HC Deb 09 March 1939 vol 344 cc2356-61W
Miss Ward

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many schemes for the protection of the civil population from air attack have been submitted from local authorities on the North-East Coast; and how many of these schemes are regarded as being efficient and workable at the present time?

Sir J. Anderson

No complete general scheme has been formally submitted in this area, but all the scheme-making authorities have submitted parts of schemes dealing with particular aspects of air-raid precautions, and informal approval has been given to many such parts of schemes. This method of procedure was recommended to scheme-making authorities generally in August last as a convenient method of expediting progress with schemes, and it has worked satisfactorily; and, while the degree of preparation differs in the various areas, generally speaking a reasonable degree of progress has been made by the majority of authorities in this area.

Sir R. Glyn

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in view of the uncertainty as to financial aid that can be anticipated to enable firms engaged in the production of material of national importance to maintain the output of the factories in times of emergency, he will consider informing such firms that they are placed in a special class so that immediate steps may be taken to provide the necessary shelter protection over and above that which is normally considered essential in cases where the good employer standard is all that is required?

Sir J. Anderson

I fully appreciate the anxiety of vital industrial undertakings to be given an early indication of what is expected of them and whether any financial assistance will be forthcoming, and I hope to make very shortly a comprehensive statement dealing with the position of industry in general in relation to this matter.

Mr. Crowder

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he can state, for public guidance, whether a complete record is to be kept of people to whom sectional steel shelters are supplied; if a written record is kept of those who are entitled to them, but do not want them; what is the position of landlords who refuse to allow these shelters to be installed; and whether it has been brought to his notice that local authorities are asserting that if the shelters are used for any household purposes other than shelters against air raids, they will be rated?

Sir J. Anderson

A record is kept of the householders to whom these shelters are issued, but not at present of those who could have them but do not choose to take them. The difficulties to which my hon. Friend refers in the third part of his question are at present under my consideration in connection with contemplated legislation. As regards the last part of the question, I was not aware that this suggestion had been made, and should be glad if my hon. Friend would supply me with details.

Sir P. Harris

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that certain landlords have forbidden their tenants to erect Government steel air-raid precautions shelters where fitting them means taking up concrete yards at their houses; and whether he will consider introducing legislation to enable them to erect their shelters as instructed by the Government?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, Sir, I have this matter under consideration.

Mr. Mabane

asked the Lord Privy Seal at which places he has heard of threats of air-raid wardens going on strike because of a proposal to take them away from the control of the chief constable, and at which places, because of a proposal to bring them under the control of the chief officer of police; and further, in view of the fact that no air-raid warden is under any contract of service of any kind, what form of action is referred to in these cases?

Sir J. Anderson

It is the case that in some areas, including areas in which the wardens' service is now under the control of the chief officer of police as well as areas in which it is not, proposals for a change of control have not been welcomed, but I would suggest to my hon. Friend that it would be invidious at this juncture to be more specific. It is common knowledge that there has been talk of resignation, but I should be reluctant to think that persons who have shown their public spirit by voluntarily accepting a liability for service in protecting their own locality would seriously contemplate such action merely because they are not personally sympathetic to a sug- gested change in the organisation of their service.

Mr. Davidson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will state the name of the firm or firms supplying the air-raid shelters for households; the total cost per shelter; and the cost per ton of steel?

Mr. Gallacher

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he can give the names of the companies controlling the industry providing steel for steel shelters; and what steps he is taking to prevent monopoly prices being charged for this material?

Sir J. Anderson

The orders for these shelters have been placed through the British Iron and Steel Corporation. About 90 firms are taking part in the manufacture of the various components. As regards the price, I have already informed the House that special arrangements have been made, and these arrangements include variations in price according to the size of the order. I hope to be able to make a full statement in due course, but at the moment it would be premature to give the particulars for which the hon. Member asks.

Mr. Pilkington

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the ordinary civilian gas mask which is being distributed is any less efficacious in resisting a gas attack than the duty civilian gas mask?

Sir J. Anderson

A full description of these respirators and the differing conditions and purposes for which they have been designed will be found in A.R.P. Handbook No. 1. The basic design of both types of respirator is the same, and each will give efficient protection against any of the known war gases in such concentrations and during such periods as the wearer of them is in practice likely to be exposed to the gas.

Major Procter

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is in a position to indicate when it is intended to introduce legislation placing certain obligations on employers to make provision for the protection of their employés against air raids in view of the damaging effects of uncertainty in this matter?

Mr. White

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that a number of schemes which have been prepared by employers to provide adequate shelters for their workpeople in case of attack from the air are being held up until they have information of the nature of the statutory obligations which, will be placed upon them; and if he can now state when he hopes to introduce a Bill for this purpose?

Sir J. Anderson

This is among the matters included in the Bill dealing with air-raid precautions, which I hope to be able to introduce shortly. I regret that at the moment I cannot give a precise date for the introduction of this Bill.

Mr. Logan

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware of the desire for adequate bomb-proof and gas protection in the congested areas of Liverpool; and whether he is prepared to consider schemes for underground shelters in the centre of blocks of tenement dwellings and non-traffic streets where possible, giving necessary and immediate security instead of evacuation?

Sir J. Anderson

From consultations between my Department and the City Authorities I am generally aware of the position in Liverpool, and I am in fact considering proposals of the kind described by the hon. Member, though up to the present they have been submitted only in tentative form.

Mr. Richards

asked the Lord Privy Seal what sum has been allocated by his Department for advertising air-raid precautions activities through the medium of the Press; how this money has been allotted as between the London and provincial dailies; and whether any payment has been made to any weekly local paper?

Sir J. Anderson

The sum so far allocated for this purpose is £20,000. The allocation as between London and Provincial dailies is not made on a money basis. The advertisements already planned occupy approximately 2,000 column inches in the London dailies and about 1,800 column inches in the provincial dailies. The answer to the last part of the question is in the negative; but I should make it clear that the figures I have given do not include any grant towards approved expenditure on local advertising by local authorities.

Mr. Medlicott

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether any decision has been taken to issue steel helmets to any section of the civilian population in the event of war emergency?

Sir J. Anderson

It is not contemplated that steel helmets shall be issued by the Government to any sections of the civil population other than members of the local authorities' air-raid precautions services, the police services and the auxiliary fire services.

Mr. Silverman

asked the Lord Privy Seal why a circular was issued to public authorities who are potential purchasers of air-raid precautions sirens that a certain firm manufacturing one variety of such siren had recently lowered its prices; and whether he will take steps to see that public funds are not in future employed merely to further the interests of one such firm to the detriment of its commercial rivals?

Sir J. Anderson

It is necessary that local authorities should be kept informed of the current prices which will be allowed to rank for Government grant for the particular article in question; and I cannot accept the implication in the last part of the question.

Mr. Day

asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps have been taken to ensure that an adequate supply of bleaching powder would be available to the civilian population for the various purposes it would be required for in the event of widespread attack upon civilians by means of mustard gas and/or similar dangerous substances?

Sir J. Anderson

The Government are accumulating as rapidly as possible a large stock of bleaching powder for both military and civil purposes. A proportion of this stock will be distributed to local authorities, and would be available for the purposes mentioned in the question.