HC Deb 11 September 1941 vol 374 cc327-9W
Mr. Kirby

asked the Home Secretary whether, having in mind the great wartime importance of the Port of Liverpool, he is aware of the uneasiness and apprehension created in Liverpool and district by the fact that no less than four chiefs of the fire-fighting services have held office in the district during the last five months; whether he is satisfied that such chiefs can be of real value with such a short experience of local conditions; and whether he will allay further anxiety to property-owners, industrialists and general inhabitants in this vital war-time centre, by stating that a man of wide experience shall be appointed to this task and be allowed to remain in the post sufficiently long to become acquainted with local conditions and to become of real value?

Mr. H. Morrison

I can assure my hon. Friend that I fully appreciate the importance of these considerations. All the changes to which he refers were not, however, due solely to the unification of the fire service. In fact, one of the four officers referred to in the Question was only in Liverpool for a few days in connection with a blitz. I regret that in the process of reorganisation under the Fire Services (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1941, it became necessary to appoint to a post elsewhere the officer who had been placed in charge of the Liverpool Fire Brigade, but an experienced officer, in whom I have every confidence, has been appointed to command the Liverpool Fire Force and it is certainly my intention that he should remain in that post.

Sir J. Lucas

asked the Home Secretary whether he can make a statement as to the procedure followed in connection with the filling of senior appointments in the National Fire Service?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir. After the passing of the Fire Services (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1941, a notice was issued inviting persons with suitable qualifications to apply for posts in the National Fire Service; the applications received amounted to several thousands. These applications were carefully examined in the Department, and a selection was made of those candidates whose qualifications rendered them suitable for interview. I was fortunate in being able to obtain the assistance of the first Civil Service Commissioner, who presided over a selection board which interviewed these selected candidates and reported to me upon each of them. The appointments made to the posts of chief regional fire officer, fire force commander and assistant fire force commander have all been made from candidates who appeared before the Board; I should, however, make it clear that final responsibility for these appointments rests with me and not with the Board, and that in some cases I have found it necessary to appoint officers to posts for which they were not recommended by the Board. In the great majority of cases, however, the recommendations of the Board have been adopted, and I am glad to have this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the great assistance I have received from them.

Sir A. Knox

asked the Home Secretary whether he can state the staff establishment which will be sanctioned for the chief regional fire officer, the fire force commander, the divisional officer, column officer and company officer under the new Fire Services Organisation; and what administrative and executive duties each officer of the hierarchy will perform?

Mr. Morrison

The headquarters establishments of the various formations in the National Fire Service will naturally vary to a considerable extent according to the local conditions. As regards the chief regional fire officer, a typical establishment would be a senior staff officer, a staff officer and four junior staff officers, with an additional part-time staff officer to deal with special problems affecting part-time personnel. The provision to be made for the headquarters establishment of the fire force commanders and the headquarters staffs of divisional officers are included in the detailed schemes submitted by fire force commanders to regional commissioners; the division is the smallest formation in the National Fire Service which will normally function as a self-contained operational unit and formations below the division will, therefore, not possess a headquarters staff as such. I regret that it would not be possible within the compass of a Question and answer to set out the administrative and executive duties of these officers.