HC Deb 08 May 1941 vol 371 cc955-9
9. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider the use, or if necessary, the erection of further hutted camps for the reception of mothers and children, or children alone, in areas where they can be reasonably free from the mental and physical disturbance of enemy bombing?

The Minister of Health (Mr. Ernest Brown)

I hope that further huts will be erected to meet a variety of needs in reception areas. The extent to which huts can be provided in these areas must, however, depend on the available resources of labour and materials, and I think it unlikely that these resources would be used to the best advantage in building camps for mothers and children.

Sir T. Moore

As those camps so far tried out have been an outstanding success, affording as they do accommodation for teachers, nurses and so on, will my right hon. Friend make every effort to extend them as far as the material and labour are available?

Mr. Brown

Yes, Sir; that is implicit in my Answer.

Mr. James Griffiths

As I gather from the Reply that the right hon. Gentleman is turning down this proposal, or, at any rate, holding out no hope, to build huts, may I ask whether the Government are taking a long view of the evacuation problem and whether the problem of providing working-class houses is not becoming serious?

Mr. Brown

Yes, Sir, but the issue in the Question related to hutted camps. It may be that we shall have to pool accommodation for all purposes, but that is a different issue.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider, in conjunction with the hon. Lady the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security, the large-scale provision of at least improvised camps for people from heavily bombed towns until such time as our fighters are able to average 22 enemy bombers a night?

Mr. Brown

I think that question had better be put down.

Mr. Simmonds

Will my right hen. Friend" organise a mobile unit which can put these people under canvas during the summer months, so that there is not a trek out when there is an air raid?

Mr. Brown

I was asked about camps for particular purposes. There has been a large provision of centres for children, but the Question also asked about mothers and children. It is much easier to provide for unaccompanied children than for mothers and children. My answer was confined to the specific Question.

11. Miss Eleanor Rathbone

asked the Minister of Health whether arrangements have been made for the evacuation from London of the refugees from Gibraltar, especially children?

Mr. Brown

Accommodation of a type suitable for the reception of large family groups is not available except in London, and the mothers of the children would not consent to their evacuation unaccompanied by themselves.

Miss Rathbone

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these people are in an area which has been subjected to very heavy bombardment, so that it is most desirable that they should be got out of it if possible?

Mr. Brown

This problem has given us, perhaps, more difficulty than any other single problem that has been put on our shoulders by the war. We have organised 29 large centres, at which we have to arrange special feeding. We are providing at all of them measures of protection against air raids We have done our best, and it is quite clear that the only way to handle this difficult problem is, as we are doing it, by large units.

Sir William Davison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that large blocks of buildings in my constituency have been taken for this purpose, and does he not think he could get these people accommodation together somewhere outside London, so as not to disturb many people who are living in London because they are doing national work?

Mr. Brown

I am aware of the difficulties which my hon. Friend has pointed out to us. It is, however, quite impossible to billet these particular refugees separately in small houses in the country. There is always the difficulty that there must be special feeding arrangements. I have no doubt that the decisions we have made concerning them were the right decisions, and on the whole they seem to be settling down very happily.

12. Mr. Parker

asked the Minster of Health whether he can reconsider his previous decision and now make Romford and Hornchurch into evacuation areas?

Mr. Brown

The case for altering the classification of evacuation, neutral and reception areas is kept under constant review. The position as regards these two areas remains the same as set out in the reply given to my hon. Friend on 23rd January last.

Mr. Parker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that recent events have increased the demand in these areas for the evacuation of the children?

Mr. Brown

I am aware that there is a certain desire for it in hundreds of other areas, but there is a limit to the billeting accommodation available in the reception areas in this country.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Will the Minister take an early opportunity of stating upon what principle the Government decide whether an area shall be an evacuation, a neutral or a reception area, as we are constantly being asked about it, and I think a statement would be of advantage to the House?

Mr. Brown

It would also be of advantage to me to make a statement.

14. Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

asked the Minister of Health whether in view of the Government policy that people should stay put in heavy raids, it is his policy to discourage the evacuation of large towns at such times?

Mr. Brown

The Government believe that the people of this country will not consent to be driven from their duties, in whatever area these duties have to be performed, by enemy attack. But it is the Government's policy to facilitate the organised evacuation of the priority classes from evacuation areas, though it is not practicable to declare in advance as evacuable every area that may be liable to attack. In all cases, however, it is the concern of the Government to ensure proper provision for the homeless.

Mr. Lindsay

In view of the fact that my right hon. Friend has already stated that he did not know on what principle evacuation is carried out—

Mr. Brown

I really must correct that statement. I have said nothing of the kind.

Mr. Lindsay

It is within the recollection of my hon. Friends, but I will not press the point.

Mr. Brown

What I did say was that it would be an advantage to me and also to the House if I made a statement.

Mr. Lindsay

In view of the representations which have been made from many sides of the House, will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement on this question, because he was reported to have said at Plymouth that it was not desirable to take action? A great many Members want to know if that is the case or not, because seven days afterwards a complete evacuation of the children there took place.

Mr. Brown

I cannot be held responsible for what is stated in reports. What happened at Plymouth is clear. I was investigating reception problems in the West Country at the time when the first big raid on Plymouth took place. I stopped there and attended the first meeting of the authorities concerned. The issue of evacuation was raised, and those concerned locally did not at that time desire it. My hon. Friend must under- stand that mothers and fathers, as well as politicians, have some views about this matter.