§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Mr. Gallacher
I do not suppose that it would be in order in discussing this question to raise the matter of the abolition of the House of Lords. I was talking about the tendency on the part of speakers and of the report of the Committee to by-pass democracy. Those responsible for the report tell us of the inquiries they have made. They saw Regional Commissioners, local authorities and all sorts of people, but there is no mention anywhere of seeing important trade unions in the areas or even of seeing the men who were carrying out the work. The hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) talked about the co-operation that was necessary in connection with much of the work and said that in connection with one phase of the co-operation the churches would have to be brought in. I do not know whether he meant the physical structures, because most of the churches that I know are generally more or less empty. He also said that a women's crusade of some kind must be brought in and that some citizens' advice bureaux must be brought in; but there was never any mention or hint of trade unions being brought in.
I have taken an interest in this matter from the start, and at the very beginning of building up a voluntary organisation I suggested that the first bodies which ought to be consulted by the local authorities were the trades councils that have such wide ramifications and contacts with the masses of workers. The hon. Member 439 who introduced this question said that there should be a continual chain from the top to the bottom. That is Hitler's method. The London Regional Commissioner said that it was necessary to start from the bottom and have co-operation of all the forces available in an area. I am opposed to any interference with the paid wardens. It would be a disastrous step to take. In connection with fire-watching, the Minister ought to have made an order that wherever there are factories or business premises the fire-watchers should be paid a recognised trade union wage.
All the talk about compulsion that goes on must be ended. I cannot understand why Members on this side of the House or Ministers who belong to the Labour movement can listen to the strong Fascist arguments that are continually being put up by representatives of big business. We had a speech yesterday from one of the Members for Birmingham. He and his colleagues are always speaking about compulsion. He said that the masses of the people are all right but that there are a minority who are not. Those who plead for compulsion always use a minority in order to get more compulsion over the masses. You will never make progress through compulsion over the mass of the people. Hitler enslaved the people of Germany by attacking a minority and diverting attention from the real evils. The minority in that case were the Jews. The minority for the representatives of Birmingham and the big monopolists are the so-called absentees or slackers in connection with Civil Defence. They cannot talk about a minority of Jews, so they talk about an alleged minority which they have manufactured. This is in order to get more suppression over the majority. Whenever the House hears this talk about a minority as a reason for greater compulsion over the majority, decisive action should be taken against those who represent this Fascist attitude.
I am sorry the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrewshire (Major Lloyd) has gone out, because I take the strongest exception to his attack upon a Member on this side of the House. Everybody knows against whom the attack was made and it was a very violent and unjustified attack. I know that the Mem- 440 ber concerned used strong language when he was dealing with the situation in the area referred to, but there was reason for that strong language. After he had spoken, I drew attention to the fact that some weeks after the bombing in that area, the Secretary of State for Scotland visited it and met the billeting committee, and the report he got from them was of such a character that he said "Go ahead. There is no limit to expenditure; no limit to the taking over of houses." The Minister himself knows that the conditions were appalling for masses of the people there, and it is a shameful thing that the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrewshire should get up a fortnight after that Member had spoken and make an unwarranted attack without waiting until the Member concerned was present, especially after that Member had been answered by the Minister.
Those who are talking about compulsion, like the hon. Member for Birmingham to whom I have referred, say "We are prepared to give all." Is that true? No it is not true. Will he give his factory? [An Hon. Member: "It has been taken from him."] No, his profits are going on. In discussions in this House the big business men have said "Please cut down the 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax, because if it is 100 percent. it takes away the incentive to produce."
§ Mr. Gallacher
No, it is said by the other side. In other words, if big business people are not allowed to make more than their ordinary profits they have said they will hold up production. Will they give their factories to the country? Let the Minister try to take the factories from them, and their profits, and see whether they are prepared to "give up all." I will give one instance of compulsion which those Members will not like, though I thoroughly agree with it. It is not compulsion of the workers which is required. The workers are always ready to co-operate and to give their services, and if there should be an invasion of the country the workers will be the most valiant fighters against invasion. In connection with Civil Defence, the workers should be given a sufficient supply of arms. Compulsion should be directed 441 against the employers, the profit-mongers, the robbers. I have here an account of what is described as a very good example of initiative at a place in the north which had been bombed:Hundreds of people had been landed in — on a Sunday night. The billeting officer was in a hopeless mess. All the working-class houses had been filled. Two of our comrades took an inventory of large houses in the area and proceeded to take people from the slum areas to those posh houses. The first house they went to belonged to a contractor"—I will not give the name:He was throwing a dinner at the time at which there was present—I will not mention the name of the clergyman, but he was a very high Church dignitary—Our comrades barged in, disturbed their eating, and planted 40 people in the house, to the great annoyance and disgust of the occupants. Our comrades have been informed that the matter has been placed in the hands of the police. The next house they went to was that of a stockbroker, who wanted to leave it until the following night, but our comrades insisted on him taking 10 people, which he eventually did. Another place was a house belonging to a rich spinster, which had about 40 rooms. The comrades compelled her also to take 18 people.I hope they were all men—In two hours they got 89 people housed in large posh houses. The billeting officer had found places for 48 people in two days.That is the kind of compulsion I would like to see all over the country—all these houses taken over, all the factories taken over, all profits taken over, all the wealth of the country used for the health and well-being and the defence of the people of the country.
Mr. Robertson (Streatham)
My first words in a Civil Defence Debate will be of thanks, on behalf of the citizens I have the honour to represent, to the Lord President; of the Council, and his Parliamentary Secretary in the days when he was Home Secretary, for the conception and creation of this great organisation of Civil Defence which has rendered such magnificent service to the community. I have heard most of the speeches to-day, and I am very pleased that I have not heard any reference to deep shelters. I hope that policy is buried and done with. The Haley Committee killed it a long time ago. We have neither the men nor the material to spend upon tortuous work underground at a time when so much has to be done above ground. Last night I saw eight Anderson shelters standing up bravely 442 amid heavy debris. They were the only things standing at a spot where a stick of three or five bombs fell a few weeks ago. I am told that most of those Anderson shelters were occupied and that everyone came out alive—some bruised but all alive. I beg the Ministry to pursue the policy of making more Anderson shelters, making them drier where necessary, and at the same time to cut out the policy of attempting to make pre-Maginot-Line-policy shelters, by which I mean public shelters, and particularly the above-ground ones. These were intended only for occasional use and for short durations; they are unsuited to be dormitories and can never be made into bedrooms. They cost a tremendous amount of money which I should like to see applied to the provision of the Morrison indoor shelter, or a better type of indoor shelters of which he and I both know, similar to the Anderson but having the great advantage of keeping the people in their homes and securing the first essential—dispersal.
I am sorry that one of the Members for the West of Scotland who had spoken is not present to-day, because his speech appealed to me, and the Noble Lady for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) also spoke in the same sense. But I think both those hon. Members were off the track in suggesting that people should be sent to the Highlands of Scotland. All the evidence in the possession of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key) indicates clearly that it is not a question of going 500 miles but a question of going only a small number of miles to areas of comparative safety. I say "comparative safety," because in my view there is no such thing as complete safety from this air war, but a great degree of safety can be secured. Many of the problems which arise from evacuation are social problems, such as the taking of children away from their mothers and taking husbands from their wives. I had the pleasure of speaking to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on this very problem many months ago, and I think his thoughts were running along the line of getting people away from the tenements which have been spoken of, and which I know very well, because as a youth I tried to collect rents there and many a 443 time climbed up the stairs. The tenements are vulnerable. It might mean the husband having to get up a little earlier and getting home a little later, but the family would be living together and within a reasonable distance of the husband's work.
Coming to the great issue raised in this Debate, it was put very ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), who has, I submit, almost greater experience than any other Member of the House in regard to raids under active service conditions such as we have had in London since September. I am sure we all appreciate the work he has done and the way he has struggled behind the scenes with Ministers to secure improvements. The Minister for Home Security referred to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock as wanting to take away powers from the local authorities. I am certain that that is not his object.
He said that it was his wish that the local authorities should provide the machinery for the operation of Civil Defence. The fundamental is not the question of the Ministry of Home Security being called by another name. It is the question of a full-time Minister. My right hon. Friend yesterday, in winding up the Debate, spoke of this vast army of 4,000,000 citizens enrolled for the work of Civil Defence to protect the property, lives and health of 46,000,000 people. But it is a part-time job: as our American friends say, something that is done on the side, speaking engagements permitting. Is that good enough? I had the pleasure of knowing my right hon. Friend 30 years ago, and he then revealed the talents which have brought him to high office, an office which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Peters field (Sir G. Jeffreys) said would require a superman. It requires much more than that. This is about the biggest thing that has ever happened, planning and carrying out something the like of which has not been carried out in the world before. My right hon. Friend said he did not desire to grab the power of other Departments; I am sure of that. He said he did desire to be a success; I believe that. The country insists on its being made a success, but it never can be done as a part-time job. I appeal to him, 444 not to the Prime Minister, to divest himself of duties such as the shutting down of the "Daily Worker" and matters under Regulation 18B. I want him to devote his time to this task.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Does the hon. Member realise that that also is home security? Home security is wider than Civil Defence.
I cannot follow that subtle point. I have seen Civil Defence in action in my constituency under severe bombing and supervising such work has nothing to do with any other aspect of Home Office work. I am not appealing to the Prime Minister but to the Minister of Home Security. Nature has endowed him with all the qualities to command success. I hope he will divest himself of these other duties and so make certain of it.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)
After two days' Debate, carried on with splendid good temper, with great wealth of personal knowledge from all sections of the House from men who have been and are Deputy Regional Commissioners, from men who have had experience as mayors, as chairmen of emergency committees, and in all forms and offices of Civil Defence, I think that the Government's policy as a whole emerges as one which has the general approbation, in principle, of this House. There are really two issues which have been raised. One is whether there should be a separate Ministry of Civil Defence or not; secondly, whether there is any necessity for greater powers being vested in the Regional Commissioners for the direction or control of the Civil Defence administration, at present under the operation of local authorities. If I might venture a word of criticism of the attitude adopted by my hon. and learned Friend opposite, it is in connection with his remark that the speech of the Home Secretary, speaking for the Government last night, represented to him that there was great complacency in the Government's attitude towards the problems of Civil Defence. If I might assure him and the House, speaking as one who has been a Regional Commissioner, and who at present has to devote a very large part of his time as Secretary of State for Scotland to these problems from 445 another angle, the last possible attitude that this Government has towards Civil Defence is an attitude of self-complacency.
We do not disagree with criticism. Among all the criticisms which have been made in this Debate few have not already been noted and submitted to expert examination. Some of them have already been authorised, and before I sit down I hope to indicate where we are exploring new avenues of protection for the civil population. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department declared yesterday that his mind was open, even on this question of a Minister of Civil Defence. I would express the view that, to the extent to which any rational and reasonable proposal could be put forward for examination, his mind is not closed, and the mind of the Government is not closed. I am entitled to say that there has been no proposal in detail put before this House as to a single Minister for Civil Defence which could withstand for five minutes the criticism which could be offered. I go further and say that we, as Regional Commissioners and as Ministers, have for many months examined this very question, and it always breaks down purely on the test of practical experience.
Let me give, if I may, one instance to the hon. and learned Gentleman of what I mean. He said, and other Members have said, "Let the Minister of Home Security divest himself of many of his present functions and take on entirely everything connected with Civil Defence." That appears to me to mean, for example, that the Minister of Home Defence would have to split up the Ministry of Transport. He would require to have buses ready in every vulnerable area; he would require to have petrol stocks, garages, all immobilised, standing idle, awaiting possibilities which might never develop. If he does not do that, if he does not have control of transport from blitzed areas to less vulnerable areas outside, he is not in fact taking over control of all the aspects of Civil Defence which my hon. and learned Friend had in mind.
§ Mr. C. Davies
May I give this instance, which was given by the Home Secretary? The War Office does not take over the Ministry of Transport, but suppose a regiment has to be moved, and the
446 War Office calls for that, it goes. In the same way, a Minister of Civil Defence would have first call on the Ministry of Transport.
§ Mr. Johnston
Yes, Sir, that is precisely the point I was about to make. The War Office has its own transport. [Interruption.] Believe me, it has. It has its own vehicles, its own petrol supply and its own garages.
§ Mr. Johnston
I know, but I am dealing with the specific question of how the proposal which has been submitted to us would result in a transference of certain functions of the Minister of Transport to the Minister of Home Security, in such a way that, with our present shortage, it would require immobilisation and could not be justified. Until we see the proposal put forward in such a form that it can withstand the blast of expert criticism, based on facts and experience, the Government are doing quite right in refusing to accept vague assertions, that an unspecified and vaguely described Ministry of Civil Defence would solve our problems.
Another question raised in the Debate concerns the powers of Regional Com missioners. Here again we have to deal with matters with some precision. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke from the benches opposite said that Regional Commissioners had power now to supersede local authorities. Under Regulation 29A the Minister, the "appropriate Minister" as he is called, has power to place any service provided by a local authority in the discharge of its Civil Defence functions wholly or partly under the control of another local authority or of himself, or of any person appointed by him. In a subsequent paragraph he has power to delegate those powers to a Regional Commissioner. Up to now, no such powers have ever been delegated to a Regional Commissioner, and it would be most unwise to give to local authorities in general the impression that nominated gentlemen called Regional Commissioners were to have powers to supplant the entire machinery of local government in this country. If that were ever done generally, we should steadily deteriorate the national good will —
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman except on one point. I suppose that, in the case of invasion, Regional Commissioners will have adequate powers?
§ Mr. Johnston
The powers are there, and could be used, but I say that the Regional Commissioners' powers need not be increased. They are as wide as can possibly be. All that the Government say at the moment is that it would be most unwise and foolish, and most destructive of the national good will, to exercise those powers generally or to give the impression that the exercise of those powers was necessary. I go further. I have attended many meetings of Regional Commissioners, and I have never once met a Regional Commissioner who would touch those powers, unless they were forced upon him by dire necessity. He would recognise that he would be facing almost civil insurrection if those powers were to be generally granted.
Let me give a little experience of how the Regional Commissioner works. He is not a civil servant, despite what the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) said. He is appointed on a warrant from the Crown. He has no pension, and as a matter of fact he mostly takes no salary. He is removable by the Crown and not by a Minister, and the statement made in another place yesterday by a Noble Lord, to the effect that he had a suspicion that the reason there had not been any regular meetings of Regional Commissioners was because they asked uncomfortable questions which the Government were not able to answer is just nonsense. Conferences are held as often as any Regional Commissioner ever wanted, and more frequently than some of us wanted to travel. The last thing I ever saw at any one of these meetings was subservience to the Minister. As a matter of fact they were filled with grievances and grumbles, and after questions and discussions had taken place most of us succeeded in impressing our views upon the Minister and went back to our respective regions with what we had come down to get. So far as the suggestion made in another place is concerned, I can assure the House that there is not the slightest foundation for it whatever.
§ Mr. Lindsay
He said "respective Ministers." Are all Ministers present when Regional Commissioners meet?
§ Mr. Johnston
No, they are not, but when Regional Commissioners desire an approach to the Minister of Food, the Minister of Transport, or to any other Minister of the Crown, believe me, they go direct to him. What more power do they want? At this moment, certainly in the region I know best, I do not know of any power which the Regional Commissioner in Scotland desires to have in addition, or which he would indeed take unless it was forced upon him.
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not know. The Regional Commissioner is armed with sufficient powers, and can exercise those powers. I am leaving for a moment the question of his relationship with the local authorities, which I will come to in a moment. If everybody is satisfied that his relationships with Ministers of the Crown are as free and unfettered as they can possibly be, I venture to say that on the second point that has been raised there is no substantial cause for complaint. What does the Regional Commissioner do? First of all, he has available chief officials from the Home Office, from the Ministries of Health, Transport, Food, Pensions, Works and Buildings and Air. If any question arises, he sends for them. They have no trouble or difficulty in appearing. He is a co-ordinator of Government policy. He smoothes out difference between them, he gets co-operative action, and I think, as the Minister of Home Security said yesterday, it is a typically British institution. It has no precedent. Here is something that has been superimposed upon the country which works and which—and this is the great thing—works by agreement. I think I can speak for Scotland when I say that there is no local authority in Scotland which does not look to the Regional Commissioner as to a friend, as a co-ordinator, as a helper. Any grievances they have, 449 they bring to me. In one way and another, this institution has built up a public confidence which is most amazing, that, despite blitzing, we shall survive, and that everything possible is being done to alleviate suffering and to meet the mischances which war always brings in its train.
I should like again to assure hon. Members that we have no feeling of complacency. There are many things to be remedied. Let me mention a few. Take the question of information centres, the most important service, perhaps, of all. We have had difficulties in inducing some local authorities to realise the importance of these centres. Now that they are there we have to see that they are tested out. It is no good having splendid paper schemes. We must see that they are all fully staffed. We want to send hundreds of men and women to ask questions at these information centres. I went to one the other day, and I set out to puzzle them. The town clerk said, "I do not think you can puzzle us." The first question I asked was this: "I have just been blitzed out of my house in such-and-such a street, and I have lost my false teeth; what am I to do?" That puzzled them. They had not been prepared for that. We can put all sorts of problems before them, and as a result we can get a machine which is almost fool-proof, even after a heavy blitz. In Scotland we are fortunate in having the services of half a dozen advocates to help us. We send them to places to test the scheme. They are skilled cross-examiners, regularly engaged in cross-examination. I am not sure that I would not employ the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in that way. We send them to scheme-making authorities, and from their reports we learn whether everything is 100 percent. prepared; and if it is not, we can remedy the faults. We ought, I think, to make even more use of the Women's Voluntary Service. I think that that service is one of the discoveries of the war.
§ Mr. Johnston
No, Sir. We are re cruiting 1,000 women, and we want to train them now to go into rest centres and such places after a raid to take control and give help—
§ It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Major Dugdale.]
§ Mr. Lindsay
I would like to put this point, which is very important and has affected my constituency this week. My right hon. Friend said that the advocates go round and inspect the whole arrangements. I have had these advocates in my constituency this week. Does not my right hon. Friend think that if the District Commissioner is getting the coordination that he has mentioned and is doing his job, it is very much better and a more healthy democratic undertaking than sending round on top of that and making a further examination? I am all for getting things as carefully prepared as possible, but is it not rather clumsy? It is being resented even by some of my own people.
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not know about resentment in Kilmarnock, but some local authorities have welcomed it. If we have nothing to hide, they say why should we object to all our paper schemes being tested. We are the first people, the defenders of our citizens here, and we ought to know whether there are any weaknesses in our own local organisations. The District Commissioner certainly should know the weaknesses of co-ordination, and when these schemes are all beautifully prepared and reported upon by the local authorities we want to test them. Surely my hon. Friend does not object.
§ Mr. Johnston
I know that it is novel, but I hope charges will not be made against us either of novelty or of complacency. I would like to make one or two other suggestions. I do not think that the food canteen arrangements are always sufficiently well co-ordinated. There are three Departments with food, 451 canteen and restaurant services under their control. The Ministry of Labour has charge of the arrangements at factories, the Ministry of Health has charge of the feeding arrangements in the rest centres, and the Ministry of Food supplies the British Restaurants. All these should be co-ordinated as speedily as possible. It might be true that from the necessities of the case they grew up in these separate ways, but we must see to it now that there is one authority in charge of these arrangements in the vulnerable towns.
May I now deal with one or two points raised in the Debate? The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) raised the question yesterday about billeting allowances, and he urged that attempts should be made to recover more billeting allowances from people who billet their children out in the receiving areas. The answer, I think, is very simple. First of all, the amounts are very small; secondly, no attempt whatever is made to recover a penny from any poor family which is unable to pay. But I think it is right that people who can pay should not have the maintenance of their children taken over by the State while other parents are unable to have their children maintained by the State. As to the amounts, they average 2s. 3d. per week for maintenance. When we know that in some of these cases houses are sub-let, it is grotesquely unfair that the people who sub-let their homes in the sending area should get away with free billeting in receiving areas while other families do not have this advantage. At any rate, I can only say that these arrangements for recovery have been in being for over a year now, and that I do not think there has been a solitary question put in this House by a Scottish Member about their harshness.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am trying to put the facts as fairly and as reasonably as I can. Believe me, there is no harshness, and it would be most unfortunate if middle-class parents should be allowed to plant their children—if I may put it in that way— at State expense in receiving areas and get billeting allowances for them while poor people, who are perhaps receiving these children, do not get any such relief. Other points were put during the Debate, some 452 of them by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Renfrewshire (Major Lloyd), which are already under consideration. As regards evacuation areas, I do not think I am contravening any rule about publicity if I say that in Scotland the areas which have already been scheduled as evacuation areas contain 40 percent. of the total population. I put it to any hon. Member that that renders it absolutely impossible for us to extend these areas.
Would it be impossible to move people from the Gorbals area, which is very vulnerable, to Cowglen, or nearby? Why not give the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour), the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) or the Reverend George MacLeod the job of organising camps and putting people under one roof, as is done under the Canadian system?
§ Mr. Johnston
I am talking for the moment about billeting. Let us be careful what we are doing. The question of the rearrangement of evacuation areas is, I am certain. impossible on the facts of the situation — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]. I am glad to hear that I have the concurrence of hon. Gentlemen opposite to that extent. If that be so, is there anything we can do to distribute the population a little more evenly and fairly? I think there is, and we are doing it. We are putting up hostel camps as fast as we can. As the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) said, we are doing all we can to induce local authorities to requisition large houses, and I do not despair of there being other alleviations which we may be able to suggest. But war is war, and it cannot be run on drawing-room principles. There are difficulties which, with the best will in the world, we cannot overcome; but any and every suggestion that is put to us will be sympathetically received.. For example, the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Robertson) spoke of experiments concerning shelters. We have already basement shelters. We are prepared to take any and every measure available to us to protect the civilian life of this country. More than that we cannot do, and more than that it would be folly to promise.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who opened the Debate to-day, referred to the conclusions 453 of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. He asked what is the attitude of the Government towards the recommendation that paid personnel should be abandoned. Clearly, the Government's attitude is that we cannot abandon it, and particularly we cannot do so in the vulnerable areas, at a time when the part-time personnel which has already been trained is being absorbed into other Services under the National Service Act. If we were to abandon full-time paid personnel at the same time as part-time personnel is being taken away from us, we should be left without any machine. Therefore, the Government's attitude is that we cannot abandon the paid personnel, and we do not propose to recommend that course.
I should like, in conclusion, to add my tribute to those that have been paid to the work done by the Lord President of the Council in initiating these schemes.
454 He did splendidly, and his work has saved thousands of lives. The great ser vice that is given in Civil Defence, given gladly and enthusiastically, for long hours, often in difficult weather and often with many personal grievances, some of which we will endeavour to remedy as fast as we can, reflects the greatest credit not so much upon the Government or the local authorities, but upon the personnel of the services. I am not thinking only of Civil Defence, but of the women in the homes where the children are billeted, who look after the children, mend their clothes, tend them in their sickness, and look after their little ailments. In nine cases out of ten there are created in this way great good will and co-operation which, we may hope, will be one of the beneficial legacies that will survive the war.
§ Question, "That the House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to