HC Deb 15 December 1938 vol 342 cc2192-6W
Captain Plugge

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many local fire brigade authorities have now been provided with adequate supplies of thermite or electron incendiary bombs for practising methods of fire extinction, or carrying our research on new methods of fire extinction; and whether the present position with regard to the production of such bombs in this country is now satisfactory?

Sir J. Anderson

Two main issues of electron bombs for practice purposes have been made. They covered 243 selected fire brigade authorities. Representatives of groups of local authorities have also soon a number of special demonstrations arranged by the Home Office. As regards the second part of the question, a further supply of practice electron bombs of British manufacture is now on order. I hope it may be found possible to expedite delivery.

Mr. Lewis

asked the Lord Privy Seal what the present intention is with regard to the arrangements for billeting children evacuated from London should war suddenly break out?

Mr. Kirby

asked the Lord Privy Seal what plans have been made for the ready evacuation from Liverpool of schoolchildren in the event of war; who is in charge of the scheme; how many children are affected; and where would they be sent?

Sir J. Anderson

After conferring with the various associations of local authorities my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is about to issue a circular to local authorities which will give a general outline of the plans of the Government and of the action to be taken for putting them into effect. I will send my hon. Friends a copy of the circular as soon as it is issued.

Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the maximum length of straight trench considered as suitably sited for air-raid precautions purposes and to be made permanent by local authorities under the scheme recently submitted to them?

Sir J. Anderson

Under the approved design the maximum straight length of trench to be occupied continuously throughout its length is 50 feet, and no straight length is intended to accommodate more than 58 persons.

Mr. T. Smith

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that the head air-warden of Christchurch, in examining a candidate for the post of air-warden, stated categorically that the main purpose of air-raid precutions was to support the Prime Minister in his policy of peace and appeasement; and whether, in view of the necessity for keeping this service outside party politics, he will intimate publicly that observations of this kind are out of place and prejudicial to the enrolment of volunteers?

Sir J. Anderson

No, Sir. My attention had not previously been drawn to this matter, but I think all parties are agreed that the steps being taken to make this country more secure are prompted by the general desire for peace.

Mr. Gallacher

asked the Lord Privy Seal, why sirens were used instead of maroons for the air-raid warning rehearsal in London on 8th December; what steps had been taken to ensure their efficiency beforehand; and how many installations have been purchased and at what cost?

Sir J. Anderson

It is not possible to use maroons for giving warning of air raids because the flash would be visible to aircraft over long distances. The sirens selected were chosen after exhaustive trials by an expert committee, and were shown by these trials to be almost as audible as maroons. About 120 sirens have been purchased and the cost, including installation, has been between £12,000 and £13,000.

Mr. Barnes

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he can make any statement upon his intentions to construct under London squares bomb-proof shelters which could also serve the purpose of underground car parks?

Sir J. Anderson

The hon. Member seems to be under a misapprehension. I have not given expression to any such intentions, but as regards underground car parks which would serve also as shelters the position is as stated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport on 7th December in reply to a question by the hon. Member.

Mr. Joel

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has issued, or proposes to issue, any instructions to local authorities as to the payments which can be legitimately and appropriately made to volunteers carrying out air-raid precautions work?

Sir J. Anderson

On the general question of repayment of out-of-pocket expenses in connection with training and exercises I cannot add anything to the reply, which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) on 24th November, except to point out that attention has been drawn to the same principle in memoranda and circulars relating to particular matters such as training in first-aid and the training of members of the auxiliary fire service.

Sir R. Glyn

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether his attention has been called to the questionnaire which is being issued by an organisation describing itself as Crisis Evacuations; and, as this organisation has no association with the Government plans for civilian evacuation, and the questionnaire is misleading many people in the country, he will take action in the matter?

Sir J. Anderson

My attention has been drawn to this questionnaire. The body purporting to issue it is not an official organisation, and it has no association with the Government's plans for evacuation. Further inquiries are being made regarding the activities of this body. In the meantime those members of the public who receive communications from it should understand that it has no sort of official recognition.

Mr. Maitland

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is proposing to give special assistance to local authorities in respect of the expenditure incurred by them on air-raid precautions measures during the recent emergency?

Sir J. Anderson

The need for air-raid precautions has imposed new obligations on all sections of the community. To assist local authorities in discharging the statutory duties placed upon them by the Air-Raid Precautions Act that Act provided for generous financial assistance from the Exchequer both by way of a percentage grant on a high and graded scale and also by provision of a substantial amount of equipment and appliances wholly at the cost of the Exchequer. In general the measures taken by local authorities during the emergency were those which it was their duty to take on behalf of the persons in their area under the terms of the Act and the Regulations, and the Government do not feel that there is justification for giving further financial assistance for the performance of those duties above that provided for by the Act.

There is, however, one matter which in the Government's view may reasonably call for special treatment. The largest item of expenditure by local authorities during the emergency was on trenches, and substantial liabilities were incurred by the authorities in respect of timber and corrugated iron for revetting the trenches. The recommendations which have now been issued to local authorities provide for the reconstruction of the trenches by methods under which these stocks of material will not generally be required. The Government are prepared in principle and as an exceptional measure, to accept liability for the timber and corrugated iron which is found to be surplus and to assume responsibility for its disposal, except in the case of timber, which is already in the trenches, for which special arrangements will be necessary. The Government must also reserve its position in cases where the commitment entered into by a local authority exceeded what was reasonable.

Full details of the arrangements proposed will be communicated to local authorities at an early date.

Mr. Poole

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has yet completed the arrangements for the evacuation of all school children from industrial areas in the event of war; and whether he can make any statement on the steps which it is proposed to take?

Sir J. Anderson

A circular is about to be issued to local authorities which will give a general outline of the plans of the Government and of the action to be taken for putting them into effect. I will send the hon. Member a copy of the circular as soon as it is issued.

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