HC Deb 09 July 1942 vol 381 cc916-8
11. Mr. Brooke

asked the Home Secretary what progress is being made in developing schemes of munitions work for Civil Defence personnel whilst on duty?

Mr. H. Morrison

As the answer is rather long, I will, with Mr. Speaker's permission, make a statement at the end of Questions.


Mr. Morrison

Subject to the maintenance of the efficiency of the Civil Defence services by such training and exercises as are necessary, to the prior claims of other essential work connected with these services, and to the suitability of the premises, I should welcome any opportunity for men and women on duty in fire stations and other Civil Defence depots to take a more direct part in war production.

I am advised by the Supply Departments, however, that in. view of the demands upon machinery and supervisory staff and the need to ensure the most economical use of materials and transport, the field of such opportunity is necessarily limited. Generally speaking, the work will have to be in the nature of sub-contracting, and experience so far gained of the informal arrangements which have come to notice points to the need of some standardised system of control of price to secure that no firm using this method of sub-contracting shall gain any advantage from the use of Civil Defence personnel. I am in consultation with the Supply Departments in the matter.

I have been led to the conclusion that no individual additional payment should be made to men and women who volunteer to undertake this work. Apart from the known desire of many members of the services to make a voluntary contribution to productive industry in the national interest—indeed one trade union catering for Civil Defence personnel has conducted a campaign in favour of productive work at the depots—the difficulties of fixing a fair basis of pay for those who are already receiving remuneration for full-time service are well-nigh insuperable. The limited amount of work that can be given out varies in type according to the districts, the physical facilities at each depot, the numbers on duty and the amount of time that each could give to the work. Anything corresponding to uniform workshop production and conditions is, therefore, out of the question. The payment of additional remuneration to those members of the services who are fortuitously in a position to offer to undertake productive work during a part of their duty hours and the withholding of additional payment from those who for good reasons have no opportunity to do so, would create inequalities of pay and would be bound to give rise to discontent. I am, however, considering whether an appropriase part of the contractors' payment for the work done could indirectly be made available for the collective benefit of members of the services.

Mr. Cluse

Owing to the scarcity of labour in municipal offices, would it not be possible to utilise some of the labour in the depots nearest to those offices, perhaps only temporarily, and so assist the municipalities to carry out their duties?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend will find that that possibility is provided for in the circular which I have addressed to local authorities.

Mr. Brooke

Is the Minister aware that many men in Civil Defence services will be bitterly disappointed unless he can expedite the arrangement by which they are enabled, in or near Civil Defence premises, to take part in production?

Mr. Morrison

I am very anxious to do all I can. The problem is one for solution by the Supply Departments. Very great difficulties face them. They might detach units of production in a way which might lead to a net reduction of production rather than an increase, but I am sure they will do all they can, and my hon. Friend may be sure that I will also.