HC Deb 26 November 1942 vol 385 cc851-2
29. Mr. W. Brown

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he can make a statement as to the present policy of his Department in regard to the enrolment of enemy aliens for fire-watching purposes?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

Aliens of enemy nationality are permitted to undertake fire-guard duties as volunteers in suitable cases. They are not subject to the compulsory provisions in the Fire Prevention Orders.

Major Petherick

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very great danger involved, and will he also recollect the frightful examples in the Low Countries of persons who were believed to be perfectly friendly but who, when the Germans marched in, were found to be very much otherwise?

Mr. Morrison

That point is always kept in mind. Indeed, I have been criticised for keeping it too much in mind.

Miss Rathbone

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the fact that there are very few enemy aliens loose in this country, and that those who are loose have been passed through a hair sieve?

Mr. Morrison

I think that is much too wide a generalisation.

32. Mr. Purbrick

asked the Home Secretary on what grounds he proposes to prohibit one person, after doing his own fire-watching duties, voluntarily relieving another?

Mr. Morrison

I am not proposing to institute any such prohibition, but to check abuse I propose in the forthcoming Order to include a provision establishing a record of substitutes which will be open to inspection by the local authority or the appropriate authority for the premises.

37. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the effect on production of the additional strain of fire-watching on people who have given the maximum output for two, three or four years, increased by the geographical situation of many establishments, causing workpeople to travel two and three hours a day in addition to their working hours; that in one area men and women who leave home at 6.30 a.m. and return at 8 p.m. are being called upon to do fire-watching, including a lady working these hours with a child one year old; and if he will reconsider the policy as applied to the industrial workers and issue advice to the workpeople stating clearly their duties and rights?

Mr. Morrison

I recognise that fire prevention is in a number of cases a burden on those concerned, but it is a duty which must be discharged by the people of this country to repel attacks by fire. There is a special provision in the Orders by which exemption may be granted to men regularly engaged on vital work for exceptionally long hours in industrial premises, and to women regularly engaged on work for exceptionally long hours. Any worker who considers his or her case is such that it would be an exceptional hardship to be required to perform fire prevention duties is entitled to apply to a tribunal for exemption. Any woman with a child of under 14 living with her is entirely exempt.

Mr. Smith

Has my right hon. Friend considered the advisability of issuing a circular setting out clearly the duties and rights of the workpeople?

Mr. Morrison

Very clear advice has been issued as to their duties and equally clear advice as to their rights. Moreover, the trade union organisations represented on my Advisory Council have themselves issued very clear advice to their members. I do not think my hon. Friend need be under any misapprehension on the point.