HC Deb 10 December 1953 vol 521 cc2165-6
19. Sir G. Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the proportion of administrative staff to the total staff of the fire services.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I regret that it is not possible to isolate the numbers of local authority employees throughout the country engaged on administrative work in connection with the fire services. In London, however, there are 2,120 operational firemen and 302 civilian staff.

Sir G. Lloyd

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take note of the public feeling that there is a considerable number of people on the administrative staff who are there only because there is not enough for them to do in the ordinary daily duties of the fire service, and that, therefore, the list is overweighted?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I have noted what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, but I should remind him that the fire services have been denationalised, and by a Labour Government, and, therefore, that it is a matter for the local authorities.

Mr. Nicholson

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is a strong feeling among many of the smaller local authorities that the ratepayers are paying a large sum towards a service which is unduly top heavy with enormous numbers of staff officers, staff cars, drivers, and a great deal of saluting and general military detail which is quite inappropriate?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

That sort of attack is very easy to make and very difficult to substantiate. The fire service is of tremendous importance. The losses that are caused by fire are enormous, and, in addition, the Auxiliary Fire Service is one of the most important items in Civil Defence. I should not like anything to go out from this House either to discourage the excellent work of the fire service as a whole or to discourage recruiting for the Auxiliary Fire Service, which is most important to Civil Defence.

Mr. G. Jeger

Is the Home Secretary aware that some of his hon. Friends appear to be advocating the diminution of the municipal fire services in order to provide greater opportunities for private enterprise?