HC Deb 11 May 1944 vol 399 cc2082-4
51. Sir Alexander Russell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he intends to take further action following the publication of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne inquiry Report.

54. Mr. R. J. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is now prepared to make a statement on the inquiry into Civil Defence and other matters at Newcastle.

Mr. H. Morrison

I propose, with permission, to answer these Questions at the end of Questions.


Mr. H. Morrison

Parliament will, I am sure, join with me in thanking Mr. Roland Burrows for the public service which he has rendered in carrying out so painstaking and thorough an inquiry and in preparing such an admirable report. The report deals with a variety of matters, including certain general issues which affect local government as a whole and the practice and procedure of local authorities. These matters fall within the province of different Departments of State, and I have no doubt that each of my right hon. Friends will consider the recommendations so far as they concern him. I am in consultation with my right hon. Friends, the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, as regards certain of the Tribunal's suggestions which relate particularly to the administration of the Civil Defence Services.

As regards the general recommendations at the end of the report, the repeal of Section to of the Local Government Staffs (War Service) Act, 1939, would have consequences additional to those contemplated in the report, but, in order to prevent the possibility of abuse of the provisions of this section, I hope shortly to indicate to local authorities arrangements which, in my view, are generally undesirable. For instance, a member of a local authority should not be at the same time a member of the Civil Defence or emergency corn- mittee and A.R.P. controller; nor should a member of such a committee occupy a responsible position, whether paid or unpaid, in the Civil Defence organisation. Similar considerations apply to the Fire Guard and other Services.

As regards the defects in the administration of certain services at Newcastle-upon-Tyne to which the report calls attention, it is for the council and its appropriate committees in the first instance to consider the recommendations made by the tribunal and the criticism made of certain of their officers, and I am glad to observe that certain action has already been taken at Newcastle. I understand that Mr. Embleton has resigned from the city council, and, as regards the chief constable, nave requested the watch committee to consider as a matter of urgency, in the light of the report, the question of his fitness for retention. As regards certain transactions investigated by the tribunal, the question arises whether there is evidence on which to base proceedings for infringements of the criminal law, and these matters have been brought to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr. Thorne

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if that report will be available to all the local authorities, so that they may have the information he has just given us?

Mr. Morrison

I am proposing to communicate generally with the local authorities so that they will have my views. It will be understood that I have made certain qualifying and restrictive statements, and no universal implications should be drawn from them.

Sir A. Russell

May I ask my right hon. Friend who will be responsible for the cost of this inquiry?

Mr. Morrison

I am not sure about that. I think I had better have notice of that question. The inquiry was instituted at the request of the Corporation, and I think the Corporation will be well within the matter of the costs, which they will either have to bear or share.

Mr. Nunn

As one of the Members for Newcastle, may I take this opportunity of joining in the thanks of the Home Secretary to Mr. Burrows for the excellent way in which he conducted the tribunal? It would be improper for me to comment on the findings, and I merely wish to take this opportunity of joining in the thanks of the Home Secretary and saying—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may ask a question but he may not make a speech.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that a member of a council will not in future be A.R.P. Controller in Civil Defence? If that is so, I hope he will make it clear, and thank the large number of men in this capacity who have rendered yeoman service and have not been paid for it.

Mr. Morrison

What I said was that a member of a local authority should not be, at the same time, a member of the Civil Defence or emergency committee and A.R.P. Controller. I think that is perfectly clear, because the duty of the committee is to supervise the controller and, if the controller is a member, it creates a rather bad situation.

Sir W. Smithers

Will the Home Secretary also consider the position not only of members of councils, but of their officials?