HC Deb 20 November 1941 vol 376 cc473-7W
Major Lloyd

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the difficulties and delays which are arising in connection with the operation of the provisions of the Civil Defence Duties (Compulsory Enrolment) Order, 1941, in respect. of fire-watching, in view of the large proportion of applications for exemptions; and whether he will consider giving a greater measure of latitude to local authorities for the carrying out of these provisions, especially in county districts in Scotland?

Mr. Johnston

I have been asked to reply. I am aware that certain difficulties have arisen in connection with claims for exemption. These difficulties are, however, being given urgent consideration and I hope it will be possible to issue further guidance to local authorities in the very near future. I shall, of course, gladly consider any specific proposals which the hon. and gallant Member or any other hon. Member may be able to advance to minimise the difficulties encountered both by individuals and by local authorities.


Beamish asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the demand in the Firemen's Charter issued by the Fire Brigades Union, for a minimum rate of pay of 80s., full pay while injured, a just discipline code, a 72-hours week and two-shift system, he will make a statement as to his intentions and any negotiations now in progress?

Captain Profumo

asked the Home Secretary whether he has fully investigated the situation and conditions which have led to the publication by the Fire Brigades Union of the Firemen's Charter; and whether he will state the attitude of his Department towards the demands contained in that document?

Mr. H. Morrison

The proposals referred to by my hon. Friends are designed to secure for members of the National Fire Service substantial improvements in pay and other conditions of service. They form the basis for a national campaign which is apparently intended to bring pressure to bear on the Government to modify their policy. As was explained in the answer which my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary gave to a Question by the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) on 19th November, the pay and other conditions of the ex-members of the regular fire brigades remain related to permanent fire brigade conditions, while those of the members of the A.F.S. now transferred to the N.F.S. who serve on a temporary basis, remain related to the general Civil Defence Services. The principle that the basic conditions of service of all ranks in Civil Defence must be considered together is of fundamental importance, and there can be no question of segregating the National Fire Service from the other services in this matter. There is, of course, no objection to the Fire Brigades Union seeking by all legitimate means to improve the conditions of service of its members, but I think there is a danger that the campaign in question will give rise to misunderstanding of the true position. I want to make it clear, therefore, that there is standing machinery, by means of which questions relating to conditions of service of the Civil Defence Services generally, including members of the National Fire Service, can be raised with my Department. This machinery has been used for a considerable time and is, in my view, the proper medium to employ for the purpose of dealing with any outstanding grievance. I have noted the steps now being taken by the Fire Brigades Union in other directions, apparently to influence decisions in these matters, which are certainly calculated to render consultation much more difficult. I have the whole matter under consideration.

Mr. Wakefield

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that firemen injured as a result of enemy action have to seek public assistance because their pay has been stopped; and what steps does he propose to take to put right this unsatisfactory position?

Mr. Morrison

Firemen other than regular firemen who are disabled on duty are, in common with members of the other Civil Defence Services, entitled to claim an injury allowance under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme, and, in case of need, to apply to the Assistance Board for an allowance under the Unemployment Assistance (Prevention and Relief of Distress) Regulations as an alternative to the injury allowance. My hon. Friend may perhaps be confusing these functions of the Assistance Board, who act as agents for the Ministry of Pensions, with those of the local public assistance authority. The loose use of the term "public assistance" is to be deprecated.

Mr. Wakefield

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, since the formation of the National Fire Service, the Press in Swindon are unable to secure information concerning local outbreaks of fire, in no way related to enemy action, and even after the fire has been extinguished; and what are the new regulations which prohibit such information being given?

Mr. Morrison

No such regulations have been issued, apart from the general instructions to guard against the publication of information which would be useful to the enemy or for other reasons is confidential. I gather that in the instance to which my hon. Friend refers there was a misunderstanding which has now been removed.

Sir J. Lucas

asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider the issue of a rum ration to firemen at work during bombing periods who are unable to be relieved for long periods of time?

Mr. Morrison

This suggestion has been considered on several occasions but, as at present advised, I do not propose to adopt it.

Mr. Hamilton Kerr

asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider the possibility of allowing Auxiliary Fire Service men to volunteer, either in their spare time or during a slack period, to make small articles for the war effort; and whether he will consider installing small workshops at their area headquarters?

Mr. Morrison

I am anxious to encourage schemes for the profitable use of any time necessarily occupied in stand-by duty and I am considering whether it is possible to go further in the direction suggested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Martin

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the invidious distinction between regular and auxiliary firemen in the matter of sick and injury pay and pensions, he is now prepared to place all firemen in this respect on the same footing?

Mr. Morrison

The sick and injury pay and pension arrangements for auxiliary firemen were fixed in close relation to those of Civil Defence personnel generally, and there are many respects in which the conditions of service of permanent fire brigade personnel would be inapplicable to volunteers for emergency service. All professional firemen incapacitated by injury or sickness are entitled to pensions on a contributory superannuation scheme. All other members of the National Fire Service now come under the Personal Injuries (Civilian) Scheme, which applies to members of all the Civil Defence services. I do not think it would be fair to Civil Defence services generally that auxiliary and temporary firemen should be treated on a basis different from that of other Civil Defence workers, and I cannot, therefore, entertain the suggestion that they should be placed on the same footing as professional firemen.

Sir A. Knox

asked the Home Secretary whether he is satisfied by the allotment of personnel by the Labour Office to the National Fire Service; and when the establishment of that service will be complete?

Mr. Morrison

The allocation of men to the National Fire Service must be dealt with in relation to general man-power requirements. Recruitment from this source is proceeding but I am not in a position to say when all deficiencies will be met.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

asked the Home Secretary, in view of the reduced risk of fires caused by enemy action, whether he will consider the temporary release of fully-trained Auxiliary Fire Service men who are able to obtain employment on war work, and are willing to continue their Auxiliary Fire Service duties on a part-time voluntary basis?

Mr. Morrison

Arrangements are already in force for releasing from whole-time service in Civil Defence, including the National Fire Service, skilled men whose services are urgently required for industry. As regards any general measure of release, it must be realised that, while part-time men play an important part in the Service, it is essential to have immediately available at all times sufficient men to deal with any emergency which may arise. This can only be secured by the employment of an adequate complement of full-time men, and I could not contemplate any reduction of numbers at the present time.