HC Deb 26 July 1979 vol 971 cc870-1
12. Mr. Guy Barnett

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the present level of fire cover in the Greater London area.

Mr. Brittan

Under section 1 of the Fire Services Act 1947 it is the responsibility of the Greater London Council to maintain a fire brigade of sufficient strength to meet efficiently all normal requirements. I have no reason to believe that the council is failing to discharge this statutory requirement.

Mr. Barnett

But is the hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that there is widespread concern in Greenwich and other parts of London about the current position? Is he aware that the Greater London Council is hiding behind what it describes as interim arrangements in order to cut the fire service? How long must we wait for a real tragedy before the Home Office does something about this?

Mr. Brittan

I do not accept for one moment that the GLC is hiding in any way, as the hon. Gentleman described. The fact is that Home Office responsibilities lie in the area of approving or not approving changes in establishment put forward by the GLC. It has put forward no such request as yet, although it is expected that it will do so. It is a responsible body, bound by the law to comply with its statutory obligations under the Act. It is the council's responsibility. I have no reason to believe that it is not fully aware of the great duty that lies upon it or that it is not discharging it.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Is it not the case that under the 1947 and 1959 Fire Services Acts it is not only establishment that is covered but the closing of a fire station and reducing the number of whole-time and part-time members, and that approval must be obtained from the Home Secretary before that is done? Certainly no approval was sought from me. May we be told whether approval has been sought under that legislation yet?

Mr. Brittan

It has not, Sir.