HC Deb 22 May 1958 vol 588 cc1468-70
1. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now give approval to the demolition of the air-raid shelter in the Avenue, Halmerend, in the rural district of Newcastle-under-Lyme, on the grounds that it is unnecessary and obstructive.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

I am informed that there are still no grounds, under the general policy with which the hon. Member will be familiar, for authorising the demolition of this shelter.

Mr. Swingler

Are there any grounds at all for retaining this shelter? Will the Under-Secretary go to see this fantastic object? Is he aware that this shelter has never been used and never will be used, at any rate for the purpose for which it was built? Does he realise that it is completely useless, and isolated in an entirely remote part of the village? What on earth is it good for?

Mr. Renton

This shelter is in good condition. It is constructed of 14-inch brickwork, with a reinforced concrete roof, and it stands in a cul-de-sac surrounded by part of a housing estate. In the event of an emergency in which the area of this housing estate was outside the area of complete destruction by hydrogen bomb, the inhabitants of the near part of that housing estate would be able to take refuge and would find it most helpful.

2. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will ask local authorities to carry out a survey of the air-raid shelters in their districts with a view to advising him on the demolition of those which are unnecessary, obstructive, or insanitary.

Mr. Renton

Local authorities are familiar with the grounds upon which the demolition of shelters is authorised, and my right hon. Friend sees no need for any special survey.

Mr. Swingler

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the arguments which he has adduced in regard to some of these shelters would appear completely fantastic to most citizens who are concerned, that many of these shelters are not actually insanitary, but, as, for example, the one I have mentioned, they obscure the vision from the houses and create a considerable nuisance? Is not it time, therefore, that there should be a national inquiry as to why they should be kept and into the reasons why they should not be removed?

Mr. Renton

No, Sir. This matter has been most carefully considered, and it is a fact that, on expert advice, we find that many of these shelters would be most useful, as I said in answer to the previous Question. If there is any particular shelter which is constructionally unsound or in-sanitary, and the hon. Gentleman will let me have particulars of it, I will most certainly have it examined.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman how often the shelters are inspected to make sure that they are still effective, and what sort of emergency are they effective for?

Mr. Renton

So far as inspection is concerned, although the responsibility for a particular shelter lies with the local authority, we consult the local authority and the decision whether to demolish is then made by the Home Office. On the question of the usefulness of the shelters, as I stated before, in an area outside the area which is immediately damaged by a hydrogen bomb, these shelters could be a protection against fall-out and against heat, and would form a useful assurance to the local people that they have somewhere to go which would give them protection against these things.

Mr. Younger

While not wishing to dispute the policy of the Minister or the Government in maintaining civil defence, may I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether we are to understand from the Home Secretary's words yesterday, reported in today's Press, that there is now some new information on the damage which would be caused by a nuclear bomb, or is he merely speculating on the possibilities of science in the vaguest possible way? If that is all he is doing, does he think that that is the right way to invite people to consider the problem?

Mr. Renton

That supplementary question raises very big issues far beyond the scope of the original Question.