HC Deb 27 March 1941 vol 370 cc689-90
55. Mr. Cocks

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that many voluntary street party fire watchers are declining to sign the official form issued by the local authority, not because they are not prepared to give 48 hours to their duties, which they are already doing, but because the form requires them to state their willingness to be on duty in streets other than their own; and whether he will consider modifying this stipulation?

Mr. H, Morrison

I fully understand and appreciate the feeling which my hon. Friend has in mind. The whole fire watching scheme however would simply not operate if every fire watcher refused to be on duty away from his own house and in a street other than his own, and I think that the truth of this is generally understood and recognised. I do not see why willingness to accept the narrow obligation to take part in the fire protection of one's own property or street should be a substitute for the wider obligations to the nation's war effort as a whole that may fall on persons in areas where it is necessary to apply the provisions of the Civil Defence Duties (Compulsory Enrolment) Order by reason of the insufficiency of volunteers.

Mr. Cocks

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while many fire parties are ready and enthusiastic to look after their own street, they are afraid of being sent to other streets, perhaps in some remote part of the area, especially in London? Could not the wording be made a little more precise?

Mr. Morrison

I quite understand, and that is not an unnatural feeling, but I do not think I can vary the Order. As far as administration is concerned, the authorities who are involved would, of course, be wise to meet the convenience and personal preference of people as far as they could. That is my wish, and anything that I can do in that direction I will do, but I must adhere to the point, and ask the public to support me in it, that in the last resort the job has to be done and we must send people where it is necessary to send them in the public interest.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will my right hon. Friend make it plain that their own streets will not be left completely unguarded while they may be a long distance away?

Mr. Morrison

I am glad my hon. Friend has put that point. It may well be necessary, in order to secure the protection of their own street, that some of them shall go somewhere else.