HC Deb 26 June 1941 vol 372 cc1094-6
21. Mr. Lambert

asked the Home. Secretary whether he is aware that his Department agreed with the standing joint committee, in July, 1940, to postpone the building of two new police stations at Torquay and Totnes; that he has since directed the standing joint committee to proceed without delay with the erection of a new police station at Torquay; that the Devonshire County Council has three times deprecated the diversion of labour and raw material for such a purpose, when thousands of people in Plymouth and district, rendered homeless by enemy action, are without proper shelter and accommodation; and will he reconsider this question?

Mr. H. Morrison

As my hon. Friend is aware, I have given the most careful consideration to this question, and it has been fully discussed at a meeting which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State had with representatives of the County Council. The building schemes of the Devon Standing Joint Committee were reviewed after the outbreak of war, and the decision was reached that with some modifications only the new stations at Torquay and Totnes should be proceeded with. In each case the existing premises are old and inadequate for the increased number of personnel—the police war reserve and special constables —using them. The conditions in these stations are not, I am advised, conducive to efficient working, and I am satisfied that the proposals as now modified are essential to the efficiency of the police force. The Government, after taking full account of the situation, decided that in the allocation of labour and material for building purposes due provision must be made for essential police buildings.

Mr. Lambert

Can. my right hon. Friend tell me why he persists in ignoring the opinion of the democratically-elected Devon County Council in this matter?

Mr. Morrison

Because I do not agree with them. Perhaps I may add that this is part of a programme in which a great many things were not done before the war, and I am not aware that similar arguments were raised then. In the case of Totnes, the position is that all the available space is overcrowded. Cells are used as stores, and a narrow cell corridor is used by two clerks as an office, and 'they and their chairs and desks have to be moved before a prisoner can be taken to or from the cells. Senior police officers are scattered at points away from the station, and this interferes considerably with the efficient working of the police. There are somewhat similar problems at Torquay. In time of war it is important, I think, that the police force should have decent conditions under which to do their work efficiently.

Viscountess Astor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he will go to Torquay and look around, he will find premises there which could be taken by the police for their use?

Mr. Morrison

They would not be suitable.

Mr. Granville

Is not the discomfort in the police station which the right hon. Gentleman has described considerably less than the discomfort which refugees are suffering as the result of air-raid action?

Mr. Morrison

With respect, my hon. Friend is misrepresenting the position. I did not refer to personal discomforts, but to conditions which make it impossible for the police efficiently to discharge their duties.

Viscountess Astor

We need all the available building materials and workers for Plymouth.