HC Deb 11 May 1939 vol 347 cc718-22W
Mr. Tomlinson

asked the Lord Privy Seal (1) what grant will be payable to a local education authority for the provision of approved shelters or trenches for school children where such shelters or trenches are available for use of the civilian population out of school hours;

(2) Whether the air-raid precautions committee of a local authority will be in order in providing trenches or shelters for the needs of school children, to be available for the general civilian population out of school hours; what rate of grant will be available in such circumstances; and will the rate of grant vary if they are provided exclusively for the use of school children?

Sir J. Anderson

Normally, approved expenditure by a local education authority on air-raid shelters provided for school children would attract grant at the rate appropriate to capital expenditure on educational development. The fact that such shelters might, like other private shelters, be available for the general public when not required for the special classes for which they had been provided would not justify a contribution from the air-raid precautions authorities unless it could be shown that the obligations of those authorities in respect of public shelters had been substantially relieved thereby. This condition would not usually be satisfied, but exceptional cases have been and are being dealt with on their merits. The initiative in regard to school shelters rests in every case with the education authority.

Sir H. Morris-Jones

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in the publicity campaign in connection with air-raid precautions services, he will consider the desirability of inserting a number of advertisements in weekly newspapers circulating in the provinces?

Sir J. Anderson

I will certainly consider the hon. Member's suggestion in connection with any further national campaign of publicity for the air-raid precautions services. As regards recruiting for these services, local publicity is a matter for the local authorities who are in a position to gauge the value of publicity through the medium suggested by the hon. Member.

Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Lord Privy Seal when a supply of steel shelters will be available for delivery to the air-raid precautions authorities of the borough area of Rowley Regis and the urban district of Brierley Hill?

Sir J. Anderson

The distribution of these shelters which is now proceeding will be extended to further areas as supplies become available. I am not yet in a position to say when it will be possible to begin delivery in the two areas to which the hon. Member refers.

Mr. Batey

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the chairman and other members of the the co-ordinating committee of the London air-raid precautions forces are to be paid any salary or remuneration?

Sir J. Anderson

This Committee consists of the two Regional Commissioners designate and certain officials of Government Departments and of local authorities in the Region. Regional Commissioners will receive no salary or remuneration in peace-time, though in war they may in certain cases be paid on the terms which I explained in answer to a question on the 20th April by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). The other members of the Committee will receive no payment apart from their official salary.

Mr. Lipson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether boys from vulnerable areas who are at boarding schools are to receive their gas-masks from their home air-raid precautions authority or from the authority in the district where the school is situated?

Sir J. Anderson

I propose to deal with the question of the distribution of gasmasks to pupils at boarding schools and students in residence at the universities and other similar places in a circular which I shall shortly be sending to local authorities, and I would ask my hon. Friend to be good enough to await that circular, of which I will send him a copy in due course.

Mr. J. Henderson

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will state the total number of steel air-raid shelters required by the Manchester City Council, the number delivered up to date, why the supply of shelters has ceased; and whether he is aware that the men employed on the erection of these shelters are being discharged?

Sir J. Anderson

The total number of steel shelters estimated to be required in Manchester is 45,000. The city council have furnished the Home Office with the delivery particulars required in respect of 15,000 shelters, and up to the present date arrangements have been made for the delivery of about 10,000. Since delivery to Manchester started in February last, regular weekly consignments have been made (with the exception of one week in March, when no delivery particulars were available), and it is hoped that it will be possible to continue to make deliveries weekly. On the point raised in the last part of the question I have no information.

Mr. J. Griffiths

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is satisfied at the rate of delivery of steel sheet air-raid shelters from the works in South Wales; if he is aware that the Raven Steel Works, Glanamman, Carmarthenshire, is idle; and will he consider the possibility of allocating a share of the order for those shelters to these works?

Sir J. Anderson

I am in consultation with the industry on various means of increasing the rate of production of steel air-raid shelters. The possibility of temporarily bringing into production works like the Raven Steel Works which have not been producing for some years has not been overlooked, but the hon. Member will appreciate that this can be arranged only if production can be restarted within a reasonable time.

Sir T. Cook

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that no means of warning in the event of air-raids exists at Watts Naval Training School, Norfolk; and whether any scheme has been devised for giving the alarm at other branches of Dr. Barnardo's Homes?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, Sir. This school is situated in a rural part of Norfolk about two miles from the nearest village and not near the coast; and it is not included in the list of establishments which are to receive special air-raid warnings. I understand that other branches of Dr. Barnardo's Homes are within earshot of the public warning signals in the locality.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has now sufficient gas masks to supply the whole civilian population; and whether these masks are stored in convenient places for distribution?

Sir J. Anderson

There are already more civilian respirators in the country than the numbers of the population, excluding the young children for whom special devices are being provided; and the numbers required for distribution have been issued to local authorities responsible for more than 90 per cent. of the total population. I have, however, recently decided that it would be desirable to hold a larger reserve than that originally contemplated to replace war wastage in the areas most liable to be attacked; and pending the fulfilment of orders to complete this reserve the supplies retained in Regional Reserve Stores have been temporarily increased.

Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether aliens, permanently resident in this country, are accepted as volunteers for air-raid precautions?

Sir J. Anderson

Persons other than British subjects are not ordinarily accepted for enrolment as volunteers in air-raid precautions services but if in any particular case there are circumstances which appear to the local authority concerned to justify an exception to this general rule it is open to them to submit the case to the Home Office for guidance. A circular to this effect was sent to local authorities on the 9th May, and I am sending the hon. Member a copy.

Mr. Sorensen

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that Miss Elsie Page was dismissed by her employers recently because she refused to undertake air-raid precautions practice; that this lady's father died in a military hospital during the last War, and that this fact influenced her conscientious convictions respecting war and air-raid precautions; and whether he will confer with the Minister of Labour with a view to making it clear to employers that, however unjustifiable such refusal may appear, no action should nevertheless be taken to penalise those who refuse on conscientious grounds?

Sir J. Anderson

My attention has been draw to the case to which the hon. Member refers. I am informed that Miss Elsie Page was not asked to take any active part in air-raid precautions services at her place of work, but only to conform, in common with other employés to the necessary safety instructions issued by her employers, who are responsible for securing so far as possible the safety of their staff. I do not propose to take any action in the matter.