of sick and injury claims. Sick pay, I am glad to say, has been much improved lately. The old system under which no auxiliary fireman could be ill for more than three weeks in the year without losing his pay, unless he could prove that he had been engaged on some particular fire when he caught his chill, has now been abolished, and this now comes under the same conditions as the injury pay. If a man is injured doing his duty at a fire, if he is a regular fireman, he is all right, because he enlisted as a regular fireman before the war. The auxiliary fireman gets 8–13 weeks full pay, after which he goes on to the Civil Defence injury pay of 35s. a week, and is discharged from the brigade. That is 273 a point upon which the men feel very strongly because they fear that their wives may suffer if they are injured during their duty. The Home Secretary has the reputation of standing up for his men through thick and thin. I wish that in this case he would stand up to the Treasury, or whoever it is that blocks him from doing what I know he would like to do and fight their case for them. I believe that the cost would be exceptionally small, I cannot say the exact figure but I think about 2,000 firemen have been injured in London and about 12½per cent. only, about 250, would be affected. Therefore the actual cash cost to the Treasury would be very small indeed but the psychological and moral effect upon the men would be tremendous. I hope that the Home Secretary will really take up this case. If he will do so he will have a "happy ship." I am not attacking him personally, but the men really do feel very strongly on this matter.
I would like to pay a word of tribute to the courage of A.R.P. workers, and especially to the rescue squads, with whom I have been out several times. No. 71, Westminster, I saw, doing gallant work, and one lady doctor working with them particularly struck me by her courage and calm. Ambulance drivers, canteen vans, police and nurses have shown extraordinary courage, and I think the Ministry of Health can be congratulated on the way they try to look after those who have been injured. When I left hospital this morning I talked to some of the patients, including young girls, with their arms and legs off, who were injured seven or eight weeks ago yet who are cheery and full of courage. I hope and believe that the Government will do their best to look after their future. They believe so too, and that is the reason why they are so cheery.
May I say a word about fire watchers? An hon. Member opposite said that not all people have the same amount of courage. That is one of the difficulties of fire watching. It is no use putting a man on a roof to do duty as a fire spotter if he is going to dive underground the first time a bomb comes near. He may not be able to help it, and it is not for me to suggest a remedy, but it is a problem that will have to be faced. One final thing. I wonder whether there has been sufficient co-operation between the Services and the Civil Defence services in 274 the way of practices for invasion or air invasion. I think it would be of great advantage if we could be certain that cooperation really was taking place in the Defence areas so that everybody knew exactly what his job was and how he was to co-operate
§ Mr. Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddeston)
I am sure the House will like to join me in congratulating the hon. Baronet who has just sat down on his return to the House and on the practical information he has given us about the fine Service of which he is so courageous a member. The hon. Member who opened this Debate, the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest), and others, have referred to the recent report of the Select Committee on Civil Defence. Although we may not like what that report says in a number of places, when we are charged with our own local information or our information spread over long periods, the fact remains that there is a considerable number of important considerations which I hope the Government will most earnestly consider. Of these I think the most fundamental is the suggestion that there should be a unified Ministry controlling what my hon. and gallant Friend has called home defence. That, I am afraid, is an argument upon which I cannot follow him, and I think it is so fundamental to our whole conception of Civil Defence that I should spend one or two moments in dealing with the matter.
Perhaps I might, first of all, recall to the House that there has been a considerable number of members of the A.R.P. Committee on this side of the House who for more than four years now have been studying these problems. We have lived from week to week in the continuing growth of air-raid precautions, and possibly there are some of us who might see this particular aspect of the problem a little more clearly than those who have not had the privilege of watching the growth of air-raid precautions and who have been plunged into present problems, which are apparent for everyone to see. Initially, I believe every hon. Member present who considered Civil Defence hoped there could be one central Department administering it, but as it became obvious that Civil Defence was not merely sticking paper over windows and carrying gas masks but was the whole life of the 275 nation, lived under blitz conditions, it became clear that the idea of one Department being responsible for the whole of Civil Defence would be a cumbrous' and unwieldy proposition. It is inevitable, when you get widespread attacks on a given neighbourhood, that the whole of the normal peace-time services should be involved in that attack. Therefore, all Departments, whether Government, local authority or county council, are immediately involved in every aspect of that air attack, and if that be admitted, it follows that you cannot hope at this late stage to wipe out the varying responsibility for these different aspects of our national existence and throw them into one Department, however well it may be staffed or however brilliantly it may be led.
I think the proposal in the report to give regions more power is the right one, but if we are to do that, I think there is one impression that must be completely removed—the impression which seems to exist in some Departments that regional organisation is a Home Office organisation, responsible only to the Home Office. That, I believe, prevents every Department, particularly the Ministry of Health, from using a regional organisation in the way in which it is essential that it should be used, and I would recommend my right hon. Friend the Minister of Home Security to consider in what way that disability of the regional organisation can be removed. My hope would be that the Commissioners offices in the regions should be the only channel of contact between the local authorities and the various Government Departments. At the moment local authorities are ordered about by every Tom, Dick and Harry in Whitehall where Civil Defence is involved. There are multifarious forms and returns which, as they affect those who are operationally employed at night, are infuriating and frightening. I have an example here from a local authority in the London area, in the county of Middlesex, and it cites the question of feeding the population. Here are the authorities which must be consulted—emergency, communal feeding and Ministry of Health feeding, but for the rest centres the public assistance authority through the local authority for the first 48 hours, then the local authority itself, the cost being recoverable by the county council from the Ministry of 276 Health. Well, I suggest that that type of lack of organisation at this stage is preposterous and must be altered.
Another great advantage of giving the regions more control over the local authorities would be that it would bring about a fairer distribution of the forces and facilities under the various local authorities in the region. As an example, I will cite the case of one London borough where there are no less than 1,700 men retained on clearance and demolition work at a cost of £250,000 a year, with a 100 per cent. grant from the Exchequer. That local authority prides itself that it clears away debris immediately, and that in most cases within a fortnight, during the summer months, it has sown grass on the cleared areas. All I will say is that we would think ourselves very lucky in the City of Birmingham if we could do anything like half that. Surely, the time has come when these facilities of the local authorities should be co-ordinated and possibly pooled under the Regional Commissioner.
But it is not enough to say that this should be done under the Regional Commissioner. How should it be done? Should it be done by making him all-powerful and eliminating the local authority, as has been suggested, or should it be done by giving the Regional Commissioner only nominal power and leaving the local authority more or less where it is to-day? I think the answer is that there should be a compromise between those two extremes. The Regional Commissioner ought to be in a position to issue to the local authorities, on behalf of all Government Departments and of himself, specific instructions covering the whole of Civil Defence. In this connection, I want to refer to what seems to me to be a very important point in a letter which I received this morning from the town clerk and Air-Raid Precautions controller of the City of Birmingham. This is the view of Birmingham:The grant of wider powers to Regional Commissioners to make decisions on matters connected with Civil Defence Services would be welcomed by most local authorities who are anxious to extend or vary arrangements in the light of experience. It is, however, regarded as essential that any such extension of power should be accompanied by the provision of an advisory council for each region consisting of representatives of local authorities possessing personal, practical knowledge of the organisation, administration, and problems of Civil 277 Defence. Such a council should meet at regular intervals to discuss and advise on policy, and on such matters as members may desire to bring before the council to effect co-ordinated action among authorities in the region, and so to secure uniformity in such matters as service conditions and amenities and to enable those who have to administer the services to discuss practical problems and their solution.I commend that as being an important suggestion, to which I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister of Home Security will give close thought when he replies. It is not enough, however, for us to have a proper chain of responsibility between the local authorities and the region. We must also have proper liaison between the Government Departments. I was shocked only a few days ago to hear that one of our great cities had need, in the light of various raids, of additional water supplies for fire fighting. A proposal was sent to the Ministry of Home Security. It was accepted by that Ministry as being a matter which it could discuss and handle. After three months that local authority was informed that the Ministry of Home Security had decided that this was not a matter for the Ministry of Home Security but a matter for the Ministry of Health. I call it a wicked piece of maladministration, when our cities are being burned down through lack of water, that any Ministry should more or less pigeon-hole in this manner an important proposition from a local authority. I would not mention that if it were an isolated incident, but every hon. Member who has taken an interest in the question of inter-departmental responsibility for Home Defence knows that it happens very frequently and on equally important matters. Therefore, I would like to ask the Government—it may be a matter for the Prime Minister—whether they will appoint a small inter-departmental committee of the Departments concerned to be charged with ironing out these absurd delays and misunderstandings between the Departments. I do not think any other change that is made will solve the problem unless this one step is taken.
With regard to the local authorities themselves, there is one point that I want to make At the head of most of the air-raid precautions organisations of the local authorities there is the town clerk. Generally he has a deputy who is, in fact, the operational head of the services. I know that in certain cases the town clerks 278 themselves are doing most excellent and courageous work as operational controllers, but those cases are very few. I suggest that the town clerks should be given the post for which, generally speaking, they are most suited by their experience and which, considering the increasing amount of work in connection with feeding and other matters that is being placed on their shoulders, would be most suitable to them from the point of view of the time available to them. Why not make the deputies the operational controllers and the town clerks the administrative controllers of air-raid precautions in the local authorities? That is a change which we ought to envisage.
As to the air-raid precautions personnel, I believe I shall be speaking for almost all hon. Members on this side when I say that we conceive of Civil Defence as being an unpaid service, as far as possible. I say" as far as possible "because, of course, the fire-fighting services and other services in some areas where it is difficult to recruit sufficient unpaid personnel render special consideration inevitable. But generally speaking, the services should be unpaid. This does not mean that we should have a continuation of the gospel of laisser faire which has resulted in the burning down of the central parts of some of our great cities. If we had insisted upon compulsory unpaid service, if voluntary unpaid service was not forthcoming readily and regularly, we should not to-day have the number of burnt out cities which unfortunately we have. The Select Committee stressed this point in their report, and all I want to say is that many hon. Members on this side regard that aspect as vital, not only from the point of view of national economy, but from the point of view of economy of man-power. There is a very large number of men in the air-raid precautions services who, if we had compulsory unpaid service in their localities, could be freed for other and possibly more important national work.
I agree with the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) that the country is more ready for sacrifice than the Government understand. The acts of heroism by the Civil Defence services, up and down the country, call aloud to the Government to do more to harness the good will that is offered them in winning the war. The Government are apt to 279 listen too much to the small minority—it may be 5 per cent. or 10 per cent.—whoare crying out against compulsion or any form of regimentation. Let them listen to the voice of our people who are willing to give their all, provided that those who stand out to the last are made to share their responsibility. It is the men and women who will not give in, who force the 90 per cent., or 95 per cent., to say to the Government, "Break this thing and then we will do what you wish." The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth departed a little from what I believe is her principle of trying to be scrupulously fair to Ministers, although she greatly enjoys criticising them. I think she was a little unfair to the Minister of Home Security when she chided him for his lack of moral courage in bringing compulsion into Civil Defence. Surely he is the one Minister who, outside the Armed Forces, has brought compulsion to bear where it is necessary? I agree that it was belated, and I agree that the sight of burnt-out homes and buildings may have helped him in taking that decision, but let us not run away from the fact that there was very considerable opposition, particularly from some of his own political friends, to such a proposal. Therefore, I say, if we are going to size up the moral courage of Ministers, the Minister of Home Security is entitled to stand high on account of the way in which he has brought in the fire-watching Order on a compulsory and unpaid basis.
Whatever criticisms can be levelled at the Civil Defence services, and from day to day and week to week there are many, the fact remains that the services have worked. The services are manned by grand men and women who are devoted to their duty, and are proud of their service. Let us not forget those who have taken part in the administration of Civil Defence during the past two or three years. All the decisions they made were not wrong, although some critics would have us think so. I suggest that had hon. Members known two years ago the extent to which this country was to be raided in the first 21 months of war, scarcely one could have anticipated much less than 500,000 killed among the civilian population. That is a low figure compared with that which many of us would have anticipated. The fact is that there is a minor fraction of that number killed, and the 280 policy, therefore, although it may not be complete, and although the machine may be groaning and creaking in places, is fundamentally right. I suggest, therefore, that this is not the time to have a complete upheaval, but that it is the time to adjust the administrative machine, which now works passing well, so that it will fulfil our better hopes.
§ The Minister of Home Security (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
My hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) has brought to this Debate the fruits of a considerable period of study, investigation and watching, as a result of the important work he has done as Chairman of an unofficial committee of Members of this House who interest themselves in Civil Defence. I can assure him that what he has said and the points he has raised, particularly his observations and constructive criticisms, will be fully taken into account. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas), who himself has practical experience as a fire fighter, and whose return to the House we welcome after his illness and injury, has spoken out of his own practical knowledge of fire fighting. He has made a series of important points of detail with regard to that organisation, to which, he may be sure, I and my colleagues will give every consideration. Hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate will forgive me, I know, if I do not deal with all the many points of considerable detail which, quite properly, have been raised. A note has duly been taken of those points of detail, and investigation and proper consideration will be given to them.
I want, as I expect the House would anticipate and expect, to deal with the broader issues of structure and policy in this vital field which have been raised by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), who opened the Debate, and other hon. Members. Issues have been raised in an important Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, which deal with the structure of the organisation, including various proposals to cut down Civil Defence and reduce full-time establishments. The Report was in the main, I think, the work of the energetic Chairman of the Sub-Committee concerned, namely, my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), who brought the Report of the Sub-Committee 281 before the main Committee. It included all these proposals as to machinery and administration, and the question of whether in some Departments or another, full-time personnel, including the warden departments was not excessive. In all parts of the House, whether the speeches have been critical of the Minister or friendly—I do not say the criticism is unfriendly, because this is not politics, but administration, and there is no politics in it; indeed, it is undesirable that there should be—members have referred to the courage, indeed the heroism, the skill, and ability which have been displayed by the members of the Civil Defence Services. This army of Civil Defence people, the vast majority of whom are unpaid, volunteer, and spare-time, is extraordinarily typical of the character, the spirit, courage, and the grit of the British people, fighting at times with their backs to the wall. They are mixed people, with no long military traditions, and no great background of discipline behind them; they are of all shapes and sizes, of all degrees, of different psychology, and, may I say, of different degrees of beauty and handsomeness as well. They are really a typical representative body of the population of the country, and I think the country can be proud of this great army of Civil Defence. I keep trying to estimate what the numbers are, and I do not know, but it has grown and grown until recently the fire-bomb fighters have extended their ranks by somewhere in the region of 2,000,000 to 2,500,000. I suppose now that all the people involved in Civil Defence one way or the other—full-time, part-time, paid and unpaid—must number nearly 4,000,000 citizens, and that is the conclusive answer to the German and Italian propaganda, which said that the British were degenerate, because these are the ordinary people of all sections and classes of the community, and they have stood by in days and hours and nights of grave danger and they have stuck to their job in a way which will rightly earn the praise of history in the future.
I come to the first main point of controversy. It is not political controversy in any party sense. It is not even controversy as between Members who are in the Government and Members who are out of it. But before actually dealing with that point of the central machinery of 282 government, I think the House will agree with me that we can be proud of the social provision which we have made for our people as a consequence of enemy attack. I should say that, of all the people who have experienced enemy attack from the air, this country has made the best social provision of any for families and individual citizens as a consequence of enemy attack. It can be said—and we of the Government are proud of it—that there is no destitution as a result of air raids. Homes may be blown up, families may be scattered and furniture may be destroyed, but we have made up our minds from the beginning that there should be no destitution as a result of enemy attack, and there is not.
There may be argument as to the degree of provision but, broadly speaking, we can boast of the fact that there is no destitution as the result of these attacks from the air. We have provided as a community and the House has supported us, new homes, alternative homes, or accommodation for the homeless who have been bombed out and blitzed out. We have provided through the Assistance Board grants to replace cash necessities, clothing, furniture, and essential household articles. We have made financial provision for grants to replace even essential tools for workpeople in their employment or small handicrafts men in their work, and we have made provision for first-aid repairs to houses. Likewise there has been carried through a vast evacuation of school children. As to how far it has gone among all ages and sections of the community, there is some criticism, but there it is, a vast piece of social administration and transformation, which on the whole has gone with a high degree of smoothness; even in the nursery provision, which is growing, and as to which there is comment and discussion, nevertheless it is a big thing.
If we consider also the people who have been bombed out of their houses or whose gas, electricity and water supply has gone, the community, through the appropriate organ of State or municipal administration, has seen to it that, although there is no gas, electricity or water, something has been done about it. Communal feeding has been provided, water supplies have been arranged for and so on. It is right and necessary that 283 these things should have been done, but let even the House of Commons not hesitate to pause and praise itself, the Government and the local authorities for rising to the occasion. I doubt whether there is another country in the world which has been as successful as we have been in making social provision against the consequences of air attack. So it is that while Hitler destroys, we build. While he is concerned with the destruction of human life, we are concerned with the conservation of human life and the repairing of damage. Hitler destroys, we build, and we can be proud of the administrative and organising genius of our people in all classes of life and in all the fields of public administration. Not, of course, for the perfection that we have achieved—we have not achieved perfection, not a Minister on this Bench has achieved perfection, and not another Member, including the Noble Lady, who might have sat upon this Bench, would have achieved perfection. Nevertheless, we can all claim, whether we are private Members or Ministers or local authorities, when it is considered that air attack is a first-class action of war, that the bombs have a horribly destructive effect, that the next morning is not a picnic, that it is really the morning after the night before —in the case of a battle in the field generals and commissioned and non-commissioned officers are faced with all sorts of disturbing problems—with all our imperfections we can say, broadly speaking, that our British capacity for adaptability in times of difficulty has stood up pretty well to these grave and difficult circumstances.
The first point with which I want to deal is the point which has been urged in a number of quarters, and which was raised in a tentative way by the Select Committee on National Expenditure, that we should have a concentration of all national Civil Defence functions in one State Department to be known as the Ministry of Civil Defence. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock himself argued the case as he saw it for that view and put it in a way which I think is representative of the body of public opinion which takes that view. I am very anxious not to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman's scheme or the arguments which have been put forward by various people inter- 284 ested in public administration and certain organs of the Press which have taken this point of view. As I understand it, the argument is that it would be well and right and proper if all State administration concerned with Civil Defence and with the preparation for blitzes and the consequences of blitzes were concentrated in one single Department of State, and if one Minister, with such assistance in the way of Parliamentary Secretaries and staff as was necessary, were responsible for the administration of the whole field of Civil Defence. Such a step would remedy the admitted dispersion of different functions which have a relation to Civil Defence over a number of other Departments. My hon. Friend himself said that there were four Ministers taking part in this Debate. That is true, and I hope that they will do as well as my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education did in speaking first for the Government to-day. I will go further than that. There are not only four Ministers concerned in this business. I do not know the number, but taking the thing in its widest sense there may be 12 Ministers involved; there may be 15. The number is unknown. I should say that every Minister, apart from those of the Service Departments, is in some degree or another concerned in Civil Defence.
Therefore, run to its extreme the argument takes us a long way. I do not want to take my hon. Friend further than would be reasonable even on his own argument, but it could be taken to the point that if an aircraft factory were damaged by enemy attack, its repair should be the function of the Ministry of Home Security and not of the Ministry of Aircraft Production. I do not suggest that my hon. Friend would argue that for a moment. Obviously, it is best that the factories of the Ministry of Aircraft Production should be repaired by their owners in association with the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The same is true of the factories of the Ministry of Supply and of the Admiralty. Therefore, it would not be fair to try and run the argument as far as that point. Let us see how far it does run. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is the authority for evacuation, broadly speaking. If it gets to the widest issues the question of national security 285 comes in, but as a Government Administrative agency my right hon. Friend is the authority on evacuation. Why is that? It is because directly you move the population about in big numbers you want housing accommodation. Housing is the first thing, because the people must live somewhere, and my right hon. Friend is the housing Minister Similarly, it involves sanitary services, sewage, drainage, water and so on. Therefore, directly you get an organised big-scale movement of the civil population you become involved in nearly every department of public health administration.
This means that if I, as Minister of Home Security, were the evacuating authority, I should be faced in the field of housing, sanitary services, water and education with the issue of trying to be self-reliant upon those services—and the doctrine of my hon. Friend is that I ought to be completely self-reliant—in which case I should be involved in the necessity of taking from the Minister of Health, the President of the Board of Education, and I do not know how many other right hon. Friends, a whole series of parts of their functions but not the whole of their functions. Let me take the example of hospitals. That, of course, is related immediately to Civil Defence. Can I cut the hospitals of the Ministry of Health in two? There is still a lot of people who become ill without the enemy making them ill or injuring them. There is still an enormous number of illnesses with which Hitler has nothing to do. Is my right hon. Friend to retain such hospitals or such parts of hospitals as are required for illnesses that might happen in peacetime, and am I to take hospitals or parts of hospitals for illnesses or injury due to the action of the enemy? That is the real doctrine behind this argument. How can you cut hospitals or medical administration in two? The whole of this business of evacuation and hospital services goes to the roots of general public health administration.
My right hon. Friend asked how hospital administration can be cut in two. It is already cut in two. The Emergency Medical Services, which include most of the hospitals, provide hospital accommodation for the soldier because he is a soldier, and they can provide accommodation for those who are 286 bombed or injured. It would be the most economical and convenient thing to do. All these people could go into an Emergency Medical Service hospital and be treated as emergency medical service casualties.
§ Mr. Morrison
This is where my hon. Friend goes absolutely wrong. It is the result of the theoretician getting into practical difficulties. Curiously enough, it is the case—and I do not blame my hon. Friend for not knowing, because I did not know until this moment—that the military, precisely because of the artificial distinctions between the bed that is occupied by a soldier, the bed that is occupied by a peace-time casualty and the bed occupied by a civilian who has been injured by the enemy, has asked the Minister of Health to take back quite a number of the hospitals because he can do the work better. The War Office think that, and it is common sense too. After all, what is a bed but a bed? If a doctor is attending a human being and that human being is a civilian—perhaps a middle-class person living in Streatham or Edgbaston or somewhere like that—or if he is a soldier, what does it matter? He needs a doctor. The doctor is not interested. He is a man of science, a man of medical skill and an instrument of healing. He will heal anybody, even wicked people. He is interested in the healing of human beings. It is sickness, injury and damage to human beings with which we are concerned, and if anybody holds out to me the prospect of getting together a skeleton body of doctors to run my hospitals, which would be run for the purpose of repairing people damaged by air attack, of my right hon. Friend running hospitals for the ordinary diseases of peace-time, and of somebody else running them for another purpose, the House has only to think for a moment to realise what that would mean.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is wrong about hospital administration. He does not know, and apparently the Minister of Health does not know either. The Emergency Medical Service hospitals are run by the Ministry of Health and they have an account with the War Department for soldiers who are taken in. I am suggesting that people injured in air attacks should likewise be taken in under a national scheme run by the Ministry. I am not suggesting 287 two sets of hospitals and a skeleton body of doctors, whatever that may mean.
§ Mr. Morrison
If I may say so, my hon. Friend has gratuitously entered into a battle between me and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. I am debating a point he made in his opening speech and which occurred in the Report of the Select Committee. I would concentrate all the doctors under one Department as far as possible.—[An hon. member: "Including Service doctors? "]—As far as possible, I said. I assure my hon. Friend opposite that if there is any chance of my having a band of doctors over a certain field of hospital administration and of public health administration, and my right hon. Friend having a rival set of doctors, he being stirred up by his doctors and me by mine to have medical arguments with each other, I say, "Not for me." The administration of hospitals should be under one Department, and the question is what is the proper Department. I think it is my right hon. Friend's. If it is a question, as my hon. Friend would suggest, of my right hon. Friend exchanging accounts with the War Office, that is easy. The Ministry of Health have experience and know about hospital administration in the ordinary way, and it is absolutely right that they should do it.
Let me make this prophecy. If I were to adopt the advice, and His Majesty's Government were to adopt the advice, that all these health and medical functions that relate to Civil Defence and the attack of the enemy from the air should be cut off from my right hon. Friend, and the school medical services cut off from my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education to be handed to me, believe me that within three months—I am sure of it, I know history—there would be letters, particularly to the "Times," and to the weekly reviews, urging, with editorial support, that these artificial divisions, splitting up all the public health and hospital services of the country, were a positive disgrace, which could only be the result of the nit-witted actions of nit-witted Ministers in a nit-witted Government. We should have to surrender and go back to the way we were. I hope and believe I have convinced the House on that point. 288 The same is true of public assistance. This public assistance machine, from my own experience, is no longer the old Poor Law machine of Mr. Bumble. I have seen one intelligent local authority after the other, and the Ministry of Health as it developed its administration, lifting the public assistance administration out of the old tradition into a modern department of social administration. That public assistance machine, taking it by and large, with all its imperfections, has done a good job in this trouble. In the L.C.C. we gave the job of the rest and feeding centres to the public assistance chief officer; it happened that his machine was about the most useful. We gave evacuation to the education officer. I do not see why we should have done so, except that he deals with children, but there are other persons than children concerned in evacuation. That public assistance machine in case after case, social aid after social aid, has done a great job. It is my right hon. Friend, who is the expert in the Government on public assistance organisation, not I. By accident, I know something about it in the light of municipal but not national experience. If it came to me, but not all of it would, as my right hon. Friend would still hold his Poor Law functions, I should have to duplicate the machine he is setting up.
I have dealt with these two points rather fully. I will only mention the others as far as I know them. Welfare of the homeless is dealt with by the Ministry of Health, because it is the experienced authority, the same with evacuation, rehousing, the Ministry of Health; first-aid repairs, the Ministry of Health, because it knows about these things and works in conjunction with the Ministry of Works and Buildings; disposal of the dead is the function of the Ministry of Health, because it has experience in that line. Sewage repairs and repairs to water undertakings are a matter for the Ministry of Health. There is a number of services which also belong to other State Departments—transport, to the Ministry of Transport. On my hon. Friend's doctrine I ought to deal with damage to railways, but that would be an absurd thing to do. He agrees?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I do not wish to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but I would like to mention this one point. I am mainly concerned with the regional authority. I 289 put forward a suggestion which is capable of infinite variation. If my right hon. Friend is talking about the region it is a question of transport, evacuation and the other things being co-ordinated under one officer.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not mind the interruption at all. I have got to three items of administration in connection with this doctrine of all Civil Defence under one Ministry of Civil Defence. If I went on, I could go into 30 items probably. My right hon. Friend says, "Do not bother too much about that. Get on to the regional level."
§ Mr. Lindsay
I must make one interruption. The point concerns the Regional Commissioner, whom my right hon. Friend and I would like, I think, to see embracing the whole field of Civil Defence —perhaps with two Commissioners for a region, as in the case of London. What is becoming of increasing importance is for him to report to six or seven different Ministers in London and to make sense of the situation, because he is already receiving orders from six or seven different Ministers. I do not mind if you have a permanent secretariat and higher officials from each of these seven or eight Ministries, but I do say it is taking up too much time to have all these Ministers— nearly half the Cabinet—meeting three days a week when I think the line of communication is very uncertain.
§ Mr. Morrison
My hon. Friend was perfectly right when he said that I ought to consider these matters on the regional level, and I was coming there, but first I wanted properly to demolish his Ministry of Civil Defence. I would only say in passing that I think the Regional Commissioner more or less lives with the regional representatives of all the State Departments concerned. [hon. members: "No."] Yes, certainly.
§ Sir Harold Webbe (Westminster, Abbey Division)
Is the Minister aware that in some cases the representative of the Ministry of Health lives a couple of miles away from the Regional Commissioner?
§ Mr. Morrison
I think there is about one case in which that is so, and I do not think it is very terrible. I live about a mile from the Board of Education, but that does not prevent my right hon. Friend and me seeing each other from 290 time to time. In each of these so-to-speak capital cities of the Regional Commissioners, there are represented all the State Departments. Those concerned see each other frequently, some of them every day of the week, and they have regular meetings. On that regional level there is close consultation, and my hon. Friend is right in his later thoughts that it is in the regions that you have the most useful level of consultation and administration. He is absolutely right at that point, and the system is working.
But I want to finish the Ministry of Civil Defence first of all, because that is suggested in the Report of the Select Committee, and the Select Committee must be taken seriously—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham, who is responsible in the main for that Report, with my hon. Friend the Member for the Abbey Division of Westminster (Sir H. Webbe) and others would wish me to do so. I have dealt to a great extent with the Ministry of Health side and similar arguments arise in other fields. They arise on the question of repairs to roads, which is a matter for the Ministry of Transport, although the Ministry of Home Security comes in somewhere I think. Traffic control is a joint matter for the police and Ministry of Transport. Demands for transport by road and rail are properly a Ministry of Transport matter. Then there is the question of Post Office communications, which frequently get damaged, and the Ministry of Transport and the Post Office are, of course, both involved. The emergency feeding arrangements are a vital Civil Defence service of the Ministry of Food. Similarly they are very helpful in the matter of the feeding of the shelterers, and to some extent they have relations with the feeding of the Civil Defence personnel.
Taking into consideration all the complexities of food distribution, and having regard to the fact that we already have the vast and complicated machine of the Ministry of Food in existence, if we were to cut part of that work off and merge it into the Ministry of Home Security, saying "This is a Civil Defence part and the other is a normal part," it would be an act of midsummer madness. There is that great machine already in existence to handle the problem of the distribution of food all over the 291 country. If I am to jump in and to do part of its work we shall have a chaotic situation. Within a month there would be a demand in this House that food should be under the control of one Minister. So it goes on—with food salvage, food shops, the mobile canteens for civilians, the de-contamination of foodstuffs. The provision of emergency supplies of tobacco comes in under the Board of Trade. Schemes for the relief of distress involve the Assistance Board. The Assistance Board is skilled in this particular work. It knows about it. I do not, and as Minister of Home Security it would take me a long time to become expert, and the same may be said of my officers. Claims for injuries bring in the Assistance Board and the Ministry of Pensions. Information is dealt with by the Ministry of Information. Nobody would suggest that I should take the Ministry of Information into the Ministry of Home Security.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The Prime Minister is not in charge of the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, and yet he is Minister of Defence.
§ Mr. Morrison
There are still the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and in the same way there are Ministers at the head of these other Departments, and we have our Civil Defence Committee through which we get co-ordination. Indeed, if it were right that all the active fighting should be done by one State Department, we ought not to have the three Departments of Army, Navy and Air. There should be a single Department of Defence, which, indeed, has been argued, but that has not yet been done. To continue my examples, there are repairs to war-production factories, under the emergency services organization run by the production Departments. Repairs to other factories are under the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Works and Buildings. Repairs to shops other than food shops come under the same Departments. Repairs to gas undertakings are under the Board of Trade, because that Department knows about gas undertakings. Salvage of insured commodities is under the Board of Trade, while salvage of raw materials is under the Ministry of Supply, which is 292 the raw materials Department. General services for emergency repair works are under the Ministry of Works and Buildings, labour supply and unemployment insurance are under the Ministry of Labour while petroleum and voluntary social services are under various State Departments.
I have not mentioned Scotland. What should we do with Scotland under this proposed consolidated Ministry of Civil Defence? If the military analogy is to be carried through, it is clear that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland should be put almost out of business. There is not a separate Army for Scotland, or an Air Force or a Navy. My right hon. Friend is concerned with police, fire brigades, health services, education and agriculture. Is my hon. Friend who made the suggestion, and who is a Scottish Member, prepared to say that all those functions of the Secretary of State for Scotland should be transferred to me or to some other Minister as Minister of Civil Defence for the whole of Great Britain? [hon. members: "No."] I thought not. I do not think any Scottish Member would agree to the suggestion, and I can be sure that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock would not fall into that dangerous mistake. I think that has effectively settled the argument. Scotland is only part of Great Britain. If the military analogy is to be carried out, Scotland ought not to be a separate area, and it would not.
There is one other point I would like to mention and it is a matter of history. When the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, was passed, there was set up, and the Act contemplated it being done, an A.R.P. Department at the Home Office. That Department was conceived, built and administered for a time on this doctrine that the whole of the Civil Defence administration should be in one Department. The result was that in the A.R.P. Department of the Home Office there was a hospital department, a medical department, with a limited number of doctors. The A.R.P. Department concerned itself with the repair of public utilities such as gas, under the Board of Trade, water under the Ministry of Health, and electricity, which is under the Ministry of Transport. It concerned itself also with evacuation. It had a year of experience. The House may believe me or not as it 293 wishes, and hon. Members may have other opinions, but let me say that at that time I dealt from the London County Council end with that A.R.P. Department at the Home Office, and in the whole of my dealings between municipalities and Whitehall I am bound to say that that was about the worst patch of the lot.
§ Mr. Morrison
It is very embarrassing sometimes—the question of who agrees with whom. It is most surprising when documents are signed between people who, theoretically, have been at war with each other. My hon. Friend knows all about those embarrassing situations. I formed the impression from the outside that that patch of administrative experience was about the worst patch of Civil Defence administration that I know. It was perfectly clear that it was a foolish thing to bring these unfortunate officers of the Home Office—who were a jolly good lot of people, and for whom I have a very great respect—into hospital administration. They were out of their depth. I do not know whether it was a question of depth at all—they were out of their element. To bring them into evacuation was all wrong, it was not in their line of administrative experience, and, therefore, when my right hon. Friend the present Lord President came into office as Lord Privy Seal in November, 1938, he began to make changes. There were indeed demands, not only from the other Departments but from my right hon. Friend, and Members know that when a Minister has got a lot of things in his hands the general theory is that he is the last man who will let go of them. He wants to hold on to power and place and so on, and it might be thought that if I had the chance of having all these powers added to me, I should be an extraordinary person if I resisted, because it would add enormously to my authority. But I want to be a success and not a failure, as I am sure the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) always wants to be a success at every election she fights. On the whole she does very well as a political Parliamentary candidate. I want to succeed just as she does, and I know perfectly well I should fail if I got all these things put on to the Ministry of Home Security as a Ministry of Home Defence. [An hon. member: "No."] 294 My hon. Friend is perfectly certain I am wrong, but when he has been here a little longer and has seen the machinery of government a little more closely, he may come to the conclusion that I am right.
§ Viscountess Astor
Did not the right hon. Gentleman feel the same about the fire services, and yet he had to do it?
§ Mr. Morrison
If the Noble Lady thinks she persuaded me, or bullied me, or whatever the right word maybe, into nationalising the fire services, believe me, she is quite wrong.
§ Viscountess Astor
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is not perfectly true that when I spoke to him in the Lobby after the first blitz on Plymouth, I said, "I think you have got to do something like this," and he just replied," I think there is something in it," but he had not begun to move then?
§ Mr. Morrison
If that is intended as proof that the Noble Lady is the true author of the Fire Services (Emergency Provisions) Bill, I have never heard anything more thin. She said, "This is awful, something must be done about it," and therefore claims to be the author of this great Bill which I introduced into the House of Commons. But what does it matter?
Therefore, I take the view that this would be a suicidal policy. It was the case that it was my right hon. Friend, when at the head of those services as Lord Privy Seal, who himself in the light of experience took the initiative, seeing that these functions of Civil Defence are so big and so wide that they spread throughout almost every department of public administration, in doing two things. The function which was related, or most nearly related, to a peace-time function of government should go to that State Department which is experienced in that function of government. The rest, which had no relationship to any existing State Department, which were new or novel or otherwise, he would take himself as Lord Privy Seal or, later, as Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security. As Home Secretary, of course, he already 295 had the police and fire services, and then he added these rather new and special services that did not naturally tie up with any existing State Department. He did these two things. Where there was a State Department naturally concerned, that Department had it. Where there was no such Department, he had it. There was also established the Civil Defence Committee of the Cabinet, of which he was then the Chairman, for purposes of consultation, co-ordination, friendly discussion and collective decision over the whole field of Civil Defence. If you had your Ministry of Civil Defence, with this vast sphere of services that I have indicated in it—
§ It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.