HL Deb 22 June 1939 vol 113 cc668-710

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the debate on the Civil Defence Bill be now resumed.

Moved, That the debate be now resumed.—(The Earl of Lucan.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate resumed accordingly.


My Lords, I now reach Part V of the Bill, which deals with public utility undertakings, and your Lordships will recall that some time ago the Home Secretary announced that the Government had accepted the principle of a contribution from State funds to those public utility undertakings towards the cost of air-raid precautions for the purpose of ensuring the proper functioning of the undertakings in the event of war. The object of Part V is to implement the arrangements which have already been made with various public utility undertakers, and Clause 35 places upon those bodies a like obligation as is already placed upon industry in so far as training and equipping the personnel are concerned.

I think your Lordships at this stage will not desire me to enter into a long discussion for the purpose of explaining the measures to be taken to ensure the proper operation these essential ser-vices, but briefly it is proposed that there should be inter-communication between neighbouring authorities for the provision of stand-by plant and the accumulation of stores and repair materials. These steps will ensure that any part of the undertaking not completely destroyed will be able to continue to work. For air-raid shelters provided by these undertakings a grant of 27½ per cent. will be made and they will be subject to exactly the same conditions as other employers. But in regard to additional air-raid precaution measures to secure the due functioning of these undertakings, it is proposed, in the case of gas and water companies, canals and docks, that they should receive grants of 50 per cent. towards expenditure of a capital nature. In certain circumstances grants to dock authorities may rise as high as 85 per cent. In the case of railways special provisions are being made in Clause 39 of the Bill. With regard to electricity undertakings, we are setting up a national pool of switch gear and transformers which can be transported and put into operation in the event of damage to any undertaking. Clause 41 and the First Schedule embody the details of the schemes which have been worked out with the electricity supply industry.

I pass on to Part VI of the Bill which deals with the important question of the obscuration of lights and camouflage. I think it will be perfectly clear to the House that in war time one essential measure of security would be that drastic lighting restrictions should be enforced, and our aim would be to secure that lighting should be totally invisible from the air at all hours of darkness, and that the so called "black-out" conditions should be made permanent from the immediate outbreak of war. The necessary lighting restrictions would be made by order under the Defence of the Realm Act. Accordingly we propose to take steps to ensure that in the event of war all street lighting will be extinguished, all advertisement signs will cease to operate, and in the case of private houses, shops and business premises, all windows, skylights and doors will be screened with dark blinds or other suitable material in order that all rays of light are thereby extin- guished and naturally become invisible from the air.

Many noble Lords will recall that in the days of the last War such restrictions on lighting were not so severe as they must necessarily be at any future date, and it is therefore desirable, in order to obtain the maximum degree of efficiency, that all preparations should be made beforehand, so that they can be automatically put into effect in the twinkling of an eye. It is naturally equally essential to obscure the glare of blast furnaces and coke ovens and any other industrial processes which involve a continual glare at night. Restrictions will be imposed under emergency regulations to deal with these matters and grants will be made available under this Part of the Bill. In addition to securing that artificial lighting and glare are rendered invisible at night, it might conceivably be necessary to secure by means of camouflage that industrial buildings are rendered inconspicuous from the air at all times, and power is given to my right honourable friend under Clause 44 to require the owners of such buildings to carry out schemes of camouflage.

Part VII of the Bill deals with measures which have been or are being taken by my right honourable friend the Minister of Health to deal with casualties and disease. This portion of the Bill also covers the organisation and training of nurses and the provision of bacteriological services. My right honourable friend has already made arrangements whereby 200,000 hospital beds would become available the moment war broke out, and that a further 100,000 beds would be available a short time after. He has further made arrangements for hutting accommodation to be built for the installation of a large number of beds, and not only have the necessary beds and bedding been ordered but a very substantial quantity has now been received. Further, we have set up a Central Emergency Committee for the nursing profession which is establishing a Central Register of Nurses and of the Nursing Auxiliary and is, I understand, enrolling and training the nursing reserves from those who have offered themselves for training.

Coming now to Part VIII of the Bill, I will endeavour to explain to the House the more important clauses. Noble Lords will be well aware that my right honourable friend has already carried out a survey of accommodation available in the reception areas to which the civil population would be transferred in the event of war and all local authorities have now been informed of the number of such persons who will be allotted to their areas. Clause 55 accordingly, which deals with the evacuation of the civil population, places upon every local authority by direction of my right honourable friend the responsibility to collect information which he may think necessary for assisting the Government in the preparation of their plan of evacuation, and further, to take any measure designed to facilitate such movement, including also the responsibility of providing storage for any material or equipment required by the Ministry of Health.

I should in particular like to draw your Lordships' attention to subsection (3) of Clause 65. We have examined with scrupulous care whether it would be advisable for voluntary refugees to be allowed to take accommodation in the receiving areas which have already been allocated for the reception of refugees who are to be evacuated, and we have, rightly in my opinion, come to the conclusion that any child evacuated under the scheme must be assured of accommodation in the reception areas. Accordingly, we are providing that the Minister may make regulations on the imminence of any emergency requiring owners of houses in the reception areas to furnish accommodation and declaring at the same time the responsibility which those owners will undertake for the feeding and care of the children who have been transferred to their areas. I might add that my right honourable friend proposes to discuss these regulations with local authorities, and I repeat again that they will not come into operation until the emergency is imminent.

Clause 62 deals with the compulsory hire of land. Our reason for inserting this very important clause is that many local authorities have informed us that they have found serious obstacles to have been placed in their way when they desired to hire land for civil defence purposes. We consider that it is highly undesirable that local authorities should burden themselves with the purchase of land or buildings for civil defence purposes which might not be of a permanent character. Accordingly, under Clause 62, we give power to the local authorities to rent land or buildings compulsorily, but that right is only to be exercisable with the approval of my right honourable friend and subject to the conditions which he may impose.

Before concluding my remarks, your Lordships would desire me to add one word upon the financial considerations of this Bill. I can only give the House a rough estimate. The requirements from State funds will amount, including the provision of shelters, to a figure of some £45,000,000, but it is somewhat difficult at the present time to give an exact estimate of what the financial responsibilities of local authorities will be. I would add this in conclusion. I realise only too well that the nine Parts of the Bill and the two Schedules deal with a very large variety of highly important matters for every individual living in this country. I would not for one moment pretend that I have covered, in the short time available to me, all the vital points on which your Lordships may require information, but I have endeavoured to pick out each portion of the Bill and explain briefly the principal arrangements in each Part. I hope I have given your Lordships some indication of the purposes for which the Government now ask the House to approve the Second Reading of this Bill, and I might repeat once again that it does in many cases render itself far more suitable to debate at future stages than upon the Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Munster.)

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, may be allowed to agree with the noble Earl in his concluding remarks about the size and complexity of this measure? As he says, it is almost impossible to deal with it in any detail except in Committee, and yet if we try to deal with it in detail in Committee we shall be here for weeks. This is really six Bills rolled into one. It is an omnibus measure. I should have thought the Government could have produced some Parts of it as separate Bills a great deal earlier. Before we adjourned for the very important and warm welcome that we gave to Their Majesties, the noble Earl said that a great many provisions of this Bill could never have been passed in normal peace time. We are technically at peace for the reason that we are not at war—I like to think it is a sort of twilight peace. But there is certainly great urgency about this matter. The amazing thing is that important parts of this Bill were ready for introduction last November, yet here we are nearly at the end of June. About eight months have been lost in bringing in certain powers required, here by the local authorities, there by the Government itself. Although I am aware that a great deal has been done—illegally, if I may use the term—by Sir john Anderson, nevertheless work of the greatest importance has been held up waiting for this Bill to pass. Therefore it is certainly not the desire of my noble friends in the Opposition to delay it any further. At the time there are certain remarks that have to be made, and I shall condense them as much as I can.

At the outset, dealing generally with the whole great problem of civil defence, I must again repeat to your Lordships and to the members of the Government in your Lordships' House, that there is a general opinion held throughout the country that the tempo of these preparations is too slow. Here and there, great advances have been made in certain directions. Certain parts of our civil defence are excellent and ahead of any other country in Europe, but in other directions far too little is being done, and what is being done is being done far too slowly. I could give many examples if I were challenged. I want, if may, to deal with one or two matters not exactly of detail, because they are too important to be described as matters of detail: they are gaps or omissions from the Bill.

First of all, I am going to refer to Scotland. In Scotland housing conditions are very different from those in England, especially in the big cities. For example, in Glasgow, the second City of the Empire, there is a vast system of tenement dwellings, and I have found nobody yet who can explain how the occupants of these tenements, some of them of very old construction, can possibly be protected. Their basements are not suitable for strutting and shoring, and the only thing to do is to provide deep shelters near by. This matter was raised in another place by my right honourable friend Mr. Johnston, who speaks with great knowledge on Scottish housing matters, and I understand it is under consideration; but we have been in a state of crisis now for close on a year. This is one more example of the lack of decision and the lack of resolute action in the centre of Government in this country. Here you have Glasgow, a most vulnerable area, and yet the policy is not settled for protecting the thousands and thousands of people who live with their families in these tenement dwellings.

In England you have a similar state of affairs in respect of the great blocks of flats which are growing up in the South of England particularly, but also in certain large cities in the North. They are dealt with to some extent in the Bill in that if 50 per cent. of the tenants agree on a scheme, they can petition the landlord, and the landlord is required to provide adequate shelter for them, and so on. It was described by the noble Earl in his usual lucid way; but there are no penalties for the landlords if they do not do it. I suppose they could be proceeded against in the Courts. But the landlord may not be an individual. In most cases of this kind, the landlord is a board of directors. They represent vast companies who develop these large residential flats for the middle classes in all the big cities. Some of them may be very hard to move. Their principal object is to make profits for their shareholders, and there are no penalties in the Bill for these people. There is, I agree, right at the end, a penalty for criminal liability in the case of directors and officers, but that does not apply to the landlord who is slack or indifferent in providing shelter for his tenants in a big block of flats. In connection with this old question of the provision of shelters for people living in flats—and in cities we are becoming rapidly a nation of flatdwellers—who is going to stimulate the provision of these shelters? Is some G.H.Q. to be set up which will inspect the flats and advise and help the people or will it be left to the local authorities? If the latter, who is to stimulate the local authorities?

Do I make myself clear? There is wanting here some overriding authority at the centre of the whole organisation which will see that the provisions of this Bill are carried out. That is what is needed, and no further time should be lost. The whole matter of organising what we call A.R.P. in this country was bound to be a slow process. I admit that you cannot do these things with a stroke of a pen, or in the twinkling of an eye, to use the noble Earl's pleasant expression. There were two alternatives. You could have set up a vast bureaucracy so as to do it all from the centre, or you could work through the local authorities. Quite rightly, I think, the Government have decided to work through the local authorities for the greater part of this task of civil defence. This has obvious advantages, but is bound to be slow. It is new work to the local authorities. After all, they have other things to do as well as this, and the ordinary councillors are busy men who give what time they can to their public work. A tremendous lot of work has fallen upon town clerks and city and borough engineers and medical officers of health. I think, generally speaking, they have done very well. But that was bound to be a slow process. I would have thought, therefore, that some intermediary organisation was needed, and that is what I meant by saying that we wanted a strong central organisation to see that the local authorities, or whoever the people concerned are, do their work, and somebody at the head of that organisation must have tremendous drive and energy, and, so far, it is not forthcoming.

I do not want to enlarge on this. There are too many defects to which I could refer that really are beyond excuse, but I am going to mention two matters, because there is no secret about these things. The first is the strengthening of basements and the provision of shelters. I am not referring now to the so-called Anderson shelters, which I christened mouse-traps when they were first introduced. I mean the galvanised iron sheds. They are quite efficient for their purpose if properly covered and blanketed, and I have no complaint to make about them. I am dealing with the strengthening of basements of buildings. It is a matter I have argued with the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, across the floor of this House, though as a matter of fact there is no real conflict between us. I believe that deep shelters are required in many important and vulnerable areas; for instance, in dock areas, and especially in the area of the London docks. At such places you must have them. I see no other way of giving the protection that is there re- quired. You cannot provide deep shelters for everyone in the time available whereas in the construction of the older and solid houses you have basements which experiment has proved that it is possible to make perfectly safe. What is being done there? Some of the material has now been ordered. A few weeks ago some of the great private employers of labour took the matter in hand themselves. Some of the local authorities, acting independently, especially in the North of England, have been very active indeed, and have provided that sort of shelter for a great proportion of the people who must remain near their work; but in Greater London practically nothing has been done in comparison with the size of the problem.

The other matter which is still hanging fire is the organisation of the drilling and training of your rescue parties, demolition parties and your decontamination parties. Your Lordships all know what I mean. In case of a heavy air-raid on any great city the work of these organised parties will be of tremendous importance. You must have the men who are used to that kind of work and used to working together, who know their foremen or leaders, and, above all, who know the district in which they have to work. As the noble Earl mentioned, the civil engineering firms, the civil contractors and so on, have been very oncoming in offering their help. They have given every kind of assistance they can, and every kind of advice and they complain bitterly that they cannot get decisions. They do not yet know what the main scheme is. They are prepared to organise their own men for this highly important work of rescuing people from buildings, decontamination and so forth. They must be given districts in which they can have their plans already prepared.

There are all kinds of things that require to be done, such as mobile canteens for men working long periods. These men require equipment and special clothing, and none of these things has yet been provided for them. It is all still being discussed and talked about after weeks and months of committee meetings, correspondence and so on. I regret to say that important letters sent by the federations themselves wait for weeks before any answer is received from the Lord Privy Seal's Department. That sort of thing is bad. I make allowances for the fact that this orgnisation has had to be improvised and built up, and it has been necessary to proceed to some extent by way of trial and error, but a lot of it is very much behindhand. What you should do, I suggest, is to divide the whole of your city and urban districts into sections, and put in charge of each a man who is used to doing this kind of work, a civil contractor, or a person of that type, and let him get on with the job of strengthening basements where there are basements or of providing the special shelters. You should have men who know the people of the district, and they should be organised and prepared for demolition and rescue work in case of war in the same districts. But all these different people in the different sections of the city and urban districts must be co-ordinated. I cannot find as yet in the central organisation that any effort has been made for co-ordinating and organising.

The same thing applies to the supply of equipment. I have a letter, with which I do not propose to trouble your Lordships, from the Chief Warden of a very important populous district who complains bitterly of the resignation of his wardens, and the difficulty he has in getting people together because he cannot get any equipment. He has applied for it; he has written; and his local authority have done all they can to get a supply of protective clothing, of auxiliary fire equipment, and of implements and tools. They cannot get it, nor the instruments they require for demolition, nor the necessary tools, nor the equipment for decontamination. As a consequence they are disheartened. I do beg of the Government to take this matter in hand. The noble Earl has great influence in the counsels of the Government and the Conservative Party. He occupies an important position. I do beg of him and the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, also, if they will allow me most respectfully to put this to them, that they should try to get matters stimulated and gingered up, because there are grave gaps still in our whole system of civil defence. I am not approaching this matter in a partisan spirit at all. I quite agree with the noble Earl that this is not a Party question in any way. The local authorities with Labour majorities in the country have, I believe, been just as energetic and just as helpful as those with Conservative majorities. No Party question enters into this at all. I agree that the Bill is bound to be experimental, but surely the watchword now should be: Full steam ahead and no more delay.

I have two suggestions, which I hope are constructive, to make dealing with general principles. I hope the Minister will look into the question of providing a uniform for air wardens. It will make a tremendous difference to them. They ought to have a uniform. They will need it in case of war so that people will know who they are. Moreover, human nature being what it is, if a man can wear an attractive uniform he is pleased and his people are pleased. After all, these men are doing a great deal of work in their own time out of public spirit. At least a uniform should be optional. I have not heard of a uniform. It is no use just having badges. You should take a leaf out of the books of some of the Dictators. They have put even diplomats and journalists into uniform. Surely we should put our chief air-raid wardens into uniform.

The second suggestion I make is that the people as a whole still do not know what they have to do in case of war. As soon as this Bill passes I hope there will be a campaign of information for ordinary persons through the local authorities. We want plenty of pamphlets in simple language. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, knows what I mean. It is not the sort of language in which his draftsmen draw up draft Orders but something which ordinary people can read and understand; what is called journalese, the sort of words and phrases they read in their newspapers. People should have explained to them what is being done about evacuation, fire-fighting, decontamination, the treatment of casualties and blackouts. The noble Earl's speech, if reproduced in pamphlet form, would make admirable propaganda. It ought to be distributed with suitable illustrations, including one of himself. It would give confidence to people if they saw his proud bearing when he explained the matter to us. This particular point was made by a member of my Party, Dr. Haden Guest, a member in another place, who has played a great part in the building up of the policy of A.R.P.

There is a last point I want to make. I do hope—I have ventured to offer this warning before—that the Government are not going from one extreme to the other with regard to the relative danger of explosive and poisonous bombs. I am very glad to see that at the conference of Chief Constables two days ago Wing Commander Hodsoll, the Chief Inspector, gave a warning against thinking that the gas danger did not exist any more. At first the talk and preparation was all of protection against gas, and now it is protection against explosive bombs. The gas danger still exists, and I am still not satisfied—I must make this clear—with the anti-gas arrangements and particularly with regard to decontamination. We still rely on untrained, unorganised men working with buckets and shovels only to deal with the mustard gas danger. That is absurd. In France, Poland and other countries they do it by mechanical means. There is a special pump that can be used. We must adopt mechanical means in this country and people must be trained in their use.

When I was first entitled to belong to a Service I served on board His Majesty's Ship "Britannia" and on the poop were emblazoned many patriotic slogans. One of them, I remember, was: "Defence not defiance." I would like to see that altered and used to-day as a motto for civil defence. I would like to see "Defence and defiance." We have suffered too long from an unexpressed fear of the effect of bombing aeroplanes on crowded cities. If we can organise to defend ourselves against it we can defy the world, and our men who will have to bear the burden of the actual fighting will know that their relations and their children are safe at home. It is an enormous task which His Majesty's Government must undertake with the support of all Parties. Any support and help we of the Labour Party can give we shall be only too glad to give.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I find it somewhat difficult to switch my thoughts from the great success of their Majesties' trip across the Atlantic, and the great welcome which we have just shared in giving them on their return to this country, to deal with a Bill of a very complicated character dealing with a very difficult subject. I rise on behalf of those with whom I am associated to give the Bill the most cordial welcome. We want to help the Government in carrying this Bill through its various stages in this House as quickly as possible. We regard it as a very urgent measure and, if I may be allowed to say something critical about the Government, it would be criticism of their delay in introducing a Bill of this kind.

I should like, if I may, to throw two bouquets—one at the noble Earl who has explained this complicated measure very lucidly to your Lordships' House. I am quite sure both your Lordships' House and the country will be grateful for the way in which he has explained it. I should like also to pay my tribute to the Lord Privy Seal for the way in which he has conducted this most difficult measure through another place. I believe it was introduced on March 23. It did not leave that other place until June 14. I regard the Bill as having been considerably improved by the result of certain alterations made in another place. But I am bound to say that if we had known that the Government in Germany were going to pursue in the way in which they are now pursuing what I may call their Uber Alles dominating, intimidating policy during the last eighteen months, in defiance of all verbal pledges made by Herr Hitler on behalf of that Government, this Bill would have been introduced long before and its provisions would probably have formed a part of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, to which the noble Earl referred.

I feel that we are bound as a legislative assembly to do all that we can to protect our civil population against air raids, and we can do no less than pass this Bill which involves unprecedented, arbitrary powers being given to local authorities and to others which outrage, I may say, ordinary property rights, and constitutional practices. I regret the necessity. It is a great tragedy that, when the normal man throughout the civilised world is praying for peace, we are compelled to spend millions of money on arms and munitions and all we spend in connection with our three Fighting Services, and in addition have to spend, as the noble Earl has told us, over £45,000,000 this year in endeavouring to shelter our civil population against aggression not only against ourselves but against other freedom-loving nationalities. If war unhappily occurs—we all pray it will not—I am one of those who agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and others, who think that our money would be well directed to expenditure on measures of attack rather than that we should spend unnecessary money on defence. If we could only get other nations to realise that it is absolutely essential that we should endeavour to do them more harm than they can do us by attack, it might deter them from being ready to attack us. I believe it is important that we should be ready to hit back very severely in the event of their proceeding with an aggressive policy which would justify us in resisting them.

A certain number of people in this country do not believe that war is going to occur, and there is a certain indisposition on the part of a few not to take their full share of their duty to make preparation for emergency. I had rather a bitter experience before the Great War. In 1914 I knew that the men in the German Navy, every night of their lives, toasted "Der Tag." German officers of eminence told me in the spring of 1914 that they intended as a nation to attack France that same year. I did not believe them; I did not think that anyone or any nation could be so wicked as to start a world war such as that without a casus belli. I was wrong. I am not going to prophesy now; I feel that there is an uncertainty and that we must make every possible provision both to protect our civil population and to attack in the event of an aggressive force being opposed to us. Under this Bill enormous burdens have already been accepted by our civil population. Local authorities have been spending money in large quantities in order to secure the shelter of the people in their areas. Great sacrifices have been made by employers, and we have anticipated to a very large extent the provisions of this Bill by spending a lot of money in providing shelters, although it was unnecessary to do so under the existing law. But this has been done voluntarily. Very large sums of money have been spent in anticipating the provisions of this Bill, and that is all to the good.

While I am satisfied with the general response of the public, because I realise that a good deal has already been done in the provision of shelters (which I am told cost on the average about £4 for each individual), that a good deal has been done by the blast furnace owners and the owners of coke oven plant in making arrangements for obscuration, and that the local authorities are now in a position to deal with the dimming of lights, I must make this criticism. From my own knowledge I must say that the Government were very remiss last year in not making provision for dimming lights; and had there been any sudden bombing at the period of the Munich Conference I think that neither local authorities, electric power stations nor gas companies would have known what to do. I believe something has been done since, and that we are more ready to deal with that difficulty if the occasion should arise.

A good many arrangements have already been made for evacuation. In a recent debate the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, gave us some definite information as to the preparations which were made for the provision of hospitals, and other matters to which the noble Earl referred in his speech just now. I must take exception to one of the suggestions which he made a few days ago. I did not interrupt him at that time to say what I thought, but he did indicate that mental homes were suitable places to be hospitals for casualties. He admitted that the patients in mental homes could not be allowed to be at large, and yet he thought that they could be crowded in those institutions. Anybody who has, as I have in my county council, taken part in the care and treatment of mental patients must know that the accommodation provided in this country is required for the patients already there, and I do not think that there is very much accommodation in our mental homes for emergency hospitals if the patients already there are going to be properly looked after.

Now I come to the points that my noble friend Lord Strabolgi mentioned in his vigorous speech on what can still be done. A great deal of education in what should be done is still required among the people. A great deal of collaboration is still wanted and a great deal of co-ordination is lacking. Attention must be given to these matters. In docks there is no adequate arrangement, so far as I know, to deal with the great number of people employed there. In the mining villages there are no adequate arrangements. Collieries are an extraordinarily vulnerable target, because it is quite impossible to conceal a pit head and all the erection of machinery which is above a shaft and is a very obvious mark for bombs. The communi- ties round those pit heads are generally in miners' villages, and they feel that adequate arrangements have not been made up to the present time to deal with mining communities. Of course it is always suggested that the miners might go underground and be safe. But the miners do not see it exactly in that light. First of all, it is quite impossible to get a thousand men down a shaft in a moment of time. It cannot be done under the best part of half an hour in the biggest collieries, and more arrangements must be made than have yet been made to ensure the safety of our mining community.

A good number of gaps will have to be filled in the provision of shelters. All local authorities do not deal with this question alike. It is quite understood by local authorities that when they have to incur a very heavy expense in making provision for their civil population, and they are rated, we will say, at 19s to 20s. in the pound, they have not large resources to construct very expensive shelters. Other local authorities who only take from their ratepayers a few shillings in the pound can afford to do much more. I am aware that under the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, this matter must come under review before 1940 in order that an attempt may be made to equalise the burden upon ratepayers. But I do think that is a matter which the Government ought to take in hand at once, so that there should be no feeling on the part of the heavily-rated authorities that they cannot do their part just as much as those who are in a more fortunate position.

I wish now to refer, if I may, to His Majesty's inspectors of factories. An enormous work has been placed upon them. They are a very busy body, and they have been given their special training in order that they may help factory owners as to what is to be done, both in regard to obscuration and the shelter of their people. They have been very useful both to the mining community and to the owners of collieries. We have made many suggestions from the Federation of British Industries, and from the Confederation of Employers' Associations, to the Government, and I want to pay my tribute to Sir John Anderson for the way he has worked with those bodies. I am glad to say we are all working together to do the best we can, but there is still a good deal to be done. I believe that a good deal more tunnelling can be done in the chalk cliffs, and Ramsgate is one of the most popular seaside places at the present moment because there is a big tunnel in the cliffs there, although it is one of the nearest points at which a raid could take place in the event of such an unfortunate occurrence coming about.

Then I would say one word about the teachers in elementary schools. The National Union of Teachers is a very well organised body, but teachers realise that they have not got adequate instruction as to what they ought to do to evacuate the schools in the event of war. They ought to know exactly what their duties should be, and they are, I am told, largely ignorant as to where exactly they should go, where they should take the children, and what their duties would be. It is just the same with regard to the doctors. They have no information that they can convey to their panel patients, as to what would happen in various districts in the event of casualties occurring. Something ought to be done in the way suggested by Lord Strabolgi, by leaflet or pamphlet being issued, so that all these people would know what they should do in the event of an emergency. I would sum up what I want to say quite shortly. I feel that it is the duty of the Government to do everything they can to enable every single person in this country to know where he or she should go and what he or she should do in the event of war. The main object of this Bill is that the people should be able to do what they can to protect each other and to help the Government in securing life and preventing accident. The Bill has my blessing, and I hope it will pass through all its stages rapidly.

6.54 p.m.


My Lords, I venture to address your Lordships only on one particular point in this Bill. I do not wish to discuss it at any length, but I would like to say a few words on a subject which is not very evident in the Bill, for obvious reasons. It occupies a portion of Part III, and is in Clause 23—namely, the question of personnel. It is obvious that it is primarily necessary to obtain the personnel requisite to work the machinery provided in the Bill, and the only reason why I venture to trouble your Lordships is that I am privileged to be Chairman of the Central National Service Committee which attempts to co ordinate the activities of the 260 National Service Recruiting Committees scattered about all over the country. Since the beginning of the campaign there have been 1,600,000 applicants for enrolment, and I must distinguish between applications for enrolment and actual enrolments. I think there has been a certain amount of ambiguity about that. People have thought, when applications were mentioned, that what was meant was personnel available for service. It is only those who have been definitely enrolled who are actually available for the various defence services. Of the 1,600,000, about 1,100,000 have been enrolled, and this shows the enthusiasm of the whole population, both those of an age able to render services, and also those who are above that age and those who have for some reason or other not been able to be accepted, although I should not be surprised if, in an emergency, most of those who have applied eventually found their way into the public services. Although this response to the appeal of the Government has been on a very considerable scale, as your Lordships will think, there is need, and very grave need, for continued, sustained and increased effort. When you are dealing with voluntary enlistment on such huge lines as this it obviously must take a long time before you can realise the total volunteers required, and so I would emphasize the need for intensive effort in recruiting.

One of the reasons why it is necessary to emphasize this fact is that, although you may arrive at the total number of people you want, and touch the peak one day, there is a constant day-by-day shrinkage of voluntary personnel in these services. The reasons for that are obvious. Air-raid protection service people are leaving the locality and, for business or other reasons, moving to a different district. They therefore hand in their resignations and move away. There are a number of causes which necessitate people removing and going elsewhere, and giving up their positions in the anti-aircraft service in the places where originally they were enrolled. Of course one may hope that arrangements will be made, and I believe the matter is in hand, to follow up such people and ask them to rejoin, and giving them facilities for joining the air-raid protection force in the locality to which they have moved. But of course that sort of thing is not very easy. It is not easy to fit people in quite satisfactorily, without any hitch.

Then there is another reason mentioned by Lord Gainford. In this country, and no doubt in others, but particularly here, people begin to lose interest and begin to say: "Where is the necessity? It is all right." They exercise the cheerful optimism which is characteristic of this people. They say "It is all nonsense" and "It is an absurd scare," and that there is no necessity to do anything of the kind. It is therefore necessary for our publicity agents and our recruiting committees to appeal to them on the ground that their services are required, will be used, and will be welcomed with enthusiasm. There is now a gross figure of about 500,000 short. Half a million recruits are required to bring the strength up to the necessary level and I would like to say one word or two about the recruitment of personnel. There are two classes—those whom you want ready for service immediately should an emergency arise, and those who should be ready in the second line and reserves to replace casualties or those drawn off for other services. All these are included in the 500,000 required.

On the other side of the gross total there is a source which exists at present and which does not come into the figures which I have laid before your Lordships. Those are people who have anticipated Clause 23 of the Bill and who are already trained in works and other industrial organisations all over the country. Those have been referred to as hidden reserves and they do not appear in the numbers which I will mention in a moment or two as personnel of the various services under Clause 23 for which moderately large works will be required to organise their own defence against air raids. As time goes on the numbers of these hidden reserves will and must appear in the return of those available. I would like to say how thoroughly I agree with Lord Strabolgi on the necessity of the closest co-operation between the local authorities and the big works in organising some of the personnel available. They must be brought together and they must be one homogeneous defence force, because if they are not, and if they are working separately, you are sure to have great confusion and enormous difficulty.

There is a difficulty in Clause 23, which requires the employer to organise the refuges in his works. It must be remembered that people are not always at work. They do go home sometimes, and in fact most of them probably pass a large part of the day and the whole of the night in their own homes. Some very careful organisation will be required. Sometimes people live a long way from their work. Very often they are as much as twenty miles away, and it would be bad economy, I feel sure, that those who are employed in a certain place should not be available for the protection of their own homes twenty miles away when they are off duty. That will require very considerable examination and great skill in organisation. I do not think you will really be able to work this system of air-raid precautions unless you amalgamate the two bodies and co-ordinate them, as I think was the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. It is going to be difficult, but I am certain it is a very necessary object to aim at.

The next point, which is fairly satisfactory in some ways, is that there is a considerable surplus over and above requirements in certain localities, but that surplus perhaps cannot be used at the present moment without considerable organisation. Again I agree with Lord Strabolgi in impressing on His Majesty's Government—though I do not think they need urging on this matter—the need for skilful and careful organisation. Because we must make use of these air-raid precaution services. They are there, and some means must be devised to make use of them. There are a number of people, though only a small number, who are ready to become mobile and go from one place to another. As I say, they are only a very small number now, in peace time, but in time of war, when everybody will be ready to move, it will perhaps be easier. I would like to give an illustration of what I mean. There are needed for the A.R.P. Service 1,466,000 people, including reserves, and there are enrolled at present 1,434,000. At first sight one would say that there is a shortage of only 32,000, but that would be quite wrong. The shortage in personnel actually available is a considerably larger figure. The figure given me some time ago was 480,000, but I believe it is rather less now. At all events, it is a very large figure, and it is solely due to the fact that in some places very large numbers have enrolled, and in others not.

Some means should be and could be devised for making use of the enthusiasm which exists in certain areas. It is impossible to expect people from Yorkshire to go and fill up shortages in Wales, for example, but it should not be impossible to persuade people to enter into some kind of arrangement whereby their services might be made use of. There is another reason why there is sometimes a surplus. That is a matter which could be much more easily got over. People volunteer for one particular type of A.R.P. service and they do not want to go into another. I do not think it would be very difficult to induce those people to change from one service to another, and that would considerably reduce the surplus which exists. Of course, that would only benefit places where there was a shortage, and I am afraid the most populous places are those where a surplus exists.

In view of the facts which I have put before your Lordships I think that the recruiting for this service must go on, and must be intensified and be increased, both for the reason I have given—the necessity of filling up the shortages, in spite of the surpluses elsewhere—and also because of the continual fall in numbers in certain places, due to the movement of the population. I would like to pay a tribute to the efforts of those who have engaged in publicity, not only in the Central Office in London, but also all over the country. The reports from the various committees—I have read them all regularly—show that there has been an intensive effort in practically all the areas which are undertaking recruiting. There have been a few where perhaps things might have been improved, but during the last three months I have noticed a vast improvement and a much better and smoother running of the publicity and recruiting organisation. The authorities in charge of it have been extremely receptive of all kinds of ideas, as your Lordships will have seen, and all over the country new methods of attracting public attention and inducing people to join have been introduced every week. I would like particularly to say how energetic the B.B.C. have been in the matter. I have no doubt your Lordships will have noticed that, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for the assistance they have given us.

There is another way in which recruiting might be helped, and that is by making every recruit a potential recruiting officer—give him a pamphlet of instructions and vary it from time to time, according to the necessities that exist. Some 600,000 of these pamphlets have been issued, and it is hoped they will be effective. There is no more useful person than a satisfied recruit. If he says he likes his job very much and that it is very interesting and he is able to inform his friends of other jobs equally interesting, he will prove very useful, not only in himself but as an agency for attracting others. Most of these young men also have acquaintance with the female sex, and as these are also wanted they will be able to bring their lady friends along with them. One other point I would like to suggest to His Majesty's Government, which has been already mentioned by Lord Strabolgi, is the attraction and great assistance of a uniform. If recruits were given, say, a cap which they could wear, and which would distinguish them from other people, it might be very useful. If there was an actual air raid, steel hats would be issued, but they ought to be distinctive in the case of people who are working on A.R.P. jobs. One person in a steel hat looks very much like another person in a steel hat, just as one man in a bowler hat looks very like another in a bowler hat. In an actual air raid, the people ought to know who is in charge and to whom they can appeal, and I believe that matter is well in hand.

I pass now to the Auxiliary Fire Service. That is service as to which I would appeal to all those interested in recruiting to try and further it as much as possible. It is rather a difficult thing to get people to join the Auxiliary Fire Service. I ought to say, although the shortage is very considerable, as I shall point out in a minute, we have enlisted already in the Auxiliary Fire Service 70 per cent. of the first line. The shortage is largely in the reserve, though there is still a shortage of 30 per cent. in the first line. I need hardy point out to your Lordships that in defence against air raids, especially against incendiary bombs, the Auxiliary Fire Service is the most necessary of all the various services. This service requires young men and strong men. There seems to be a certain idea that the Auxiliary Fire Service is not really a full-time job for a man in the same way as are the Fighting Services. Fighting fire is a matter that requires strong men, willing men, and youngish men—not necessarily too young, but it does require active young men.

I would like to make one suggestion. It is not my own suggestion, it is one which has been made to me by one or two people. There are those who, under the Military Training Act, will not be required to serve in the armed Forces because they have conscientious objections to doing so. It is laid down that they shall give alternative service. Some of these are youngish people and active people, and they could give no better service—I am quite certain they are all as fully desirous of giving service as anybody else—than by joining the Auxiliary Fire Service. In that way they would be really contributing to the defence of the country. This service is one of the most necessary which exists, and if they could be persuaded to join I feel sure they would be performing as good a service as anybody else. I have heard in London of quite a number of those who have conscientious objection to military service having joined the Auxiliary Fire Service. I hope a large number of others will do the same.

I could give your Lordships the figures of many others of the various services such as nursing, Mercantile Marine reserve, and so forth, but I do not wish to trouble your Lordships at this late hour with any more figures, especially as these services are not germane to the Bill, being only included in a small way under Clause 23. But in conclusion I would like to urge upon your Lordships, as I have urged elsewhere—though perhaps it is unnecessary in the case of your Lordships—the absolute necessity of keeping up the stream of recruits which is flowing into the Civil Defence Services.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill covers a large number of important subjects, and all I desire to do is to ask a few questions on Clause 55 dealing with evacuation, which is not the least important of the subjects which have been dealt with. I feel that if a movement of the population of this magnitude is to be conducted successfully on a voluntary basis, in the first stages at any rate, it is important that as many people as possible should be aware of the details of the Government's intentions. I would like first to ask a question about the private arrangements made, and still being made, by householders in the reception areas. We all know that a definite quota of priority refugees—school children, expectant mothers, the blind, and so forth—has been allocated to each district in the reception areas. We have been told that in no circumstances can that allocation be altered. It therefore seems to follow, although it is perfectly legal for householders to continue to make private arrangements, that if they do so, now the quota has been fixed, they will simply be adding to the total number of refugees in that area, and may be adding to the difficulties and responsibilities of that particular local authority. I suppose that is obvious, but I do not know whether it is widely realised, although it seems to me a matter which should be realised.

Some real doubt exists as to whether any, and if so what, private arrangements can be included within the quota. For example, the owner of a large country house may have promised to take school children in time of war. He might subsequently feel it would be much more practicable and efficient if he took over an organised school rather than just awaited whatever miscellaneous bodies of children might arrive. It would be perfectly legal for him to do so, and provided the school came from a vulnerable area there would seem to be no theoretical reason why that school should not be included in the district quota of refugees. Whether in practice it would be possible, having regard to the difficulties of train schedules and so forth, I have some doubts. As it seems to me a matter of general concern, because some householders may, with the best intentions in the world, be adding to the difficulties of billeting authorities, some information on that subject should be available. I should like to turn to another point. It is quite obvious that in certain parts of the country the normal population increases very greatly in holiday times. It does not require any very elaborate statistical inquiry to realise, after a glance, say, at the beach at Brighton in August, that the problem of billeting perhaps another 30,000 refugees in that month would be very different from the same problem at a different time of the year. Not only are hotels and boarding houses full in the summer, but there is a great deal of letting of furnished rooms and houses both in the towns and the country round. I suppose also there is a distinct possibility that this normal demand may be greatly increased should a crisis appear to be imminent. It certainly was the case last September. I know that the Government are taking a strong stand against unofficial refugee movements, but it will be very difficult to find out exactly what the motives are of people who go down into the country before a state of emergency is officially declared.

I was suggesting a moment ago that owing to private arrangements the number of refugees coming to a particular district in time of war might be greater than was anticipated. What I am now suggesting is that at certain times of the year the available accommodation may be much less than was anticipated. This seems rather a serious matter when we remember that these refugees will not be like army troops, under discipline and prepared for emergencies. On the contrary, they will consist, in part at any rate, of very helpless people, such as little children, expectant mothers, the blind, and so forth, and these certainly are not the sort of people who can take part in a kind of general scramble for shelter. Moreover, the people directing this evacuation will not be experienced staff officers. Many will have very little experience, and many, particularly clerks of rural district councils, will have very many other responsibilities. Of course I know that this will be an exceptional occasion, and we cannot expect to have all the detail of the scheme cut and dried. A great deal must depend on local initiative. I am sure this local initiative will be forthcoming if the local authorities have any margin of accommodation on which to work, but that is precisely the point which is troubling me.

Will there be any margin of accommodation in these particular areas? I know, of course, that the available accommodation was not filled up to 100 per cent. by the quota, and that more people could have been squeezed in. I know, too, that some camps have been provided, but what with additional military billeting and the other factors that I have mentioned, I believe that this margin may not only be absorbed but more than absorbed, if the evacuation takes place in the holiday months. What I am wondering is whether the local authorities have been given, or are likely to be given, any authority to secure an increased reserve of accommodation either by making some preparation for temporary camps, or by adapting public buildings, or adopting any other methods they may desire so as to have some reserve in case things go really wrong. I do not believe they have any such authority at present. Indeed there seems to be some doubt as to whether they are to be allowed to make entirely adequate preparations for the reception of those who are being authorised already to come to them, such as expectant mothers, without taking into account any of the possible complications that I am concerned with for the moment.

Arising out of the same point, I would finally ask what kind of advice the Government are giving to those who are caught by the crisis away from their homes? Obviously many of these holidaymakers to whom I have been referring would have war duties, and many of them would have to get back to those duties as best they could; but as for the others, those who have no urgent duties, should they leave or should they stay where they are? Would they be doing more good by creating room for refugees, or would they, by moving away, be adding unduly to the traffic problem? In the last crisis, although there were no actual hostilities, we did hear, I think, of one or two cases where the refugees arriving at certain towns had some difficulty with the refugees who were leaving the same towns. We had schools that were being moved from subsidiary dangerous places within what have now been termed the evacuation areas, and no doubt in time their places would have been taken by other schools. It may be that these unauthorised movements would be checked if the crisis took place at the present time, but I still believe there will be a number of people who will be anxious to do what the Government want them to do but will not know what to do for the best.

In conclusion I should like to apologise for perhaps making Committee points at this stage, but I should explain that I do not wish to put any Amendments down to the Bill, although I understand others may do so. All I want is information, because I realise that Bills that have taken a very long time in another place may have to take a correspondingly short time in this House. I have ventured to bring these points forward at this moment in the hope that the noble and learned Lord Chancellor may see fit at some future stage of the Bill perhaps to deal with them.

7.26 p.m.


My Lords, some months ago I ventured to draw your Lordships' attention to the air-raid precautions of His Majesty's Government, and I referred particularly to air-raid shelters which in times of peace could be used as underground car parks. I should like to take this opportuuity of thanking His Majesty's Government, and especially the Department of the Lord Privy Seal, for all the help and assistance I have received from them in this matter. I am honoured to find that the principles that I endeavoured to outline before your Lordships in the recent debate on air-raid precautions have now been embodied in Clauses 7 and 8 of this Bill.

There are one or two points, however, in connection with these clauses to which I should like to draw your attention for a moment, and perhaps it would not be out of place to mention to your Lordships that the underground car parks, in addition to their use as air-raid shelters, can be constructed so as to be available for storing purposes in time of war. It is possible to construct these car parks so that they can be used to provide additional water storage for fire-fighting purposes. I think there can be no question that the failure of water service mains will become inevitable after a heavy bombardment, and by this means an auxiliary water service will be available in the congested areas where it will be most needed. But I would suggest that care should be taken to see that such water tanks are not built in places where an underground car park might be an advantage to the community unless they are designed as dual-purpose structures. Otherwise an important site might be sterilised from any peace-time use as an underground car park. You can build an underground car park to contain water in an emergency, but not all water tanks can be used as car parks.

Perhaps I may be permitted for a few moments to deal with another point in this Bill which is exercising the minds of certain societies who do not pay Income Tax, such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the British Sailors' Society, and very many other similar societies. Clause 22 of the Bill lays down that Exchequer grants in respect of provision of air-raid shelters will be made in accordance with—these are the words of the Bill—"the appropriate proportion of so much of those expenses [of a capital nature] as the Minister considers reasonable." The Bill goes on to lay down further in Clause 22, subsection (3), that the expression "appropriate proportion" means an amount in the pound equal to the standard rate of Income Tax for the year 1939–40. I am given to understand that this method of grant has nothing whatever to do with the payment or nonpayment of Income Tax, and I know that societies of the type I have mentioned would be glad to receive an assurance on this point, as they feel that the clause as it stands is a little ambiguous. I would also mention very briefly to the provisional list of areas to which Part III of this Bill is to be applied, which has been set out in a Government publication. I should be glad to have an assurance that in cases of commercial buildings where work has been under-taken to provide protective shelter before the issue of this Government publication, a grant will be paid, provided, of course, that the standard of protection is not less than that described in the Government code.

I hope the Lord Privy Seal will allow me humbly to congratulate him and his Department on the production of this monumental Bill, which is beset with many intricacies and perhaps has only been exceeded in the last few years in this respect by our old friend the Coal Bill. My only real criticism of the Bill as a whole is that I should have liked to have seen it on the Statute Book months ago, and also that its passage in another place had not been so long delayed. We have seen during the last few days a great A.R.P. display in a London borough in which people were directed to a number of imaginary shelters. I trust we shall not have to rely on our imaginations much longer and that air-raid protection will become an accomplished fact. It is one thing to produce a Bill but it is quite another to encourage and enforce its provisions. I trust that His Majesty's Government will not be unmindful of this fact, and I hope that in this House we shall expedite the passage of this Bill in all its stages so that the public can receive proper protection in the shortest possible time.

7.33 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with two observations uttered by the noble Lord a short time ago. First of all, I agree very heartily in saying that this is a Bill which in some form or another we ought to have had a long time since. But the Home Secretary has been in charge of protection against air raids since 1935. If there is any body of men in my opinion who, in the light of this Bill, should be arraigned before public opinion for incompetence, it is that body of men who for years were supposed to be in charge of the devising of expedients for making this country safe against air raids. All they produced was a distribution of gas masks and sticking plaster for windows. There was nothing, else of the slightest use that they did. I am not quite sure whether the sticking plaster was much good, but at all events we will assume that the gas masks were. Now we are told that this Bill must be treated as a matter of urgency. May I say that my noble friends and myself will not be any more disposed to create difficulties over that than the noble Lord who has just sat down? We agree with him as to its urgency, but it is a standing condemnation of what that Department did not do in over three years. If it were not that we have a public of great patience and of a forgiving disposition, and a Conservative Party machine of unexampled efficiency, the recoil of these years of inactivity would have meant that long before this we should have had a change of Government.

As to the Bill itself, there are one or two observations which I will try to compress into a few minutes. I have no doubt that it is right—or perhaps it would be better to say that it is inevitable—to proceed in the way the Bill proposes through a large number of authorities and through a large number of Departments. There are the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport, the Electricity Commission, the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs and "the appropriate Minister." I would like to ask a question about the appropriate Minister. I take it that it will be the Lord Privy Seal, but we are not told. It will be prescribed in the Order. But in respect of one or two matters I should like to inquire now who is the appropriate Minister and how it is proposed he should work.

There is one Part of the Bill which relates to public shelters. As the noble Lord who spoke few moments ago indicated, I am afraid progress in regard to that will be very slow in a good many places. We had the other day an imaginary air-raid in Chelsea, and we saw in the papers pictures of people scrambling behind ropes with the label "Air-Raid Shelter" hanging from the ropes. Well that was not an air-raid shelter; it was a pretended air-raid shelter. What was necessary in Chelsea last week is necessary practically all over the country at the present time. How is the Minister going to proceed? So far as I can see the operation of the Part of the Bill relating to shelters depends upon the initiative of the local authority. But at the top of page 64 of the Bill, in Clause 68, it is provided that where a local authority is found to be in default—how long they are going to be about it and how long it will be before it is decided that they are in default, one would like to know—then the appropriate Minister, who I take it is the Lord Privy Seal, may ask the county council to do the job. Suppose the delay amounts to weeks or months. How long is it going to be before the Minister himself steps in and operates under the Bill?

All of us who have had any administrative experience know well enough that with the best will in the world neither Sir John Anderson nor anyone else will be able to induce some authorities to get a move on. Unless something has happened lately to alter things, that is so. There ought to be, provision in the Bill whereby, after a suitable time or under prescribed circumstances, the Minister himself should be able to set up the necessary machinery for creating the proper shelters where adequate steps have not been taken to provide them. I foresee invitably, as the Bill now stands, a patchwork response to the Bill. There will be many places a year hence without any adequate provision. The noble Lord shakes his head. Well, I have had some experience of administration, and I feel sure that that will be so unless there is provision in the Bill giving the Minister comprehensive power to act in place of local authorities.

Take another illustration of the delays which this multiplicity of authorities necessarily involves. What is the policy of the Government for the provision of deep shelters? The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India—who is not here, so I must not say much about hirn—was, I remember, in the September crisis quite pleased that there was an indiscriminate digging of trenches and there had been a distribution of gas masks. He would not be satisfied now, I suppose, but we are no further on so far as the policy as to deep shelters is concerned than we were last September. Why not? We know they are an exceedingly inefficient GOVernment—they really are; because otherwise they surely would have been able to make up their minds on something or other about deep shelters since last September. They have had nine months to do so, and it has been referred to goodness knows how many Committees. But the local authorities, I know, are getting exceedingly disheartened, indeed disgusted, at receiving no guidance. Now who is going to give guidance? It ought to be provided. The "appropriate Minister," who I suppose is the Lord Privy Seal, should be responsible for giving that guidance, but there is no machinery in the Bill for giving guidance; it is left to the local authority.

Now may I say a word about paying for it? I listened to the noble Earl as with great ingenuity he skated over this question of how much local authorities are going to get. We ought to be told how much they are getting. I have read the Bill with great care on this point, and they are going to get something which is deemed to be a just sum from somebody. I am quite sure it would expedite the provision of the work enormously if a definition of the amount of help that was going to be forthcoming was immediately provided so far as the owners of mines, commercial buildings, factories and other places are concerned. I hope they are satisfied. I think if Clause 22, to which the noble Lord referred just now, contains the only definition of the amount of assistance which is proposed to be provided, it is exceedingly inadequate. These people will be doing something which is for the pro- tection of the community. It will not enhance the value of their undertakings by any money at all, and sometimes perhaps it may detract from their value. It certainly will not enhance their value as a commercial concern. It is being done for the State to help in the defence of the citizens. I do not like to bore the House at this late stage by quoting the appropriate words in Section 22 dealing with the "appropriate proportion." The Income Tax is 5s. 6d. in the pound at the moment, but that appropriate proportion is not to be a proportion of the total expenditure. The noble Lord opposite seemed to think that it was only to be the appropriate proportion of so much of the expenses of a capital nature as the Minister considered reasonable. It may be only an appropriate proportion of a very small part of the capital expenditure; there is nothing to say that it is going to be the appropriate proportion of it all. I must say that I think the provision is exceedingly unsatisfactory, and I should suggest that in consequence there will be great delay in getting the work done. That proposal is not quite fair.

On another point, may I ask the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, who is going to reply, to enlighten us a little? How is this work going to be undertaken? Is it proposed to leave it entirely to the initiative of the local authorities, or is there going to be any organisation at all for assisting them collectively in regard to the kind of supplies and work that they have to provide? For instance, I believe it is a fact that the price of sandbags has gone up more than four times since the crisis of last September, and several other supplies have gone up 25 per cent. within the last three weeks. If we are to have hundreds of local authorities competing with one another over sandbags, cement, and all the rest of it, prices will soar still further. I suggest that it is necessary—I do not see it in the Bill—that the Government themselves should provide centrally for these supplies. Of course the noble Earl opposite, the Leader of the House, will say: "Well, we should have expected you to say that, seeing who you are." I suggest that it is only common sense.

If you are going to set up a Ministry of Supply—and we are going to have a Bill for that here shortly, I understand—it concerns the Minister of Supply. He can do these things: he can provide all the necessary supplies for these things and place an immense amount of assistance at the disposal of local authorities. But he does not seem to come into this Bill at all, because he is not created yet. I should like to know whether it will be possible to confer any powers on the Minister of Supply under this Bill, either now or hereafter; whether he may be styled an "appropriate Minister" or not. He does not exist now, but he will. I am quite sure that a great deal of this work would be immensely expedited if the work were done with the assistance of an efficient—I emphasize that word—an efficient Ministry of Supply. Otherwise we shall have the most shocking profiteering going on, not only in sandbags but also in other things. In fact it is going on, and everybody knows it is going on. Not only so, but you will have increased cost and much greater delay.

There is only one other point—I have cut all the rest out—that I should like to say a word about, and that relates to the health provisions. As the noble Lord below the Gangway indicated, I think we ought to enter a most emphatic protest against counting the beds in mental institutions to present us with an imaginary figure—it is imaginary—of 200,000 hospital beds. Forty thousand was the actual figure which we were asked to provide for in special huts and the rest of it. But we were told that the figure for beds—before the noble Earl said so, by the Minister of Health—was 200,000. I suggest that that is not fair to the public; it is not fair to the House. It means necessarily, and can only mean, the taking of many thousands of beds at present occupied by insane persons. It must.




I beg the noble Earl's pardon; it must be. We were told that a large number of beds were earmarked.


I never said that.


Not to-day; we were told that when the matter was debated in this House last week. We were told that a large number of beds in mental institutions were to be taken. You cannot create the beds in five minutes; you cannot put them up in the gardens. It must be, and can only be, by taking the beds now occupied by mentally deficient persons. It must be so.


Is the noble Lord talking about the beds which I mentioned in my remarks?


Yes, your 200,000.


No, that is certainly not what I said.


I beg the noble Earl's pardon; he is misinformed. That figure is largely contributed to by beds ear-marked in mental institutions, and that was said in the House last week.


That is in mental institutions, but not occupied by mental patients.


The noble Lord is referring to what I said last week on the subject of nursing, but as the Leader of the House has it is not a question of turning invalids out of their beds, but they were to be closed up and more beds put into the wards. I said mental patients were not going to be turned out, but they were going to be closed up and the extra beds would be new beds put in for new patients.


What it means is that the mental patients beds are going to be closed up more in the wards, and the wards now occupied by those beds will be provided with other beds.


Or the day rooms.


They will be beds in the rooms now occupied by beds occupied by mental patients. It is true that physically you will move the beds now occupied by the mental patients and crowd them up in another ward. These places are going to be used for this purpose, and I say they are exceedingly unsuitable, and ought not to be so used. There is no adequate staff for the treatment of the patients, and it is not fair or right to let the public suppose that the beds in these places, so obtained, are in addition to the provision of properly equipped beds. They are not. I know what I am talking about. I have worked in these places, and I know what they are. I am very sorry indeed to be so emphatic about this, but I regard it as a most serious matter, and I hope the public will become so alive to it that they will compel the Government to make better provision. It is not adequate provision, and it is sheer cruelty to suggest crowding these mental patients closer together. Anyone who knows what these wards are like knows that now the beds are crowded as close—


I must protest. For no less than six years I was on the Mental Hospital Committee of the London County Council, and I know the noble Lord's statement is completely inaccurate.


I say that in existing institutions the beds are as close together as they ought to be, and that to crowd them up still further, by bringing in patients from other wards, is a thing which you are not justified in doing. It would be thoroughly bad treatment of the unfortunate people. Really the Government ought to set to work and provide, as they could, beds of a proper kind, with a proper staff, and not seek, perhaps unwittingly on the part of the noble Earl, to lead us to think that these are 200,000 additional beds properly provided in proper institutions, when a large proportion of them are being obtained in this way. They never ought to be in those places at all, in any circumstances, for this purpose, and I must most emphatically protest against this method of obtaining so-called additional beds. It is an administrative matter and only arises indirectly out of the Bill before us. I hope that increased powers will be given to Sir John Anderson's department, and that he and the Ministry of Supply will be prepared to act, and will act successfully, but that will need some considerable modification of the Bill before us.

7.56 p.m.


My Lords, the speeches which have been delivered leave little time for me to make a reply on the part of the Government, and I cannot help saying, with the greatest respect to Lord Addison, that most of the remarks that have taken from the time available to me have had nothing to do with the Second Reading of this Bill. Take this talk about 200,000 beds which he says do not exist. Is there any ground on which anyone could say that this matter is relevant to this Bill? There is a mis- understanding in his mind, I believe, as to the statements that have been made with regard to the number of beds, but the question whether in a particular mental hospital it is necessary to put more patients in one ward or another, in order that beds supplied by the Government should be placed there, seems to me a matter which really ought not to be occupying your Lordships' time.


It is in the Bill—about the powers of the Minister of Health.


Of course the Minister has powers, and will have powers, but the noble Lord's observations are based on a belief that under what he calls this exceedingly or wholly inefficient Government he will be unable to exercise his powers fairly and in a judicial manner. That is a suggestion which, on behalf of the Government, I wholly repudiate and, speaking for myself, I believe it is wholly without truth. I believe that the Ministers who will be in charge of the working of this Bill are as humane, as intelligent and as hard-working as any people in this country; and it is ridiculous to ask your Lordships to suppose that they are going to do things which nobody would think of doing. The noble Lord who has just sat down talks about the necessity of giving guidance, and says that there is no means of giving guidance to the people. There is ample machinery if he means that powers ought to be possessed for the purpose of giving such guidance. These powers they possess, and as soon as this Bill comes into operation every possible step will be taken by His Majesty's Government, who are vitally concerned in making this Bill work and providing protection for all parts of the population, to see that every grown-up person in the population will know what he has to do, and what steps are to be taken, so far as he is concerned, to make himself and his family, and those for whom he is responsible in some sense, as secure as may be against the terrible risks of war.

I do not want to speak with haste, and perhaps show temper, and I do not want to occupy very much time. Therefore let me now deal as well as I can, in the short time which is available, with the various points that have been made. It is said that the Bill ought to have been passed long ago, that steps ought to have been taken long ago, and that nothing has been done. That is the burden of the complaint against the Government—which, it will be noted, is all the more reason for giving a Second Reading as quickly as may be to this measure. But it would not be fair to let the public who read these speeches in the newspapers suppose that nothing has been done. There are thousands of things that have been done. Millions of pounds have already been spent, all sorts of work all over the country has been done in anticipation of this measure, and is going to be paid for under the provisions of this measure. And to suggest that all the Government have done is to purchase some gas masks and distribute them, and also, I think the noble Lord said, some sticking plaster—that is absolutely fantastic.

Does the noble Lord appreciate all the work that has been done in coming to agreements with all sorts of important organisations, dealing with hundreds of thousands of workmen and employees since this matter was first discussed? Technical committees have been appointed to deal with all these matters. There is a technical committee that the railway companies, the Minister of Transport and the Air Raid Precautions Department set up at the end of 1937, and advice upon the air-raid precautionary measures required has been considered, reports have been delivered and agreement has been reached. A great many of the measures which you have got in this complex Bill are the result of compacts made with public bodies, some of whom I am going to mention.

There was an agreement with the railway companies and the London Passenger Transport Board about the assistance to be rendered by the Government, and millions have been already sanctioned and millions have been spent in taking some of these precautionary measures. Docks and harbours have been dealt with by a memorandum prepared by the Air Raid Precautions Department, in consultation with the Dock and Harbour Authorities Association and the Minister of Transport. In regard to that the position is well advanced, both as to the training of the personnel in the measures which will become necessary and the provision of physical protective measures which have been in many cases undertaken, and are in some places under way, and in some places complete. There have been memoranda prepared with reference, to the canals and inland waterways, and a number of canal undertakings have forwarded preliminary schemes, and large sums are being set aside for them.

With regard to the Electricity Commissioners, a scheme was prepared and accepted in principle by the principal associations of the industry, and elaborate measures have been taken for the protection of electricity undertakings. Provision has been made for safeguarding supplies to vital factories. Air-raid precaution schemes have been approved by the Commissioners for over 200 undertakings, and, with regard to another hundred which have been investigated, it has been decided that no special measures are necessary. Two hundred and twenty cases have been investigated relating to vital factories. All arrangements with regard to gas have been made with the National Gas Council, of which practically every gas undertaking is a member. Water has been considered with the greatest care, and a great many measures with regard to water supply have been already agreed. And with regard to the things which it is suggested have not been done that is pure moonshine. I do not know why these things should be said, except that they are said by people who think that the Government are perfectly inefficient, and that they themselves have got a monopoly of good sense in these matters.

I will give your Lordships just one or two figures. With regard to protective clothing, 700,000 light suits have been delivered to local authorities, or will be delivered in a few weeks. Heavy clothing has been provided to some extent, but of course the Navy and the active Services have priority. Within a short period, three months or so, we shall have acquired 475,000,000 sandbags. Well, after all, that is a fairly substantial number, and it is a little bit better than the sticking plaster spoken of by the noble Lord. Of medical supplies £750,000 worth will have been made available by the end of July. And a large part of these things of which I have given the figures have already been delivered. Eight hundred thousand steel helmets have been received and distributed to the police, fire brigades, and local authorities. The supply of steel helmets for air-raid precautions will be complete by the encl of July—a total of 1,900,000 steel helmets. With regard to respirators, 52,000,000 civilian respirators have been produced, and over 40,000,000 have been distributed to the local authorities. With regard to respirators for the use of people engaged in outside service, over one million have already been distributed, and for the Civil Defence Forces about 800,000. In regard to fire fighting appliances, a matter of very great importance, there have been distributed or will be distributed at once or in a very few days 500 heavy fire engines, 3,300 medium engines and 7,000 light trailer pumps.

With regard to steel shelters, over 600,000 have already been distributed, representing shelter for 2,500,000 people. I have said something about hospital supplies. I would add that 150,000 stretchers have already been distributed. There will be a large number of additional beds, but I am not going into the exact figures now. Over 137,000 white blankets and 103,000 coloured blankets have been delivered to local authorities, and 400,000 doses of anti-tetanus toxin have already been acquired. A great deal of other work has also been done. Having regard to that, I venture to think it is not fair of anybody who professes to deal with this matter not as a Party matter to make the statements which we have heard to-night. The trouble no doubt is that these things ought to have been started earlier, but I am not going into that. Whether that is true or not, whether it would have been possible to get the necessary authority to spend £45,000,000 on defences of this character at an earlier date, I do not know. I am not going to deal with it here, because it has nothing to do with the Second Reading of this Bill, although it is quite possibly a Party point to be raised on a public platform where you have some receptive audience.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked some questions which I should be very glad to answer if I could. I have an answer with regard to the Scottish problem he put to me, but I am not sure it is complete. If he will let me know if he finds it is incomplete, at a later stage I shall find a more complete answer. Under Clause 85, subsection (14)—the Scottish application clause—there is a parallel provision to Clause 33, which provides for a subsidy for houses provided in tenements by local authorities under the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act, 1938; but I am not certain that that covers the point he has mentioned. If it does not, I must try and give him a better answer on another occasion.

Then he suggested—and I can quite understand the suggestion—that there ought to be a strong central organisation to provide the necessary drive and knowledge. In regard to that I would say that thirteen regional organisations have already been set up by Sir John Anderson. The reason why there is not one organisation only is that so many different things have been considered and are being considered. For example, the sort of organisation we want in regard to the strutting of basements and the provision of shelters is a matter for engineers and architects. Architects and engineers of the very greatest ability are at this moment assisting in finally deciding and advising on matters of that kind. Then there is the organisation of rescue and demolition. That requires different kinds of people. The Institution of Civil Engineers is rendering assistance to the Government in that respect. Then there is decontamination, which is being discussed and considered, and with regard to which certain reports have already been made by a special Civil Defence Research Council set up by the Minister in question. That is all I can say with regard to that at the moment.

With regard to deep shelters in dock areas, that is a highly technical matter. There are many docks near which no deep shelter could be established except at very great expense because water would come in. As the noble Lord probably knows, and as I know very well, the expense of making deep shelters in a place where water would filter in from the sea or a river or something of that sort is enormously increased because you have probably got to employ a complicated system to deal with it. With regard to the decontamination, it does relate to mustard gas. The noble Lord is quite right in pointing out the gas danger. The question of how to deal with contamination is one with regard to which particular instructions will be given at a very early date. It is a difficult thing. It involves the decontamination of roads, bleaching, and so forth, but I am instructed that before very long the expert advisers of the Government will be able to tell local authorities what is needed. Then somebody has said—I am not sure it was not Lord Strabolgi—that uniforms are required for air wardens. That question is at present under consideration. When he says that equipment has not come to hand in some places, that may very well be the case. Rome was not built in a day; but if he will tell me at what places there is no equipment of the kind he mentions I shall be very glad to bring the matter to the attention of the proper authorities.

My noble friend Lord Gage had got, as I thought, some constructive observations to make with regard to the matter of evacuation. The noble Viscount has been unable to remain, but I can assure him that his observations on the subject of evacuation will be very carefully considered. I have no doubt he is right in saying that if raids take place at certain times of the year the available accommodation for refugees may be reduced. That is a point that has got to be considered. It is probably also right that holiday-makers should be told whether they ought to return to their homes or not. I shall be glad to see that that also is considered. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, gave us a number of particulars of considerable interest, and showed that a great deal had been done. It is quite true that there is still in some respects a shortage, particularly with regard to the Auxiliary Fire Service. The Government will do all they can to put that right. With regard to the Civil Defence Services generally, the figures the noble Earl gave, I thought, were extraordinarily comforting to those who are concerned with the protection of the population.

The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, raised some points, one of which was with regard to car parks. I am afraid I cannot give him any comfort there because I doubt very much whether it is possible to put in the Bill any more provision than is there to enable local authorities to construct underground shelters which are also capable of being used as car parks. But I can give him two pieces of comfort on other matters. Under Clause 22 he referred to that rather curious provision on the subject of Income Tax. I can assure him that societies that pay no Income Tax are not going to be mulcted any mo[...] than anyone else, and are going to have the same benefit as if they did pay Income Tax. That assurance I can safely give. With regard to persons who have constructed shelters in unspecified areas which are not of the nature mentioned in Part III of the Bill, the Minister in another place was able to say that in proper cases the matter in question can be dealt with under the proviso to Clause 13 if he comes to the conclusion that the construction of the works was reasonable in the circumstances of the case.

At the moment I cannot remember anything else that calls for an answer and which could justify me in detaining your Lordships longer at this very late hour. All I can say is that this Bill is one which everybody agrees should be passed, and that there will be an occasion in Committee, it may be, to improve it. I should like to say that in my opinion, if that is worth anything—and it is some- times treated as being worth something to the other side—this Bill is well drawn; it has been most carefully considered; it has been the subject of an enormous amount of negotiation and agreement; and, although it may not be perfect, the House may pass it for Second Reading with full confidence that they are doing something which is fair and just in all the circumstances of the case, and which is most necessary for the protection of the people of this country.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.