HC Deb 05 February 1948 vol 446 cc1897-9
41. Mr. Baker White

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been called to the great increases in the costs of fire services in Herne Bay, Whitstable and the Bridge-Blean R.D.C. areas, consequent upon the operation of the Fire Services Act, 1947; whether he is aware of the protests of the local authorities concerned against the additional heavy burden on the rate-payers; and whether he will review the appropriate statutory provisions so that fire services may revert to county district councils as soon as possible.

Mr. Ede

As the hon. Member will appreciate, I have had to consider the scheme for the County of Kent as a whole. I have now had the final proposals of the County Council, which provide for some reduction of the numbers originally proposed. I am satisfied that the County Council has given careful consideration to the representations of the district councils and, subject to certain further modifications, I have decided to approve the scheme. I am not aware of any grounds on which I should be justified in asking Parliament to amend the Act which received the Royal Assent so recently as 31st July last.

Mr. Baker White

While I thank the Home Secretary for that answer, and not knowing, of course, what reductions will be involved, may I ask if he is aware that, excluding Government grants, the cost of the fire brigade in Herne Bay has risen from £868 before the war to £6,345, and in Whitstable from £500 to £5,220, and does he not think that some further revision should be made?

Mr. Ede

The scheme will be revised during the coming year, but I am bound to point out that the first figures given by the hon. Gentleman were for a period when the Fire Brigades Act, 1938, which had been passed in this House had not come into operation and any comparisons with prewar figures are largely vitiated by that fact.

Mr. Gerald Williams

Is the Minister aware that in Tunbridge Wells the rate will probably go up by 9d. under the same Bill, and can he explain the reason why the cost has gone up in view of the fact that there is all the auxiliary fire service equipment left over from the war?

Mr. Ede

So far as the first part of the hon. Member's Question is concerned, what I said in answer to his hon. Friend applies. With regard to the question of equipment, the great cost of running a fire brigade is not the cost of the equipment but the wages and salaries of the personnel, the establishment of a 60-hour week, and the securing of reasonable conditions for the men, which mean an increase in cost.