HC Deb 11 June 1959 vol 606 cc1173-4
49. Mr. N. Pannell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now give discretion to local authorities to remove from small back yards air-raid shelters erected during the last war, particularly in cases where the retention of such shelters militates against the improvement of the living accommodation.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

My right hon. Friend is always prepared to agree to the removal of shelters if there are compelling reasons, such as the need to facilitate approved building development, but he thinks it is desirable to look at each case on its merits.

Mr. Pannell

Is my hon. Friend aware that Liverpool Corporation, under its by-laws, is ordering the demolition of additions to dwellings such as bathrooms on the ground of inadequate air space while air-raid shelters of equal or greater size may remain? Is he aware that Liverpool Corporation on occasion gives permission for the occupier of a house to demolish the air-raid shelter at his own expense? Does not that vitiate the policy of the Home Department on the retention of these shelters?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

Generally speaking, it is our policy to retain as many last-war shelters as possible. They are removed at public expense only if they are structurally unsound, if it is necessary to remove them on medical grounds or if the space is needed for building development. There are circumstances in which local authorities allow people to take them down at their own expense.

Mrs. Braddock

Is the Joint Undersecretary of State aware that the Liverpool Corporation is very anxious to remove some of the air-raid shelters in the large tenement areas which are spoiling any possibility of providing the open space which is necessary in a large industrial area? Will the hon. Lady look at this question again in order to see whether it is possible to remove some of these very unsightly and unhygienic shelters in the confines of local government authority tenement buildings.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

If the hon. Lady has any particular ones in mind in her area, I shall be very happy to look at them.

Mr. G. Jeger

Is the hon. Lady aware that this question has been raised on a number of occasions and that many local authorities are of the opinion that these shelters, whilst not structurally unsound, are merely breeding grounds for vermin? Why does the hon. Lady and the Home Office generally persist in the feeling that local authorities do not know their own business and that the man in Whitehall knows best?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

Civil Defence is first the responsibility of the Government and not merely of local authorities. The Government believe that, outside areas of complete devastation, shelters would provide very useful protection if there were an emergency, which we all hope there will not be.