HC Deb 14 December 1939 vol 355 cc1281-2W
Sir R. Gower

asked the Home Secretary whether other countries, so far as he knows, have a paid staff for air-raid precautions work; whether any appeal for any further voluntary workers has been made within the last six weeks; and whether he will consider, in the interests public economy, a campaign to secure all necessary voluntary assistance which would obviate the expenditure of £750,000 a week on air-raid precautions services?

Sir J. Anderson

So far as I am aware, all of the principal European countries either employ or contemplate the employment for A.R.P. work in war of personnel who are paid in one form or other. In this country the recruitment of unpaid volunteers is continuing as part of the normal basis of organisation, and the question whether an intensification of the recruiting campaign is necessary, either generally or in particular areas, will depend upon the outcome of the review of personnel which has not yet been fully completed.

Mr. Joel

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that voluntary workers in London are working eight-hour shifts for six days a week yet there is practically nothing to do until the need actually arises; and whether, to avoid boredom and waste of time over a long period of hostilities, he will see if it is possible to make further appeals for voluntary workers and place the whole organisation on a modified part-time basis?

Sir J. Anderson

I cannot accept the hon. Member's contention that Civil Defence volunteers in London are standing idle. Regular training exercises are given and combined practical exercises are taking place in all parts of the region. As I have made clear in answer to previous questions on this subject, it is necessary in the Civil Defence services in the vulnerable areas to have a nucleus of whole-time personnel to provide the immediate assistance which would be required in the event of hostile attack from the air. At the same time I am anxious that the fullest possible use should be made of the services of part-time workers.

Colonel Wedgwood

asked the Home Secretary how many of the citizen army of 1,500,000 to 1,750,000, announced by the Lord Privy Seal, are being paid £2 a week or upwards?

Sir H. Williams

asked the Home Secretary whether he will state the approximate total of paid and voluntary air-raid precautions workers for the latest date for which the particulars are available?

Sir J. Anderson

It is estimated that in November there were 291,000 paid whole-time volunteers in the Air-Raid Precautions and Auxiliary Fire Services, of whom 286,000 were in receipt of £2 a week and upwards. I would hesitate to give a definite figure for the effective strength of part-time unpaid volunteers while the whole establishment of the A.R.P. organisation is under review.