§ 3.41 p.m.
§ [The question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether they will state when they expect to be able to reach a decision regarding the disposal of gas masks: whether, in the meantime, there is still a liability to penalties for lack of care in maintaining them, and, it so, what these penalties are.]750
§ LORD WALKDEN
My Lords, His Majesty's Government hope to be in a position before long to reach a decision regarding the disposal of civilian respirators. The numbers issued to the public are so considerable—they run into many millions—that their mere collection and storage involve a very considerable use of man-power, transport and storage space. Moreover, there is no immediate shortage of the component material for re-manufacture. Until a decision is reached His Majesty's Government rely upon the good sense and patriotism of all citizens to take care of the respirators issued to them until facilities become available for their orderly conservation or disposal.
As regards the second part of the noble Lord's question, under Section 67 of the Civil Defence Act, 1939, the property or any equipment provided on behalf of His Majestry under the Act of 1937, free of charge, remains with His Majesty. Any person who fails to use reasonable care for the preservation of a respirator so provided is, accordingly, liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £5. But His Majesty's Government prefer to believe that the requests already made to the public by Ministers and in the Press to keep their gas masks safe and free from damage, entailing, as individual custody does, a negligible or relatively small sacrifice on the part of the community, will render it unnecessary to contemplate taking proceedings for the imposition of penalties.
§ LORD WALKDEN
Technically, I suppose that is so, but actually, I think, the small child would be excused.