HC Deb 08 May 1941 vol 371 cc963-5
37. Sir W. Davison

asked the Home Secretary in what way, after the making of the Fire Prevention Orders, the arrangements for the provision of free steel helmets to fire-watchers and the grant of compensation for injuries sustained by them on duty were modified?

Mr. H. Morrison

I am glad that the hon. Member has given me this opportunity of looking further into the matter. I find that before the making of the Orders some local authorities were informed that they might be authorised to issue civilian steel helmets to volunteers who were or who undertook to become members of supplementary fire parties. Subsequently, local authorities generally were given to understand that issues would be on a more restricted basis. I must, of course, honour the earlier assurance, although, on reflection, I think that it would have been better if it had been made a condition of a free issue that the volunteer should accept certain definite obligations, like other part-time Civil Defence volunteers. I hope that all who have enrolled as members of supplementary fire parties and are in a position to do so will assist local authorities to establish an effective service by undertaking, like other part-time members of Civil Defence organisations, to perform not less than 48 hours' duty per month where their services may be of most use. It is the occupier's responsibility to provide free helmets for persons working at business premises who perform duties on these premises under the Fire Prevention (Business Premises) Order.

As regards compensation, the assurance given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions, in reply to a Question on 20th February by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall), will be adhered to. Compensation for war service injuries will be made in accordance with the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme to all fire watchers who are duly enrolled or registered. In addition, those members of the local authority's Civil Defence organisation who undertake to do not less than 48 hours per month and to serve anywhere in the area of their local authority may receive an allowance in respect of loss of earnings. As a result, they will get their normal weekly earnings for a maximum period of 13 weeks, provided that these do not exceed the basic weekly pay of whole-time Civil Defence volunteers.

Sir W. Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while there is a considerable number of elderly people and women who are quite prepared to give their services for 48 hours per month, many of them do not feel capable of being or willing to be sent to other parts of London with which they are not familiar? They are quite willing to give their services in their own district or neighbourhood, but are not prepared to go to other parts of London in order to do fire watching in districts with which they are not familiar?

Mr. Morrison

I understand that the undertaking would be, not to go to another part of London, but to serve anywhere within the Metropolitan borough in the case of the administrative county, as it is not quite so bad. Nevertheless, I hope the local authorities, in administering the Order,, will take account of exceptional cases of women with family responsibilities or of elderly people, and will administer the Order sensibly, and meet such cases as far as they can. With good will on both sides, it should be possible to cope with any difficulties.

Mr. Thorne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction about it, and is he prepared to give instructions to local authorities which, if carried out, would give satisfaction?

Mr. Morrison

I will consider giving guidance, but it must not be too precise, because one does not want the matter confused. I will consider whether I can give guidance which, at the same time, will not run away with the situation.

43. Sir George Broadbridge

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury when the; hon. Member for the City of London can expect a reply to his letter of 21st March containing complaints with regard to a large number of Inland Revenue staffs at Empire House, E.C.2, engaged on fire-watching duties, to obtain food while on week-end duty; and whether the grievance complained of has now been remedied?

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Crookshank)

To-day, Sir.