HC Deb 09 October 1941 vol 374 cc1111-3
40. Sir T. Moore

asked the Home Secretary what steps he proposes to take to minimise the effects of the black-out during the winter months in regard to the war effort as well as the comfort and safety of the public?

41. Sir William Wayland

asked the Home Secretary whether he can now, in the interest of life and limb, suggest a modified pre-war system of street-lighting in the large towns and cities, as the present black-out has proved useless against bomb attacks?

Mr. H. Morrison

The Lighting Restrictions Regulations are under constant consideration by His Majesty's Government. We are keeping an alert mind on the subject and are always ready to adapt our policy to meet the situation as it exists from time to time. In all these matters we are largely guided by the expert advice of the Air Staff. The proposal that the streets should be lighted above the standard now permitted ignores the danger that by so doing we should give to the enemy a ready-made map of the area he may wish to bomb. The Air Staff would be glad indeed if the Germans would light their towns and I am advised that the suggestion in the last part of Question No. 41 is not borne out by the facts.

It has been suggested that arrangements might be made to extinguish lights on receipt of a warning, but, apart from the fact that this would involve a considerable amount of electrical work which could not rapidly be carried out under the existing conditions of labour and supply, this scheme would be likely to lead to an increase of road accidents with vehicles which must continue to run after the lights had been suddenly extinguished. Furthermore it assumes that a warning can always be given, but as my predecessor and I have frequently pointed out in the House, the air raid warning system is not automatic but depends on many human and other uncertain factors. And we must not be lulled into any false sense of security by our recent, and in all probability temporary, freedom from raiding on a large scale.

I am making inquiry in regard to the arrangements in Moscow which have been described in the Press, but I am not sure that experience in that city is relevant to conditions in this country. With a view to facilitating the war effort certain relaxations of the lighting restrictions, including "star" street lighting and the additional motor headlamp, have already been authorised, but it would not be in the national interest that details of all such relaxations should be given either by me or by other hon. Members. I am disposed to think that as things are the increased lighting of streets which has been suggested would cause alarm and disquiet among the general public who, I believe, would prefer the admitted inconveniences of the blackout to which they are accustomed to the risks which they apprehend from street lighting.

Sir T. Moore

While fully recognising all the facts which my right hon. Friend has given, may I ask whether our scientists and engineers are constantly seeking some method by which some relaxation can be made which will give our people a little more comfort and light and our war output a better chance of success?

Mr. Morrison

That aspect has not been overlooked. A fair amount of research and, indeed, preparation on this matter have been undertaken, but for reasons which I have indicated I thought it unwise to make a general relaxation.

Sir W. Wayland

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his statement, may I ask whether it is not a fact that not a single raid has been prevented by the black-out and not one life saved, and that the trade of the country has been seriously interfered with by the black-out?

Mr. Morrison

These statements, which I have seen elsewhere, are very gratuitous assertions. There is a great deal of difference between the enemy not knowing precisely what he is bombing and knowing precisely what he is bombing. Frankly, the case has not yet been proved to my satisfaction that production has been gravely interfered with as a result of the blackout.

Mr. Wedgwood

Is the objection to turning up the lights really a Home Office objection and not an objection on the part of the Air Ministry?

Mr. Morrison

On this matter we act largely on the advice of the Air Staff, who are the important people concerned. The decision I have referred to is not merely a departmental decision, but the decision of His Majesty's Government.