HC Deb 18 April 1957 vol 568 cc2086-7
25. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give approval to the removal of the air-raid shelter in Station Avenue, Halmerend, in the rural district of Newcastle-under-Lyme, on the ground that it is an unnecessary and unsightly object.

Mr. Simon

In reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger) on the 11th instant, my right hon. Friend explained the grounds on which the removal of shelters is authorised. He is informed that no such grounds exist in this particular case.

Mr. Swingler

While thanking the hon. and learned Gentleman for referring to the previous reply, may I ask him if he can tell the citizens of Halmerend what on earth is the point of maintaining air-raid shelters locked up and dotted around in remote villages? Has he read the Government's Defence White Paper, and, having read it, will he now tell my constituents why they should put up with this public nuisance, and give positive reasons for it?

Mr. Simon

Outside the area of complete devastation by a hydrogen bomb, sound last-war shelters would give protection against blast, against heat and against radioactive fall-out, especially if improved by the thickening of the walls and roofs with sandbags and the like. It is for that reason that, where the structure is sound and where there are no reasons of obstruction or health for their removal, it is the policy of the Government that these shelters should be retained.

Mr. G. Jeger

May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman what would happen if one or two of the local inhabitants went out one dark night with pick-axes and removed one or two bricks from the shelter and made it a dangerous structure which the local authority would then have to remove?

Mr. Simon

The hon. Gentleman will certainly not expect me to reply to a hypothetical question, still less when it presupposes an illegality.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

In view of the fact that the House was not impressed by the Home Secretary's reply, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred, to my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger), and that most hon. Members regard the value of these shelters from the last war as being purely minimal, would he give an undertaking that the Home Office will look again at the whole shelter policy and see if it is not possible to give a more favourable answer to my hon. Friend who asked the question?

Mr. Simon

No, Sir. This matter has been carefully considered, and these shelters are thought to offer a substantial measure of protection which it would be unwise to give up at this moment.