HC Deb 23 July 1942 vol 382 cc157-8
22. Mr. John Dugdale

asked the Home Secretary the reasons which have led his Department to institute a shift system by which firemen are on duty continuously for 48 hours out of 72 hours?

Mr. H. Morrison

This system of duty has been in operation over part of the National Fire Service for a considerable time. The reason for extending it generally in England and Wales is that its adoption is in the interests of the operational efficiency of the Service.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of firemen take great exception to this system, on the ground that they cannot engage in part-time war work in their spare time?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, but the firemen are engaged primarily for fire-fighting purposes. While I appreciate their point, and understand it, this system has been in operation for a long time—in some areas before the nationalisation of the Service. I have given it very careful consideration, and I think that operational efficiency requires this policy to be pursued.

Mr. Thorne

Cannot the Home Secretary find some system which will obviate the necessity of duty for 48 hours at a time? As he knows, nature compels one to close one's eyes during some part of a 48-hour period.

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend should not assume that I keep the men awake for 48 hours at a time. They have facilities for sleeping. I must apply the policy gradually, because I want adequate accommodation to be provided before I apply it fully.

Mr. Higgs

Is it not a fact that the Fire Brigades Union much prefer 24 hours on and 24 hours off? Would the right hon. Gentleman give further consideration to that fact?

Mr. Morrison

I am aware of the views of the union, but I am afraid I do not agree with them.