§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Westwood
I beg to move, in page 9, line 14, at the end, to insert:Provided that any small burgh affected shall be taken into consultation in the apportionment and allocation of any such expenditure and, in default of agreement, such small burgh shall have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State whose decision shall be final.I move this proviso for the purpose of clearing up a point which was raised during the Committee stage, and which the Secretary of State promised to look into, as to the relationship between the counties and the small burghs so far as the allocation of expenditure for air-raid precaution schemes is concerned. In Scotland the 31 county councils, including the joint counties of Perth and Kinross and of Moray and Nairn, and the 20 large burghs, will be directly responsible for the preparation of air-raid precaution schemes, but inside those 31 county council areas there are small burghs which of themselves have local government rights. These small burghs vary in number in the respective counties from one in the County of Caithness to 24 in the County of Fife. There is a fear in the minds of many of the administrators of these small burghs that, because the preparation of schemes is left to the county council, although it was made clear in Committee that the county councils were compelled to consult with the small burghs in the preparation of their schemes, the power still remains with the county councils to allocate the expense in regard to the area of a county adjoining a small burgh in which a scheme is prepared, with special application to that particular area. We claim, and it is the opinion of many small burghs, that this power of allocation of expense is left entirely in the hands of the county councils.
Some of these small burghs may have schemes imposed upon them which may involve them in serious expense. Burghs like, for instance, Grangemouth, which 276 may have docks in their area, may be called upon by the county council to agree to schemes which not only cover precautions for the docks and the small burgh itself, but for a surrounding area of the county, and there is a fear that, unless there is some tribunal to which the small burghs can appeal—we suggest that in this case it should be the Secretary of State for Scotland—there is a genuine fear, which I hope will be dispelled in the course of this discussion, that the county may allocate far too large a proportion of the expenditure to the small burghs, with no right of appeal beyond the county council itself.
I mentioned in Committee one case where excessive expense may be incurred by small burghs in making or agreeing to schemes which may cover a county area. Let me give another case. The counties of Fife and West Lothian may desire to make a scheme which might cover not only burghs but very large areas of the counties and they might allocate an unfair share of the expense upon the burghs. The Amendment that we moved in Committee sought for consultation in the preparation of the scheme, and we accepted the assurance that Clause 1 provides adequately so far as consultation in the preparation of the scheme is concerned, but we still have doubt as to the fair and equitable allocation of the expense as between a county and the small burghs. Unless we can have an assurance that no scheme will be passed unless it make a fair provision in connection with the allocation of expense, we are bound to push this to a Division. If we can have an assurance that the matter has been looked into by the Solicitor-General and the Secretary of State and that provision is made in the Bill, which I cannot see at present, so that no scheme will be approved without a fair allocation of the expense as between the county and the burgh, we may not press it to a Division.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. James Reid)
I think I can give an explanation which will satisfy the hon. Member's fears. In general, schemes are made for the county and the expense is borne by the county as a whole, including the small burghs. But there are cases where a scheme affects a particular locality only. That locality may either be a burgh standing by itself, or a burgh with a sur- 277 rounding landward area, and provision is made for those two possibilities. If the scheme affects only a burgh itself, of course, the direction will be that the burgh bears the expense. I do not imagine that the hon. Member is seriously concerned about that possibility. The other is that there may have to be drawn an area outside the burgh which has to be included with the burgh—an area responsible for bearing the expense. Once the area has been delimited, there is no question about the allocation of expense. That is done automatically in the terms of the 1929 Act according to rateable value. If the burgh has twice the rateable value of the landward area that is included within it, the burgh pays £2 for every £1 paid by the landward area. The only point, as far as I can see, on which the hon. Member desires assurance is the question of how the boundary of the special area is to be fixed. On that matter the county council is bound, when preparing the scheme delimiting the area, to consult the burgh—not merely the members of the town council who are on the county council, but the town council itself—and therefore the town council knows what is going on and, if it objects to the proposal, it can make its representations and, if those representations are not made effective by the county council, it can go direct to the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Westwood
In the event of a small burgh objecting to the suggested provision made by the county council they will not only have the right of protesting to the county council, but can go beyond the county council and make their representations to the Secretary of State?
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
Yes. Under Clause 3 it is provided that "the Secretary of State may approve with or without modifications any scheme, etc." The Secretary of State must, of course, in making up his mind pay attention to any representations that are made to him by any person interested. Whether he will give effect to those representations is, of course, another matter. It is not difficult for the town council of a small burgh to obtain access to the Secretary of State and make its views known. The views of any small burgh which thinks it has been unfairly treated in the preparation of a scheme will undoubtedly be considered by the Secretary of State under 278 Clause 3. I trust that that assurance is satisfactory.
§ Mr. Westwood
On the assurance which has been given, and which is now on record, I have much pleasure in asking leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
I beg to move, in page 11, line 1, to leave out "statutory," and to insert "public."
This and the next Amendment are to provide that public utility undertakings which do not happen to be operating under statutory powers shall be in the same position in this regard as those which have statutory powers.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
I beg to move, in page 11, line 29, to leave out Sub-section (12), and to insert:(12) The duties imposed by sub-section (2) of section one of this Act on the councils of counties shall in the cases of the counties of—In two cases in Scotland there are joint county councils and it is necessary to make special provision for them. This Amendment is accordingly proposed in order to define the position of the joint county councils and the separate county councils for the several counties.
be discharged by the joint county council and any reference in this Act (except in subsection (3) of section one as applied by this section) to a county or the council thereof shall include a reference to a combined county and a joint council.
- (a) Perth and Kinross; and
- (b) Moray and Nairn
§ Mr. Westwood
I am sure the Amendment will be much appreciated, particularly by the wee county of Kinross and by Moray and Nairn, where there is not always the greatest friendship between the two wee counties. I am sure that Kinross will very much appreciate the concession that has been granted and the fair play that has been handed out to the wee counties.
§ Amendment agreed to.279
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Sir S. Hoare
We are now drawing to the end of what, I think, everyone who has followed the Debates will agree has been an extremely useful discussion. We have had a series of speeches from every part of the House filled with interesting suggestions, to all of which we undertake to give attention. I think what has most marked the Debates has been the general desire to make this an effective Bill and to ensure that, when it has passed, our air-raid precautions will be of such a kind as greatly to minimise the calamities and catastrophies inherent in a war under modern conditions. It is worth noting that this, the smallest and newest of the Defence Services, has been subjected to a series of more continuous discussions than any of the older Services. We have had three or four days of intensive consideration of these measures of air-raid precautions and I say, as Home Secretary, that, so far from deprecating the continuous attention that has been given to these difficult problems, I have welcomed these three days of discussion, partly for the suggestions that have been made, but also because I think for the first time these Debates have concentrated public attention in a manner in which it has never been concentrated before upon these very urgent problems.
It seems to me that two main conclusions have emerged from these discussions. First of all, I think we have all been driven to admit that, supposing we were involved in the terrible calamity of war, no air-raid precautions, on however great a scale, can ensure the population of this or any other highly industrialised European country complete immunity. The most that we can do is to minimise the catastrophe, lessen the loss of life and ensure the continuance of the services without which the country cannot exist. The second conclusion to which we have all been inevitably driven is the fact that we cannot concentrate on passive defence a disproportionate amount of money and man-power. air-raid precautions must take their proper place in the general scheme of Defence finance and Defence preparation. If we look abroad at the experience of other 280 countries, we shall see that both in Germany and France this attempt is being made to hold the balance between active and passive defence. If air-raid precautions are out of scale, a tremendous financial burden will be placed upon the country, and, what is much more serious, setting aside the gravity of the financial burden, will be excessive concentration on purely defensive measures and the creation of a dangerous bias in the national mind towards passive protection rather than vigorous attack.
That is not a cynical and militarist doctrine. It is sound common sense. The best defence for London is a strong vigorous Air Force capable of tying down the enemy's air force to local defence. We have tried to make our plans upon this balanced basis. Our plans are not theoretical. They are founded upon actual schemes. As the House has heard, we have already received schemes from a large number of local authorities, and the plans that we are proposing under this Bill are founded upon schemes we have already received. When our plans are carried out, I believe we shall have gone far to achieve our object of stopping panic and ensuring the continuance of the essential services. But let no one think that our plans are necessarily the final word, or that we regard ourselves as in any way infallible in the proposals which we are making under this Bill. We shall gather experience in this new field as we proceed. Particularly shall we gather experience when we receive the schemes of the local authorities founded upon local knowledge.
We shall gather experience when we make further and more intensive investigation into those two very difficult problems which have filled so large a place in our discussions—the problem of shelters, and the problem of evacuation. Upon neither of those difficult questions are our minds rigid. We wish to approach both of them as practical men determined to make the best possible preparations in the circumstances, and to make use of all the experience, whether it be experience abroad or scientific practical experience in this country, that is available for us. We are determined, also, to make much greater use as soon as this Bill has reached the Statute Book, of actual experiments. Hitherto, until our relations with the local authorities were settled, it was very difficult to make extensive experiments in 281 many parts of the country. It is true that we have had what are known as "black-outs" in some areas. They have given us much useful experience. They have shown us, in particular, the weak spots in our schemes. As soon as this Bill becomes law, and as soon as active co-operation has been started between the local authorities and ourselves, we intend to have experiments of this kind upon a much bigger scale, and in many more areas than have been possible in the past.
Further than this, we agree that, in collaboration with the local authorities, we have to make further investigation into the very important question raised just now by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley)—the question of volunteers. That question, as he obviously realised, is tied up generally with the much bigger and more comprehensive question of man-power generally. There, again, I hope that the meetings which I have had with the associations of local authorities—and I have met them many times in the last few months—are going to continue, and that we shall be able to discuss with them just such a question as voluntary recruitment, upon which local views are essential. If we are to have schemes that will work in the localities, many of them differing in important respects from others, it will be necessary to have that active co-operation that we so much desire between the local authorities and the central Government.
I come now to the very important question of the organisation of the central Government. Hitherto, I admit we have been working with a small and necessarily improvised organisation. I pay my tribute to the work that our officials have carried out under very difficult conditions during the last two years. The conditions, difficult in a new work of this kind in any case, were bound to be much more difficult as long as the financial relations between the Government and the local authorities were not settled. When this Bill has been passed into law we shall have taken the first necessary step towards active co-operation between the local authorities and the central Government, and the time has come for greatly strengthening the air-raid precautions organisation at the Home Office. Very reluctantly I was driven to the conclu- 282 sion that air-raid precautions must be a Home Office responsibility. I was very anxious not to undertake this very difficult responsibility, and I confess to the House that I looked round to find some other Department to which I could transfer these very onerous obligations. I am giving away no confidence when I say that we had an investigation into the question and came to the conclusion that, of necessity, the Home Secretary must be responsible—that it must be a civil Department responsible for a civil work of this kind. It could not very well be the Ministry of Health for this reason, that two of the principal duties are connected with the police and the fire brigade administration, both already under the Home Office. So reluctantly I was driven to the view that it must be a Home Office responsibility.
Though it is a Home Office responsibility, I am completely convinced that the Air-Raid Precautions Department, so different from the other sections of the Home Office administration, must be organised upon distinctive fines. It seems to me, always accepting the fact that it is to be a civil department and not a military department, that it must, none the less, be organised upon what I should describe generally as a service basis. By that, I mean there must be a distinction between staff duties and administrative duties. Hon. Members will recall the history of the Service Departments, and that it has always been a necessary stage in their development—Lord Haldane did it in his great reforms at the War Office—to make this distinction between the staff work, or planning, and the administrative details of the organisation. That being so, I propose to differentiate between those two sides of air-raid precautions organisation and, as far as the staff side is concerned, to make Wing-Commander Hodsoll, who has done so much valuable work in the last few years, Chief of what I would call the Air-Raid Precautions Staff with the post of Inspector-General. That will show that this work will be staff work. It will also include the very necessary and urgent work of advising the local authorities up and down the country about their schemes. A further and equally important work which has already begun, not unsatisfactorily, is the work of research in this new and uncharted field. So much for the staff side of the organisation.
283 I come now to the administrative side. There, again, I think that with the great body of new work that is bound to fall on the Department in the near future, it is essential to strengthen the administrative side of the Department. I am glad to say that I have been able to arrange—and all these arrangements have been made with the full approval of the Secretary of State for Scotland—that Mr. Eady, Secretary of the Unemployment Assistance Board and one of the most competent organisers in Whitehall, will come to the Home Office with the post of Deputy Under-Secretary of State and devote his full time to supervising the administrative side of the air-raid precautions work. Incidentally, as a result of these two big changes at the top, there will have to be a number of smaller changes and extensions in the office itself. I have given this information to the House because it will show that I am just as fully alive to the need of a strong department and an intelligent well-instructed staff in this work as any hon. Member. I believe it will be found that when, in the next few weeks, this organisation gets working, we shall be able to tackle many of these very difficult problems that we have been discussing for three days much more effectively than, with the best will in the world, and with the loyal service we have received from our officials in the last two years, has been possible in the past.
§ Mr. Bellenger
With regard to this civilian administration appointment that the right hon. Gentleman proposes in the Home Office, can that be done without legislation?
§ Sir S. Hoare
Yes, certainly. It is always possible for any Department to increase its staff.
I hope that these discussions have made it also clear to hon. Members, even though they may criticise this or that part of the Bill, that this is not a sham Bill, that it is a very necessary step in making our air-raid precautions much more effective, and that it is a step without which we could not make the progress that we all desire. I make that observation because I have seen it suggested, not so much here, but in certain sections of the Press, that this is a Bill of no account. That is not the case, and I suggest it is doing an ill-service 284 to our system of Defence to suggest that it is. The result of such a suggestion may well be to discourage local authorities and private citizens from taking the part that we wish them to take in this essential work of Defence. I would ask hon. Members to be patient, and I think that they will see that when we get our new organisation into full blast we shall be able to meet many of the criticisms that have been made in this Debate, and to remove many of the doubts that are obviously in some hon. Member's minds.
Let us pass the Bill to-night; let us, however, mark the fact that what we are forced to do seems to run counter to most of the ideals, and most of the chief movements and tendencies, of civilised life. City life has been developed after generations of progress, and here, in 1937, we are making provision for setting the clock back thousands of years, and making men, women and children disperse over the country into the most remote districts, and to abandon all the amenities and necessities of civilised life. For generations we have been developing the public services of the country: light, water, gas and so on; and in later years we have been, as part of this development, in order that the population shall be better and more cheaply served, concentrating these services into fewer hands and fewer localities. There is the example that occurs, perhaps, to every hon. Member, of electricity and the grid. Again, the provisions of a Bill of this kind, necessary as it is, run counter to everything we have been doing in that line. Lastly, here, in recent years, we have been striving to give rural districts a good lighting system. Under the provisions we are now considering we are talking about black-outs and the removal of lighting altogether for a time in many parts of the country. If I wanted a further example still, I would say, look at clothing. For generations we have been developing more rational clothes. Under the provisions of this Bill we are making arrangements for dressing people up in gas-masks and gas-proof suits that make them look as if they were monsters out of the dark ages.
These facts do genuinely depress me, as I believe they depress every hon. Member in the House. They are so depressing, so fantastic in face of the conditions of the modern world, that I 285 cannot believe they are going to persist. At any rate, I can assure the House that this Government will lose no opportunity of removing the conditions that make these provisions inevitable, and while we will lose no opportunity of trying to re-introduce sanity into the world, we must resolutely go on with this programme, distasteful as it is, and leave no doubt in the world that we are determined to make our system of Defence effective, and, as part of that system, this third line of defence air-raid precautions.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague
The main principles of this Measure, to the end of which we have practically come, are agreed. A great amount of discussion has taken place during the three days, and many criticisms have been forthcoming, but I think all those criticisms have been of a constructive character, designed to improve air-raid defence. That includes the criticism of even the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), in his speech this afternoon, although I must confess that his speech rather puzzled me, because I always understood that it was one of the first principles of Communism that capitalist wars must be taken advantage of to initiate the proletarian revolution. If that were the case, I am afraid matters would be somewhat complicated. I am sure the hon. Member does not mind sometimes having his leg pulled, even when he is not here.
Because the Measure is one of agreement in the House, I am rather sorry that the Home Secretary, in a sentence or two, introduced another question that cannot be developed on the Third Reading of this Bill, but which certainly raises some high questions of policy on national Defence in general. He referred to the fact that it was necessary that a Bill of this kind should be passed in order to deal with air-raid precautions. He said that the question was a much bigger one than that, and had to do with a defence of which the first principle was offence, and that it was the duty of the State to localise the incidence of warfare to the countries attacking us. That is all very well; but if that means an explanation of why it is that we are building such a large proportion of bombing planes as compared with defence planes, I am afraid that, if we were able to follow the right hon. Gentleman on that, there 286 would be some other opinions expressed which would involve a discussion on national policy. We are not prepared to admit that it is the business of this country to bomb, as quickly as possible, and before another country can do the same to us, as many women and children as we can. I leave that, because this Bill is a matter of Defence, and the kind of defence that every one would agree with.
So far as the changes announced in staff and administration are concerned, it is hardly possible, without further consideration, to deal with the suggestions that have been made and with the announcement in itself. It strikes me, however, that it hardly meets the case, and I am inclined to think the proposals will not meet the views of the hon. Member for West Norwood (Mr. Sandys), who, I think, first raised the question of unified control in respect of air-raid precautions. We have had a big discussion, a helpful discussion, I think it has been agreed, and there is no reason why we should not pass very soon to other business before the House. But this is a question largely of regulation and experiment, and I cannot forbear just to refer to three of the questions that have been discussed—matters that I have myself raised in earlier parts of the Debate, and which have been answered hardly to my satisfaction.
Take the question of tubes. I am not at all satisfied with the reply of the Under-Secretary, to the effect that it is agreed by technical people who understand the subject that the tubes are out of the question as a means of refuge during an air raid. It has been mentioned that that view is not accepted in either Germany or France, and that both Berlin and Paris are counting upon the tubes. I believe that is the case: I am open to correction; but certainly one of the two countries, possibly Germany, is extending the tubes in order partially to provide such a measure of refuge as might be provided in London. It is put forward by the Under-Secretary that it is impossible to use the tubes, because the stations cannot be made gas-proof or proof against high explosive bombs, that you have the incipient panic everywhere, and that there is also the question of ventilation. I said, when I referred to the subject on the Committee stage, that those are surely problems for technical experts to deal with, 287 and to find some solution. I am not sure that it is beyond the power of people who know the problem of defence and gas offence, and the problems of ventilation in the tubes of Greater London, to find means of making the tubes thoroughly effective for those who can use them.
If we are to avoid panic, we shall require to organise well beforehand. Nobody supposes that the whole population of London can go down the tubes, nor can the whole population take cover in any other kind of refuges that may be put up, nor can they all be sheltered by any other methods that may be used. These measures will have to be partial according to the area and the particular object which is required through those measures. Large numbers of people could be organised beforehand for this purpose, just as we can organise anything else. It is the height of folly to leave unused scores of miles of underground tubes which are proof against the type of high explosive bomb that would be used, apart from the dock areas and other objectives of that character. Although I am not an authority on technical details, it is a matter of common sense which would appeal to the man in the street that there ought to be some way of utilising the tubes in order to get over some of the difficulties that have been enumerated.
As far as black-outs are concerned, the Home Secretary referred to the experiments that have been made, notably in Kent and Essex. I followed the extensive reports of those experiments in the "Times," and perhaps it might be a matter of interest if I asked the Under-Secretary whether there is anything in the suggestion made in the "Times" that it might be that black-outs are ineffective, because aeroplanes could use magnesium flares which would penetrate the darkness and light up the whole countryside. That is a matter of interest which the Under-Secretary might take up. Then there is the question of transport. One hon. and gallant Member suggested that there would be different types of and segregations of people to be dealt with. I acquit him, as he assured us that he had no snobbish or class distinction ideas about the matter. I would, however, ask the hon. and gallant Member whether he imagines that under conditions of air raids the people who possess 288 means of conveyance, such as motor cars, will be able to fly from London immediately, without any question. Does he imagine that that is going to happen?
I very much hope that before the actual emergency arises effective plans to enable people to leave will be in operation, and that they will be able to do so.
§ Mr. Montague
There are many people who have means of conveyance at their disposal, and who possess more of the amenities of life than the people in the dock areas, who think that they will be able to get out quite easily and quickly. Well beforehand the Government must make plans for dealing with transport, and every kind of transport, including the railways and private motor cars, must automatically come into national service. If that is understood, we shall be satisfied in that regard.
There is one further point. When I made reference to buckets, spades and gummed paper the Under-Secretary seemed to think that I was making fun. I was making fun, and many people have made fun of these proposals. But I do not want it to be thought that I am not prepared to agree that in some circumstances there might be some advantage in measures of that kind. My view was, and still is, that to regard such measures as a very serious contribution to the problem of immunity from gas attacks is quite outside the question. Let me put a suggestion to the Under-Secretary. There was one experience during the War which it might be worth while recalling. In the front line we had our usual dug-outs, and after gas had been first used the entrances to those dug-outs were covered over with blankets. If I remember rightly the blankets were soaked in some kind of chemical preparation that had a chemical effect upon the gas. We called it "hypo," whatever that means. At any rate, it was a method of chemical saturation of blankets which were put over the openings to the dug-outs, and they were very effective.
It seems to me remarkable that after 20 years, and with all the experience of the War and the advance of modern science, we have not evolved some chemical method of making rooms gas-proof which could be used in the way I have suggested. I am inclined to think that it should be possible to use the blanket 289 technique for the purpose of the gas-proof rooms, rather than the stupid idea of gummed paper and the rest of it, or even cellophane window-glass. It would be better if we could provide people with blankets and chemicals in which they could saturate the blankets and put them over the doors and windows. If the blankets were put up from the inside, it would reduce the danger from smashed glass. Seeing that it is necessary to go in and out of a room, one does not want to seal up the room, and there ought to be some method of de-gassing rooms by means of chemically saturated blankets upon the same principles that were applied effectively during the War not only against localised gas bombs, but against the much more difficult problem of other forms of gas.
§ Mr. Boothby
It would be unfortunate if it got out that the hon. Member was discouraging the use of paper to a great extent. He surely realises that gummed paper has been extraordinarily effective in Madrid during the last 18 months, and that idea is supported by the highest scientific authorities.
§ Captain Gunston
The hon. Member will recollect that during the War when we used the blankets there were no doors to the dug-outs.
§ Mr. Montague
It is true that we had no door, but if the blankets were effective without a door there is no reason why the importance of the door in a room should not be a relative proposition. With regard to Madrid, there has not been any effective gas raid upon Madrid. Therefore, there is no comparison. I merely put forward the suggestion, and perhaps the Under-Secretary will take it up, because it might be a more effective way of dealing with gas attack than the paper method. If the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) had been here when I spoke on the subject before, he would have noted that it was not so much the discouragement of the paper method that I suggested, but my reference was to the fact that when you have congested families, with a number of children, and you are faced with the problem of providing a single gas-proof room in a double-roomed house, you cannot expect that rolls of paper should be kept in readiness perhaps for months or years on the shelves ready for use, 290 together with the instruments handy. When you are dealing with a position where every function of life from birth to death takes place in a single room or in one or two rooms, the problem is difficult. That was the burden of my criticism in regard to the paper method.
Let me say a few final words in regard to the latter part of the Home Secretary's speech. He spoke of the terrible fact that we are to-day passing a Bill of this kind at this stage of human civilisation. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is thoroughly sincere. Every emphasis he placed upon his words proves that he personally abhors the idea of war and the necessity for our doing what we are at the present time to prevent war being as bad as it might be in London. One can only agree with him about the insanity of the human race, and one wonders whether it might not be the case of the planetary cycle over again, barbarism to primitive civilisation, primitive civilisation to kingship, kingship to democracy, democracy to dictatorship and then back again from dictatorship to barbarism. But I have hopes that there is some principle in the universe greater than that. I believe that there is something which will prove, in effective measure, an urge to progress in humanity. I have faith in the goodness of humanity at heart. With all the bad signs of human character that are displayed, I believe that when it comes to the final issue, the good will triumph over the bad, and that we shall be able to reach out to finer and more beautiful horizons of human civilisation than we have ever known.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
The Home Secretary said that we must not discourage local and private people from taking their full share in this new line of Defence. I should like to put this question to him. If private people put up gas-proof or bomb-proof shelters, will their assessment be raised locally and under Schedule A for Income Tax purposes? On this subject I addressed a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently. I askedwhether he will take steps to secure that private persons putting up gas-proof or bomb-proof shelters, which will involve considerable capital expenditure, will not have their assessment increased by the local authority or their Schedule A assessment increased?291 The reply I received was:Assessment for the purposes both of rating and of Income Tax Schedule A is, under the statutory provisions relating thereto, a matter entrusted to the appropriate assessing authorities—in the case of rates the local assessment committee, in the case of Income Tax the local bodies of general Commissioners of Income Tax subject to the prescribed right of appeal in either case—and my hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that no Minister is empowered to interfere with their discretion in the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1936; cols. 1389–90, Vol. 329.]It seems to me that the local authorities ought to have some power to disallow any increase. Therefore, I put this question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day:whether he will take early legislative steps to empower the local assessment committee for rates and the local bodies of General Commissioners of Income Tax to disallow any increase of their assessment by the local authority or under Schedule A to those private persons who put up gas-proof or bomb-proof shelters which may have involved considerable capital expenditure?The answer that I received was:The suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend would involve great complications. Where the capital outlay involves no increase in annual value, the assessment would be unaffected. But if an owner increases the letting value of his property by such outlay, the ordinary rules of assessment would apply.I take it that the Home Secretary wants as many gas and bomb-proof shelters put up as possible. Can he not consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and see whether something cannot be done with a view to disallowing any increases in local assessments and under Schedule A? There are many people in my constituency who are very concerned about this. They were bombed in the War, at Waltham Cross and elsewhere, and I think a good many of them would put up shelters if their assessments were not increased, but if their local assessments under Schedule A are increased, I feel certain that a large number of people will not put up these shelters. Therefore, I ask the Home Secretary whether he will look into that matter.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I appreciate the inference from the speech of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), from the Opposition Front Bench, that his colleagues and himself do not propose to oppose this Bill on the Third Reading. 292 They felt it necessary to move certain Amendments and to press them to a Division, but I am sure it will be thoroughly appreciated by all hon. Members who take this matter of air-raid precautions seriously that there is to be no Division on this occasion. I feel that we ought to express our thanks and congratulations both to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and to the Under-Secretary of State for the very courteous way in which they have replied to the many political and technical questions which have been raised throughout the discussions on this Bill from all parts of the House, and as one of those Members who stressed the point that the status of the Air-Raid Precautions Department in the Home Office could appropriately be raised, I would like to say how grateful I am to the Secretary of State for the announcement which he has just made to the House. It is too early to say whether or not this will satisfy all demands, but I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that if you can separate planning from routine administration, you have made a first-class decision, and that is what the Secretary of State has done in his reorganisation of the Department. I am particularly delighted to know that he has appointed Wing-Commander Hodsoll to high office in the new organisation, because the House and the country are under a real debt to him for our having forged ahead as far as we have done with these precautions, when there has been so much indifference and lethargy in the House—we must frankly say—and more particularly still in the country.
We are going to present, as I hope without much interference from another place, this Bill to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and let us say, quite frankly, that the success of the Bill will largely depend upon the way in which the powers which we have given to him are utilised. The Bill will not save the people, as far as they may be saved, from hostile air attack unless it is wisely administered, both centrally and by the local authorities. Therefore, while many of us who have for many months been studying the particular problems of air-raid dangers and air-raid precautions have felt that in certain respects we were lagging behind that which we ought to have achieved in air-raid precautions in this country, yet we feel now that there 293 is a renewed determination, on the part both of the Government and of the local authorities, to get something moving quickly.
But there is—and I want to be quite frank on this point—one point where I feel that we are very far away from thinking on parallel lines with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and that is on the question of shelters. As I understand his point of view, it is that it is useless to endeavour to protect ourselves against explosive bombs because vast depths of ferro-concrete—I remember my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence mentioning figures of 20 and 30 feet thickness of concrete—are required in order to protect one against the direct results of a hit by the largest bombs. On that basis they have said they do not propose to recommend that the country should protect itself against the explosive bomb. On the other hand, they have proposed what is known as the shelter room or the gas proof room, armoured in various ways, by different materials, but chiefly, as has been observed, by paper, cellophane, possibly some sandbags in front of the window, and wet blankets. That room, in a gas attack, without any explosive bombs, may serve a useful purpose, but I think it should be realised that an enemy will always consider what form of precautions we have taken, and if a country has protected itself well against gas but not very well against explosive bombs, it will shower explosive bombs—20 lb., 50 lb., or 100 lb. bombs—down on our cities, hoping to blast the houses down and thus permit the ingress of the gas into the rooms. Therefore, I would say that we cannot proceed on any single line in this matter, and what I hope my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell us is this, that in the reorganised department there will be a new investigation into this question of the importance of the shelter.
I do not want to say too much about what we saw when we were over in Paris a few days ago, because it is not entirely a parallel case, but I think I ought to tell the House this, that the French authorities have come to the conclusion that it is worth while protecting oneself against the small and the medium sized explosive bomb. They have expended in the City of Paris to date only £1,500,000 for 294 this purpose, yet they have underground shelters for the control of Paris—
§ Mr. Simmonds
I understand that the sum expended other than for this purpose is very small, and the Under-Secretary of State knows very well that they have not spent any money on gas masks, because they are stating that that should be, at any rate for the moment, an individual form of precaution and that the people can buy them in the shops, though I am certain that hon. Members opposite would say that that was not within the reach of the bulk of the population, and may be they are right on that point. Substantially, the French authorities have spent £1,500,000 on shelters, and these shelters embrace all the necessities for continuing to operate the community in a time of war. That is what is so important about a scheme of shelters. They have a shelter for the central police authority; they have a shelter which will enable them in every borough to handle between 100 and 200 cases brought in from the houses or streets, whether wounded, asphyxiated, or gassed. They hope to pass through these underground clearing hospitals about 50 people an hour. They have, in addition, public shelters, as I think the hon. Member on the front Bench opposite indicated, on the underground railways. In one of those which we saw some 4,000 to 6,000 people could go down, and there would be there a complete air-filtration plant and numbers of gas doors to prevent gas going through. I agree with him that we must not be too sure that the tubes of London may not be a much more valuable refuge than has been stated sometimes from the Government front Bench.
Then there is the very important point of shelters in the homes.
§ Mr. Fleming
Does the hon. Member suggest that the London tubes or the Paris Metro, are any protection against 1,000 lb. explosive bombs?
§ Mr. Simmonds
Most emphatically. Where you have a railway station near the surface, of course it is no more protection than any ordinary cellar, but many of these stations are 50 and 100 feet below the surface, and they are most definitely 100 per cent. proof against a 295 direct hit by any known projectile. That coincides both with the French and the British—
§ Mr. Fleming
Does that take into consideration the possibility of gas mains near by being hit by an explosive bomb?
§ Mr. Simmonds
You have to take risks, obviously, in every case, but that is the type of objection to the use of the tubes in London which has suggested a policy of not using the tubes. I dissent from that view. If you have a tube station where you have a large gas main or a large sewer which might in any circumstance get punctured and flow into the tube, you will prefer not to use that station, but the policy need not be based on the most difficult case. Let us have an open mind and say that certain stations cannot be utilised for this purpose and others can. I fear that we have rather proceeded so far in London on the basis that it is all too difficult and that therefore we must do nothing. It is my very earnest plea that the Under-Secretary of State will tell us that this matter will be looked into afresh by this new organisation.
Now I will speak of shelters in the home, which, after all, is a most important point. The French authorities take the view that the danger when we stay in our homes is that through blasts of explosive bombs in the streets or through direct hits our homes will tumble down on us. For that reason they have made a most careful investigation of all the cellars in the city of Paris, and they have found that some 27,000 are suitable for air-raid precaution shelters, some with stiffening of the ceiling of the shelter by putting in steel beams, others simply by shoring it up with wood, but 27,000 shelters are satisfactory to protect the people therein against damage if the building falls down upon the shelter, and those 27,000 shelters will house 1,750,000 people. When the House realises that they are only proposing to leave in Paris 1,250,000 people, the others having been called up for service or evacuated, it will see that the French authorities, for a very small sum of money, have gone a long way to solve the problem of the shelter in the home.
But in this country I believe that one of the problems that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has to face most 296 seriously undoubtedly is the question of protection in the factories. The Federation of British Industries have been incessantly urging him for the last six months to state his intentions in this matter. We shall have approximately 10,000,000 people spending a large part of the day and, during wartime, of the night at these factories which will be recognised as legitimate targets for the enemy. What are we as a country doing to protect our workers? Let us put aside for the moment the workers' point of view and look at it purely from the point of view of national strength in war. These workers will be required to maintain the Army in the field, the Navy on the sea and the Air Force in the air. Is it not imperative, therefore, that we should have a well-organised plan for protecting these workers in the event of hostile attack while they are working at these legitimate target points?
The Government have to realise, although there may be some responsibility on the part of the employer to protect his workpeople, and that it may be wisdom on the part of the employés to make their own contribution, particularly let it be borne in mind that, during a time of war, all factories manufacturing for the Services will be virtually State-controlled. Why, therefore, should shareholders of these companies in times of peace make provision out of their earnings for services to protect the workers in time of war, when the factories will, for all intents and purposes, belong to the State, and not to them? I know that a large number of hon. Members in this House feel with the Federation of British Industries that this is a matter which brooks no further delay. New factories are going up weekly and monthly without any provision whatsoever for the protection of the workers.
Building construction is another very important point. France is not a dictatorial country, yet she is demanding that, in every new building, the roof shall be at a certain angle, so that the thermite incendiary bombs are much more likely to glance off the roof than to go through, as would be likely if the roof were at a small angle. They are insisting in all houses upon ferro-concrete floors which, again, will not only protect the people in the house, but will greatly reduce the fire peril to the community, because the wooden floors of houses are full of potential danger.
297 The last point I want to make is on the question of communications. I have heard it stated that our air-raid precautions in time of war will largely depend upon runners—men carrying messages from one point to another asking that such and such a thing may be done. The French take an entirely different view, and they have put down at a depth that has rendered them 100 per cent. proof against the largest bomb inter-connecting telephones between all the essential service points in time of war. Therefore, the motto that one ought to adopt in a large city such as London, Birmingham or Manchester is either to get out by means of evacuation, or get under by means of a shelter. I do not think that it is legitimate for the Government to recommend that people in these target areas—and I stress this point—should remain above ground while an air raid is in progress. Lastly, let us remember that we have constantly been told of the increase in the speed of aircraft. In the last War it was 100 miles per hour, last year it was 200 miles per hour, this year it is 300 miles per hour and next year it will certainly be 400 miles per hour. This increase in speed all means that we have ourselves less time in which to get things done. I do, therefore, pray that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will bear in mind the time factor every day while he has this terrible responsibility on his shoulders of making these air-raid precautions effective.
§ 8.21 p.m.
As usual, my remarks on this particular question will be very brief. Unlike the hon. Gentleman the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds), I do not intend to go over all the questions which we have been discussing for the last few days, and I sincerely hope that the Under-Secretary will not yield to the temptation of making his Second Reading speech all over again. I want to deal with one or two new points which were raised by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I would like to know, when the Under-Secretary replies to this Debate, exactly whom the Inspector-General will control. I understand that under the schemes that are now in operation in Scotland, England and Wales, we are to have regional inspectors appointed, and I want to know whether the Inspector-General will have control over the decisions of the regional inspec- 298 tors, and whether his control will extend to plans submitted by local authorities from all over the country?
At first I was rather dismayed at the intimation of the Home Secretary of this semi-military organisation that is being set up, and I would like some reassurance from the Under-Secretary that local authorities in their decisions and submission of schemes—because, as the Home Secretary has stated, they know all about the character of the local circumstances—will retain full powers, or will they be under the control of the Inspector-General or his staff, whoever his staff may be? With regard to the transfer from the Unemployment Assistance Board of Mr. Eady, which the Home Secretary mentioned, hon. Members on this side of the House will look upon that transfer with mixed feelings. One important point which, I think, the Under-Secretary will agree I have stressed during the Debate, has to do with the question of communications. I have continually stressed the fact that in the circumstances of any future air raid Scotland will have to be the supply base for practically the rest of the country, and I should like to know whether, with regard to the functions of regional inspectors and of the Inspector-General, the schemes of local authorities in Scotland will receive the consideration that they will deserve.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) and the Home Secretary agreed that we were now facing an issue which has been caused by the folly of humanity. I do not accept that statement from the Government Front Bench or from my own. The majority of the people of the world to-day desire peace, they do not wish to have to take these precautions against air raids, and it is not the folly of humanity, but the folly of governments, capitalist governments of to-day which has made these preparations for war necessary. Many of my hon. Friends will agree that it is capitalist governments, and our own in particular, which cannot be excluded from the responsibility for a state of affairs that has caused this Bill to be introduced.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
There are one or two things that I want to say on the Third Reading of the Bill. I agree with the Home Secretary that it is a dreary subject. We hope that these precautions will 299 never be required, but I hope that now the Bill is to be passed we shall go ahead with the precautions much faster in the next two years than has been the case in the last two years. Anyone who has watched recent events in Spain and China must feel that there is a great deal which can be done to mitigate the lot of the civilian population in time of war. The Home Secretary said he felt confident that the Bill would greatly minimise the effects on the civil population. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in that statement. It is a Bill which gives considerable powers, and under which a considerable amount of protection, in so far as protection can be given, will be given to the civil population. If the ideas of the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) regarding shelters were carried out there would be, I believe, a considerable measure of protection for the civil population, but the cost of such a scheme would be enormous. I listened with considerable dismay to the Home Secretary when he said that only a small proportion of the money must be spent on passive defence and a far greater amount on the strategic view that the best defence is attack.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I am not suggesting that vast sums of money should be spent. I am suggesting that sufficient money should be spent at target points, and if that is borne in mind—the French have done this in Paris at a cost of £1,500,000—hon. Members will not run away with the idea that protection at target points is going to cost hundreds of millions of pounds. It is nothing of the sort.
§ Mr. Roberts
I take the view of the Home Secretary, that a policy of shelters to protect the population would cost an enormous sum of money. Airmen although they may direct their attacks on targets, are interfered with by other planes and anti-aircraft guns, and, as in the last War, there will be a tendency for them to unload their bombs wherever they may be. In those circumstances, if you are going to protect the population, you will have to protect them everywhere. The Under-Secretary made some remarks on the Second Reading and I want to ask what precisely he was proposing when he said that the Government's policy was to provide with shelters those people who 300 cannot make shelters in their own homes. He went on to say:In regard also to those caught in the streets, it would be the duty of the local authority to provide shelters, and I am able to say that the Home Office would approve for the purposes of grant the expense in which a local authority would be involved in regard to the construction of public shelters in congested areas where the houses are not suited to be used as shelters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1937; col. 294, Vol. 329.]Later on he said that there would have to be shelters for people where they work. You really will have to protect the people at three places, in their homes, or nearby if their homes are not suitable, you will have to protect them en route to their work, and at their work. You will have to protect them in the centre as well as in the places outside. Let me put this specific question to the Under-Secretary. What degree of protection is he intending to give by the shelters? Are they to be shelters which are gas-proof? Does he hope with sandbags and other reinforcements to make them splinter-and glass-proof? We have discussed the question whether they can be made proof against high explosives, and we know that to attempt that is an almost impossible task, but it is possible to make these shelters adequately safe against smaller bombs and blasts from bombs at a distance. I hope the Under-Secretary will give us a little more information on that point. As to what really can be done under the Bill, if I am able to judge from the amount of money to be spent, it will not be very much really to safeguard the population against the ill effects of air raids. I do not think it is unfair to say that the action which will be carried out under the Bill will be 90 per cent. in connection with mopping up the mess after an air raid has taken place, to 10 per cent. in actually preventing the loss of life, damage and casualities from glass and splinters.
One thing is certain and that is the kind of situation which will face a city after an air raid. That is a very necessary part of the precautions, and I do not under-estimate its importance, but unless very much greater sums are spent on evacuation and shelters, I think it will be false for the country to think that the provision that will probably be made under the Bill will save life to any very large extent. Nevertheless, we are glad to see this step in the right direction. In 301 conclusion, I believe that the success of the precautions to be carried out under the Bill will depend upon the amount of local co-operation which the Government receive. I believe the public is very willing to co-operate. People are very interested in this matter and are anxious to be convinced that the Government's proposals will be really effective and that a real attempt will be made to protect them. If people were convinced of that, they would co-operate in this work wholeheartedly.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Westwood
We have almost reached the end of our deliberations on this Bill, the discussions of which have been very interesting. May I say to the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) that not a single Amendment has been moved from this side or a single word spoken for the purpose of obstruction? Hon. Members on this side have made every possible effort to improve the Bill, and it is the earnest desire of my hon. Friends and of the administrative authorities that the Bill should be made as easy of administration as possible, and as successful as possible in the object for which it is being placed on the Statute Book.
Nevertheless, we still have our misgivings as to the financial burden that is being placed on the shoulders of the local authorities. It is true that those misgivings have been partly met by Clause 9, which says that before the expiration of a period of three years from the passing of the Bill, the Secretary of State shall again consult with the local authorities for the purpose of discussing with them the financial burdens imposed upon them by the Bill. However, our misgivings are only partly met, because we feel that the whole burden of dealing with what is national business ought to be borne by the State rather than any financial obligation be placed upon the shoulders of the local authorities. But we have to take the Bill as it is, and is far as the Scottish local authorities are concerned, I can say, on their behalf, that they will give that active cooperation for which the Home Secretary has pleaded and will do everything in their power to minimise, at least, any of the horrors of war that might unfortunately come to our native land.
Fire was one of the first discoveries of man, and he tried to utilise it for the 302 benefit and progress of mankind. It is a tragedy that to-night we should be discussing the last piece of progress made by mankind, in which fire is to be used for the destruction of humanity. We have to make our preparation and defence against the misuse of something which ought to have been only an advantage to mankind, but which, through abuse, has become a menace to civilisation. It is a shocking reflection on the intelligence, sanity, mentality, and spiritual development of mankind that to-day we should be discussing how to save ourselves from the savagery of war; but the world being what it is and not as we will it, we cannot avoid these preparations.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) that we must give full credit to the Home Secretary in his desire for peace. We believe that he is as anxious as we are that there should be peace, but we also believe that the policy which he and hon. Members opposite pursue makes the possibility of war still nearer. While giving the right hon. Gentleman full credit in his desire for peace, hon. Members on this side of the House, just as much as hon. Members opposite, must look at the world as it is and not as we would will it. Consequently, we have to pass legislation for the purpose of minimising as much as possible the horrors of aerial warfare if it should come to our native land. But while we are prepared to co-operate, and while the Scottish local authorities are prepared to give their active co-operation, we on this side shall continue to work earnestly and sincerely for the time when it will be possible to wipe war from the midst of so-called civilised nations, and allow every nation, including our own, to make that progress which peace alone will allow mankind to make.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Sir John Mellor
I wish to raise one question which, although I shall be brief, I submit is of considerable concern to certain local authorities. It is a question which I was prevented by the Rules of Order from raising on the Report stage. Under the Bill, the councils of boroughs and urban districts have the right, subject to the approval of the Home Secretary, after consultation with the county councils, to present their own schemes instead of being incorporated in the 303 general county schemes. I believe many urban councils desire to take advantage of that, and it would be a great pity if any obstruction were unnecessarily placed in their path. Some of them are very apprehensive that, under the Bill as it stands at present, they will be compelled, if they prepare and administer their own schemes, to pay the cost for not only their own schemes, but also, through the county precept, for the cost of the county schemes, if the general county rate includes provision for air-raid precaution schemes. There is in existence a number of cases in which the smaller local authorities have to bear a similar double liability. They consider that expenditure on air-raid precautions should be treated as expenditure for special county purposes, and levied only on those districts which directly benefit from such expenditure. It is true that in Clause 1, Sub-section (7), provision is made that:An air-raid precaution scheme prepared and submitted by a county council may make provision as to what expenditure, if any, under the scheme is to be dealt with as expenditure for special county purposes.The word used is "may," and I suggest that a provision of that sort should in this case not be permissive, but mandatory. I find in the Bill no safeguard which would prevent the council of a borough or an urban district having to pay twice over. These councils desire very earnestly to have some assurance that that will not be the case. I think that unless they get that assurance the intention of the Bill will be defeated, and those councils will be discouraged from preparing their own schemes. I hope that when the Under-Secretary of State replies he will give an assurance that in another place some Amendment will be introduced giving effect to what I suggest is the real intention of the Bill.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ritson
I rise to plead with the Home Secretary to give his confidence fully to the local authorities, working with the local police, police auxiliaries, and volunteers. The type of local authorities are as varied as the flowers in May and I am anxious that the Home Secretary should consider the special position of the East Coast. I saw a few years of this sort of thing in the last War as an ex-policeman, an active special constable and an administrator. I am anxious that the 304 Home Secretary should deal with the local authorities in the question of air-raid precautions and in doing so I want him to realise that he has a different type of local authority to deal with in the North of England than he has in the South, and that the discipline that will apply to the South will not apply to the North. The police are an institution in this country, and are first looked to by the civil population when there is any trouble. I remember when we first had special constables nobody took any notice of them. The public much preferred the uniformed policemen of whom they were proud, and on whom they looked with confidence in time of danger. One uniformed policeman was equal to 50 special constables. I was one of them and used to look out for Zeppelins with a hooked stick, and when they dropped bombs I dropped my stick.
I am anxious that on the east coast the Home Secretary should give us as much local autonomy as possible. In Sunderland we have already had consultations with Durham County because the east coast during the War was attacked almost nightly. If we are to have evacuation of the towns on the coast, we shall have to keep in touch not only with the central office in London but with the county council authorities. I hope that the Home Secretary will put his foot down on the suggestion of an hon. Member opposite that people who could should evacuate London in their own cars. People who have the privilege of owning their own cars should not be allowed to escape from danger and leave other people behind, and if they tried to do so I hope that the police would not let them get very far. I hope that there will be conditions laid down so that people will know when it is time for everybody to rush to their posts, and that no privilege will be accorded to any one class.
It is not a question of giving a privilege, but simply a matter of national convenience and safety.
§ Mr. Ritson
A man who has a car should not be allowed to get more easily away from the danger zone than other people.
§ Mr. Simmonds
There has been a good deal of misunderstanding about this point, and I would like to ask the hon. 305 Member whether it is not clear that if a million people in London have cars and are encouraged to use them, the public transport can be utilised by those who have not? If the cars are not allowed to be used, it will take twice as long to evacuate the people, and the casualties will be much more serious.
§ Mr. Ritson
If ever there were a time of real Socialism, it is in war time. There should be no favourites anywhere. The hon. Member has put the point that if you can get a million people out of London in their own cars, there will be more accommodation for people in the public transport. You will find, however, that there will be more jealousy at a time like that if there is any privilege than at any other time, and the people will not allow Tom to escape while John is left behind. I feel from experience that once the authorities, through the police, attempt to get people out of the danger zone by methods of privilege, the whole system of discipline will be smashed. I hope that the Home Secretary will stand firm in this matter and will act for the nation, and not for the privileges of the West End.
§ Mr. Ritson
I do not want the hon. Member's class left any more than mine, but if one class is privileged to get away it will destroy the discipline that the Home Secretary will try to enforce through the police. It will cause bitterness and envy such as will not allow the privileged ones to get out of the city. I remember that in the last War even the military made mistakes that the civil authority had to correct. We were under a lieutenant-general in the north, and the police were under him in the sense that they had to do the actual practical work. I remember one night a colonel and a major drove from Cramlington to Sunderland with the lights of their car ablaze against the orders of the superior authorities. The police tried to stop them, and because they were dressed in military uniform they objected to being stopped by a common Bobby. The police could not catch them at one corner but got them at another, and one of the common Bobbies jumped on to the officer's car and drove them to the police station, which was the right thing to do. They 306 demanded to see the chief officer, who happened to be sitting in the room in mufti. The colonel began to rave about the common Bobby taking him to the police station. The chief constable said, "You had better drop that complaint about his being a common Bobby, for I was once a common Bobby and am now chief constable." The colonel then complained about being driven in to the police station like a felon, and the chief constable pointed out that it was because he had not obeyed the orders of his superior officer. "If," he said, "you are going against the orders that I have to carry out you will go into the police cell." He then made the colonel and the major cover up the lights of their car and apologise to the common policeman. When that story got abroad it did more to help the police in carrying out their duties to the benefit of us all than anything I have known. If the Home Secretary carries out these air-raid precautions under the civilian authorities through the police, the confidence of the public will be gained far more than if they are carried out through the military.
One of my hon. Friends raised the question of ventilating the tubes. I would soon get over that if I were a member of the city authorities. If London looks like being defeated by the ventilation of a few tubes, it had better send to the north or to Wales to get some colliery manager to do it. He would soon blow you out of the tubes. When these colliery managers can ventilate collieries 900 yards deep for several miles and supply air for millions of mice, hundreds of horses and thousands of men, with only one shaft for the down draught and another for the up draught, they will be able to supply sufficient air for the tubes of London. We do not agree with everything that is in this Bill, but now that we are to have this scheme I feel that the majority of the House will agree that it is our duty to accept it and to work it. Whatever we may think about war—and I am sure there is not a man in the House with any sanity who does not agree that war ought to be done away with—we must realise that we shall have to face the possibility of it whether we like it or not. My experience during the four years of the late War was that it was the spirit of comradeship which helped the women and children to get over the difficulties of fear. Imagine them 307 coming along to anybody like me to shelter them, but that is what they did, because they felt that when there was trouble we had better all meet it together, and that sort of companionship sometimes meant a shelter which was more to them than would have been a gas shelter. We hope that the Home Secretary will not allow himself to be dragged into taking action through the military or naval authorities. Let whatever has to be done be done by the civil power, and then I feel sure that, whatever we may have to face, we shall manage to take action to protect ourselves.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
I feel sure that we were all delighted with the forthright and sincere speech to which we have just listened. I have not had the experiences of my hon. Friends who come from the East Coast, and I rise to put a question about the other side of the country. I have previously addressed a question to the Home Secretary about the position of the towns in my constituency. The local authorities have met in conference and have discussed air-raid precautions, and I am sure they are prepared to co-operate in every way, but I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is putting the initiative on the local authorities in every case, or whether the new department which he intends to set up will take the initiative. My constituency lies within a radius of 8 or 10 miles of a Royal arsenal which is now being constructed, and that makes it different from other areas in the country, and the local authorities feel very much perturbed as to the precautions which they will have to take in such circumstances. We are 170 miles from London, and that makes us to some extent less exposed to attack than London, but the construction of that arsenal will make us a target for any potential enemy, and I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman, through the new Director-General—whose name we have not yet heard—will take that area into special consideration.
It is for that reason that I should like to know whether the local authorities have to take the initiative in air-raid precautions, or whether the Director-General will immediately apprise them of the plans which must be prepared, first, for 308 evacuation. Are the people in the neighbourhood of that arsenal to go to the mining valleys within 8 or 10 miles of the arsenal itself, or what is to be done? At the moment there is just one fire brigade for the whole of that area. Has that depressed area to carry the whole of the financial liability for these air-raid precautions—or up to the percentage contained in the Bill—or will such an area have special consideration, especially as it will be involved in a danger which has been created by the Government itself in placing the arsenal there?
In conclusion, I would say that I am not accepting literally the language of the speech either of my hon. Friend on the front bench or of the right hon. Gentleman himself. I agree with what was said from the back benches. I do-not believe that war is attributable to the depravity of human nature. I do not believe we have wars because mankind is insane. I believe that war is due to a philosophy, the philosophy which is dominating the economics of this world. I believe that the moment we change that philosophy of acquisitiveness through the world all mankind will be prepared to cooperate, and that the moment we destroy economic discord we shall have universal concord.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
I want the Home Secretary—and I am pleased to see that the Minister of Health has also come on to the Treasury bench—to consider in connection with air raids what ought to be done about the burning muck stacks which are to be found up and down the country. We had some experience of them during the last war. There was a muck stack on fire only 400 yards from my home, and the enemy airmen missed it by about 200 yards only. There are 84 muck stacks burning day and night in Yorkshire, and they will be a great target in air raids. Any enemy bomber who comes over Yorkshire will see where they are and where to drop his bombs. I promised that I would not speak for more than five minutes, and I have not spoken more than a minute and a half.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I should like, first, to say that the whole House will have heard with great pleasure the declaration made 309 by the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood), on behalf of the Opposition, strongly appealing for the cooperation of local authorities in working this scheme after the Bill has been passed. It is important that the country, and, indeed, other countries, should appreciate that though there was a division upon the financial principles underlying the Bill nevertheless this House and the country are united in a desire to get on with the work in as practical a manner as possible. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) raised a point about the position of his own district, and wanted to know whether, as regards the submission of schemes by local authorities, there would be any change as a result of the reorganisation announced this afternoon by my right hon. Friend. There is no change as a result of that reorganisation. The position remains the same, and it is for the local authorities themselves to submit the schemes and for the Home Office to advise on the technical questions.
Local authorities will want the help of our technical experts in submitting schemes which are adapted to their local circumstances. In reply to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), who raised the question of muck-stacks, I should like to see what proposals are made by the local authorities in the areas concerned before dealing with the problem. We shall give them due consideration when the schemes come up for approval by the Secretary of State. I think that is also a partial answer to the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) when he was quite rightly insistent that much regard should be given to local circumstances and that local authorities should be able to take the circumstances of their areas into full consideration. It is our desire that all these problems should be settled between the Department and the local authorities by agreement and consultation.
I think the House was very interested in his reminiscence about what the policeman did to the colonel. I am in a position to tell him that the man in blue has not lost his spirit in these matters because an incident very much bearing upon this point occurred during a "black out" in the district of the Commander-in-Chief at the Nore only a few weeks ago. Cars were supposed to dim their lights. A policeman found that a car was proceed- 310 ing along a road without its lights dimmed. He stopped it and learned, without the occupants being aware of it, that it contained the Commander-in-Chief and the Assistant Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. The House will be pleased to learn that the policeman insisted at once upon the lights being dimmed and that the Commander-in-Chief and the Assistant Under-Secretary of State were only too pleased to obey the command.
§ Mr. Lloyd
That story shows the spirit in which the regulations are carried out. It is the desire of the House and certainly the desire of the Government that in these grave matters everybody should be treated on an equality. I come at once to the question raised by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) about our recommendations with regard to gas-proof rooms, which he suggested were not a serious contribution to the problem of gas. He gave the instance of the blanket that was doused with hypo in the days of the War when he was in a dug-out, and he suggested that we should recommend it. As a matter of fact, we do recommend the blanket, and I have a handbook here dealing with the matter. The modern view, however, is that the blanket should not be doused with hypo, because research has indicated that the chemical, which is, I suppose hyposulphite of some kind, gives no more protection than mere dousing with water. We recommend it not as a first protection but as a second. My hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Thornbury (Captain Gunston) made the very good point that in the days of the dug-out you had no door and had to make-use of a blanket, but where you have a door why should you not make use of it? It is a good point, because when you have a door you need merely to cover the chinks. In the same way, as long as you have a window, why not use it? While the window is intact it is a gasproof surface, so why not take advantage of it?
There are other things which, on the surface, seem ridiculous but which have been proved by experiment to be of service. If you paste on strips of paper they have quite an extraordinary effect in mak- 311 ing window panes resistant to the effects of blast from high explosive bombs. Why should you not make use of these things when they are available in the house? By all means, as was suggested, keep a blanket and water in reserve so that these means are at hand.
It is probably not the desire of the House that I should go in great detail into all the individual points which have been raised. I might say in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) that we appreciate his points and that we are looking into them with a view possibly to moving Amendments in another place. My hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) raised an important question of principle. The best I can do is to state to the House what is our present view of what I may call shelter policy. The greatest measure of dispersal possible must be obtained. That is one of the great watchwords in air-raid precautions. I think every hon. Member with experience of this matter will agree as to its importance.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I do not want to go into details, but I think, as a matter of fact, that it applies in both cases. Wherever possible, people should take shelter either in their homes or in their factories and business premises. Public shelters must be provided in all built-up areas for people who may be unavoidably caught in the streets. I think it follows that the number of public shelters which ought to be provided in different parts of the town will depend to a considerable extent upon the normal population in the street at important times. Shelters may have to be provided in areas where, for whatever reason, people are unable to make provision for shelters themselves in their homes.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) asked me to give him information on the standard of protection to be sought in the selection and construction of shelters. In our view they should be gas-proof and should, as a minimum, provide protection against blast and splinters. (The alternative that I am envisaging is trenches, which many experts consider the best form of protection.) If they are located in buildings, they must be strong enough to withstand 312 the collapse of the building, if it is damaged. In the selection of shelters, wherever possible the buildings will be selected which are sufficiently stout in construction to withstand the ordinary general purpose bomb before it reaches the bottom. In the case of bombs with instantaneous fuses this may not be very difficult. It will be more difficult in the case of bombs fitted with delayed-action fuses.
A handbook dealing with shelters is at present in course of active preparation. I can tell hon. Members that in it definite standards of protection will be laid down. I can give hon. Members the assurance that we shall very carefully consider, in the light of the remarks which have been made this afternoon, the standards which ought to be laid down in that handbook before it is issued. There is also to be a survey under the scheme of possible accommodation for shelters in various localities. Preliminary investigations have been made, for example, in Liverpool and Birkenhead.
The second great watchword of air-raid precaution is improvisation. It will be for the local authorities to make surveys of the buildings in their district in order to see whether or not suitable existing buildings can be adapted. Railway arches or the cellars are what we have in mind for this purpose. For example, I understand that in the City, in a recent investigation, 4½ acres of cellars were recently inspected under warehouses close to Moorgate and in Bethnal Green large underground vaults which were used during the last War to provide shelter for 3,000 or 4,000 people. It will be for the local authorities to go very carefully into these problems in making their surveys.
I come now to the very important question of air-raid precautions in factories, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston, by the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) and by one or two other hon. Members. I ought to say, first, that the Government take the view that in regard to air-raid precautions there is a duty and an obligation upon everyone to take suitable precautions—the individual householder, the owner of a factory or business premises, the local authority, and the Government itself. We expect factory owners and owners of business premises to consider this matter 313 and to take suitable precautions for the protection of their workpeople in regard to air-raid risks. I think the House would like to know what has been happening in this matter up to the present. In the first place, the Air-Raid Precautions Department have been in touch with the Federation of British Industries and with chambers of commerce in all parts of the country, and I can say at once that we very much appreciate the co-operation we have received from these bodies in the dissemination of our views on this matter. We have also prepared a handbook which gives detailed technical advice with regard to air-raid precautions in factories having regard to all the various circumstances, technical and otherwise, which may exist in different kinds of factories. Experts of the Department have paid visits to 500 specially important factories to give advice on the question on the spot, and in a considerable number of factories steps have already been taken in this matter, though I will not go into details this evening, because I do not think the House will require it. Some factories have already complete schemes, with first-aid apparatus, decontamination squads and rescue squads, together with air-raid precautions exercises in which everyone in the factory takes up air-raid stations. As regards new factories—
§ Mr. Simmonds
Does my hon. Friend really mean to say that, apart from precautions which cost little or nothing, factories are embarking on necessary schemes of protection which cost money, without the support of the Government?
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Are the inspectors concentrating on pit-head shafts, winding engine houses, and things of that kind?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I would not say that they are concentrating on them, but if the hon. Member would like to make any representations with regard to factories of that kind, we will consider them very carefully. We have been trying to deal first with the most important aspects of this matter from the air-raid precautions point of view.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
May I emphasise the importance of pit shafts? The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that at all hours of the day and night men are in the pit; the pit is never free of men. The shafts are near to the pit heaps, which in many cases are blazing furnaces. In view of the fact that a considerable number of men, often the whole complement of men, may be in the pit, and of the fact that the pit heap is close to the shaft, I want to emphasise the importance of first protecting the pit shaft, and, what is equally important, of dealing with the blazing heap.
§ Mr. Lloyd
We all appreciate the importance of these points, and I have just been able to ascertain that a special investigation by the Mines Department from the point of view of air-raid precautions is being made at the present time. As regards new factories, the Air-Raid Precautions Department are prepared to advise anyone engaged in the construction of a new factory in regard to the air-raid precautions aspect of the building. We have an architectural expert in the Department, and are also in touch with architectural firms with a view to disseminating technical knowledge on these matters through that channel. We are also asking the local authorities to do all they can to disseminate knowledge on this question among those who are undertaking new construction in their areas. Of course, the schemes will contain provisions for instruction and advice to the public, and it may be that the procedure of passing plans under the building by-laws will play a part in this kind of work.
I come now to an aspect of the question on which I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments. We appreciate, of course, the importance of the Government giving an example in regard to this matter, and very considerable steps are now being taken in the Government Departments to introduce air-raid precautionary measures. Arrangements are being made to organise first-aid parties and decontamination squads in all Departments, and a 50 per cent. reserve is also being trained. Members of first-aid parties will receive training from the Red Cross and the St. John Ambulance Brigade. As regards anti-gas measures, about 50 instructors drawn from the various Departments have been trained at the Falfield Anti-Gas School. Eighty 315 instructors trained in the same manner have also been supplied to the Post Office, and it is hoped that by the end of the year there will be over 130 instructors in the Post Office alone. The Office of Works are constructing seven gas chambers in various Government buildings in the London area, so that all the staff who wish to go through a gas chamber during the course of this training will have the opportunity of doing so.
With regard to the question of structural precautions, an extensive structural survey of existing Government buildings is being made, and the most suitable accommodation will be earmarked for refuges in which the staff would be collected on receipt of an air-raid warning. A fire survey is in progress, and the necessary additional fire-fighting equipment will be installed. Structural precautions against air attack will be considered in the case of all new Government buildings. Rather special consideration is being given to the case of the new Whitehall building, and it may be of interest to give some account of what is being done in that regard. It is proposed to construct a roof of solid concrete, to arrest small incendiary bombs and offer some resistance to the penetration of high explosive bombs generally. The floors will be of solid concrete, and will offer further resistance to bombs which penetrate the roof. The second floor below the roof will be a strongly reinforced floor, capable of regaining débris if the top floors collapse. A strongly reinforced floor is to be provided on the ground floor level, to provide protection for the staff collected in the emergency refuge accommodation in the basement. The building will be divided into 16 sections by solid cross walls extending from the foundations to the top of the building. These walls will not only stiffen the building against the effects of external explosion, but will limit the effects of internal explosion and the spread of fire. Other precautions include adequate provision for emergency lighting, ventilation, and exits. Air-raid precautions are also being considered for the Palace of Westminster.
§ Mr. F. Anderson
Are any special precautions being taken so far as railways are concerned? Raiding aeroplanes generally follow a canal or railway track, 316 and an arsenal that is being built in Lancashire is very close to an important junction.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Of course, we appreciate that point, but my right hon. Friend has explained that it is quite outside the Bill and falls to be dealt with in regard to public utilities, about which he has promised an early statement. That brings me to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter), who raised an important matter in regard to the question of Income Tax allowances on expenses in connection with business firms and factories. This is a matter that is covered by the provisions of the Income Tax law. Expenditure of a capital nature is not admissible as an expense in computing a trader's profits for Income Tax purposes, but where the expenditure is of a revenue nature it will, generally speaking, be allowable as an expense. It appears, therefore, that items of expenditure on air-raid precautions in respect of which traders would obtain relief from Income Tax would not cover the whole field of necessary expenditure, but the Government are considering what it is practicable to do by way of special measures to meet the situation.
The hon. Gentleman has not answered two questions which I put, first of all with regard to the appointment of this Chief General Inspector. I have a note saying that regional inspectors have to be appointed for Scotland, England and Wales, and I asked the Under-Secretary to indicate whether the Chief Inspector will be in control of the regional inspectors in Scotland and will he have schemes submitted—
§ Mr. Lloyd
It will normally be one of the duties of the Inspector-General to be in control of the regional inspectors of the country. The position in Scotland will be discussed with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the reorganisation that my right hon. Friend indicated does not in the least detract from its essentially civilian character.