§ Mr. Grimston
I beg to move, in page 30, line 9, after the first "fire," to insert "wheresoever it may occur."
I have put this Amendment down to raise a point which is a matter of concern to the Fire Officers' Association. There have been cases in the past where a fire has occurred in a barracks, or dockyards, or even on a ship, where the commanding officer has thought that he should take charge. If there were a possibility of a dispute of that sort fire-fighting might be hampered. The Fire Officers' Association are of the opinion that it ought to be laid down in the Bill that the senior officer in charge should be in charge of the fire wherever it might occur. Of course, he would go for advice to people who know the place, and who were perhaps in charge of bodies of men there, but there should be no doubt that it should be the chief fire officer who was in charge. If the words of my Amendment are not suitable, I feel sure the Home Secretary will take steps to make the point clear, perhaps in another place.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I am not sure that the Amendment is necessary to secure the object which the hon. Gentleman has in view. The words of the Clause are "at any tire," and I do not think it will make them stronger by adding the words "wheresoever it may occur." However, I appreciate the difficulty, and I will have the matter carefully examined, so that if there is any doubt about the position of the senior fire officer on the job, it shall be removed in another place. The words of the Clause already remove another difficulty which used to be felt sometimes. I understand that it was customary, in the old days, for the senior officer present at a fire to be the person in control. It has come within my experience that a person in control of fire fighting was changed four times in the course of a single fire because, as neighbouring brigades came in, another man, who was senior to the man in the area where the fire occurred, was put on to the job. Unless a special arrangement has been made to the contrary beforehand, the person in charge at the fire will be the senior officer belonging to the brigade in whose area the fire has originated. I 1442 hope that the language we have used is plain enough to cover the old difficulty, plus the one suggested by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston), but if his point has not been covered, I undertake to see that the Clause is corrected in another place.
§ Colonel Wheatley
Supposing there is a fire in a factory which has its own fire brigade, controlled by a very junior officer; supposing that in the town there is a county fire brigade; will it be clear that the officer in charge if there is a fire in the factory, will be the junior officer of the factory brigade?
§ Mr. Ede
I should have thought that that would be covered by the words:or, if any arrangements or reinforcement scheme.The hon. and gallant Member will remember that in Committee we discussed the position of the private brigade. I assume that time will be taken by the forelock in these matters, and that if a publicly-supported brigade goes into a factory the officer in charge will be known. It may be either, if an arrangement has been made. I hope that in all these cases an appropriate arrangement will be made. The fire authorities will be advised to see that they are made before such a contingency such as the hon. and gallant Member described arises.
§ Mr. Sutcliffe (Royton)
Is the right hon. Gentleman fully satisfied on the point about the military fire squad in barracks? Who would be the senior officer there? It is not a question between one brigade and another or a works fire brigade and a municipal brigade.
§ Mr. Ede
I think that point should be covered by the answer I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for East Dorset (Colonel Wheatley). It will be known that there is a barracks, with a certain amount of fire risk, or a naval dockyard, in an area, and I would have thought that on the passing of this Bill, when we come to the scheme for dealing with fires, it would be desirable at that stage for the local fire authority to get in touch with the Navy, Army or Air Force authorities to make quite certain who is to be in charge in the event of a fire. Recently I have been having conversations with my noble Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation with regard to what is to happen and who 1443 is to be responsible when there is a fire on a civil aerodrome. I cannot help thinking that in these cases, where the contingency could be so clearly foreseen, arrangements ought to be made beforehand so that there is no doubt when the fire occurs who is to be the person responsible for directing the fire fighting services.
§ Mr. Grimston
In view of the assurance which the Home Secretary has given, and for which I am much obliged, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 30, line 9, after "senior," to insert "fire brigade."
It would be to the advantage of the House if we took together with this Amendment the Amendments—line 9, and line 34. These Amendments are of a drafting character and are designed to improve the construction of the Clause by referring only to the senior fire brigade officer whose status is defined in the new Subsection.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In line 9, to leave out from "present," to "shall," in line 14.
§ In line 22, to leave out "or other person."—[Mr. Ede.]
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in line 31, after "fire," to insert:or in the absence of any officer of police the senior fire brigade officer present.This was another matter raised by the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) in Committee. There was some danger in the form in which the Opposition Amendment was put down that there might have been two people directing traffic at the same time, possibly in contra ways. I think the form of words now suggested carry out what the hon. Member had in mind to ensure that there shall be one person responsible for the direction of the traffic. It will be the senior officer of police while there is any officer of police on the spot, and if there is no police officer the senior officer of the fire brigade present will take over the duties until a police officer arrives.
§ Amendment agreed to.1444
Further Amendment made: In line 34 at end, insert:
(6) In this section the expression "senior fire brigade officer present." in re'ation to any fire, means the senior officer present of the fire brigade maintained in pursuance of this Act in the area in which the fire originates, or, if any arrangements or reinforcement scheme made under this Act provide that any other person shall have charge of the operations for the extinction of the fire, that other person."—[Mr. Ede.]