Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding 5,942, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Lord Privy Seal.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I would ask for a Ruling with regard to the discussion of these Supplementary Estimates. There are three separate Votes, three separate Ministries inter-connected. Can we have a general discussion on all three and then take the Votes separately?
§ The Chairman
There have been, of course, very many cases in which, with the general assent of the Committee, more than one Vote has been discussed. If I may venture to make a suggestion or give some advice to the Committee, I would say that I find it very difficult to see how it would be possible to separate the discussion between the three Votes. If the Committee generally gives its assent I would suggest that in the discussion on the first Vote which I have read the Debate should range over all the three Votes which are on the Paper. It will be understood that in that event, after the first Vote has been decided by the Committee, the other two will be decided without further discussion. Does the Committee generally assent to that suggestion?
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)
This is the first opportunity I have had of giving from this Box a general picture of the work for which I have been responsible since I took office on 1st November. I have no doubt that the Committee will expect me to give a 1288 fairly comprehensive review and to enter into some degree of detail on a number of points. I cannot help feeling impressed by the magnitude of the task that lies before me. I have a vast field to cover, and I fear that I may have to trespass to some extent on the patience of the Committee, even though I shall not be in a position to say anything about the work of my Department in relation to proposals which are being embodied in a Bill that I hope to introduce at a fairly early date. If there is anyone in any quarter of the Committee who is disposed to remind me of the vast amount that remains to be done, or to protest that progress has not been sufficiently rapid, I can assure the Committee that I shall not join issue with that hon. Member.
I do not face the Committee in any mood of complacency. I am by no means satisfied with the contribution that I and my Department have as yet been able to make towards the solution of the many problems in relation to Civil Defence with which we are confronted. I hope that I shall never be satisfied until the job is done. At the same time I feel that I do owe it to my Department, and to the many administrative and technical officers in my Department and in other Departments concerned with Civil Defence who have been applying themselves with untiring zeal and devotion to the novel, exacting and anxious tasks on which they are engaged, that I should endeavour to explain to the Committee the nature of the organisational problem with which we have been faced, so that the matter may be viewed by critics or would-be critics in its proper perspective and in its due proportions.
It is, I suppose, common knowledge that the plans of the Government in regard to Civil Defence before what we call the crisis of last September were very different from the plans upon which we are working now. The matter is viewed now, since the crisis, to some extent in the light of the experience of the crisis, in an entirely different perspective. Everything is being speeded up; plans are being telescoped. I do not wish, for obvious reasons, to be too specific, but if I say that for 1941 one should now read 1939, I think we shall get somewhere near the mark. That was the position which faced me when I undertook my present responsibilities exactly four months ago. It was quite clear that 1289 radical measures of reorganisation would be necessary if we were to have any prospect of accomplishing our tasks, viewed in the new post-crisis light. Relief was sought in various directions which I should like to indicate to the Committee.
In the first place, we decided that it would be a wise measure to separate, as far as possible, the business of planning from the business of day-to-day administration. I think it is probably generally known that in the normal civil Department of State planning and day-to-day administration go hand in hand, whereas in the Defence Departments there is an organisation, strong and powerfully manned, whose special concern it is to deal with planning. We took that decision, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General for putting at my disposal in that connection the services of a very experienced public servant, Sir Thomas Gardiner, who held the position of Director-General at the Post Office. Then we decided—this is a matter which has been the subject of some discussionoutside—that it would be necessary to spread the burden as far as possible. Instead of concentrating everything in one Department and trying to build up that Department to deal with all aspects of Civil Defence, we assigned, on considerations of general convenience, to other Departments of State responsibilities which seemed to fit in naturally with the normal peace-time functions of those Departments.
For example, the Ministry of Health is responsible in England and Wales for all matters concerned with the organisation of hospitals, first-aid posts and ambulance services, and with the problem of evacuation, and in Scotland the corresponding Department is that presided over by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Minister of Transport is responsible for matters concerning road transport, rail transport, docks and harbours and electricity undertakings. We have concentrated in the hands of the Office of Works all responsibility for securing buildings and similar accommodation that might be required by any Department of State in time of war, thereby, I hope, eliminating overlapping and confusion which might be a fruitful source of difficulty and friction in an emergency. The Home 1290 Office, and the Scottish Office in its own sphere, remain responsible as before for the war-time functions of the police and for questions of law and order. The responsibility for the development of food defence plans rests with the appropriate Department of the Board of Trade. In the matter of national service, as the Committee know, I have taken advantage of the assistance which the Ministry of Labour, with its far-flung organisation up and down the country, is in a position to render. All these functions, distributed as they are over a wide field, come within my own sphere of responsibility, and I am responsible as Minister of Civil Defence for ensuring effective co-ordination.
It has been said in certain organs of the Press that in this matter of co-ordination things are not going smoothly, that there has been confusion and friction. There is not a single word of truth in that. There has been no friction whatsoever. As regards co-ordination, the Committee will be interested to learn that this is being effected by means of day-to-day contacts between the staff directly under my control, the staff responsible for planning, and the other Departments concerned, and also and by means of two sub-committees of the Committee of Imperial Defence, over which I have the honour to preside. One is a Ministerial Committee responsible for policy, on which all the Departments that I have named are represented by the responsible Ministers, and the other is called a Technical Committee, corresponding in scope and function with the Ministerial Committee, but concerned with technical matters of administration rather than with matters of high policy. I claim, and claim with confidence, that these arrangements do make for effective co-ordination between the different Departments of State that are concerned, and that they are wholly adequate and effective.
I have dealt with two measures that have been taken with a view to ensuring speedy development of this work. We have gone further. We have decided that at an early stage there should be a very considerable measure of delegation, and we have proceeded to set up, in various parts of the country, regional staffs responsible directly to my Department. They will have the function of maintaining contact with local authorities, and will 1291 exercise a considerable degree of delegated authority in regard to the approval of the schemes, and we hope will greatly assist local authorities in proceeding speedily with the development of their plans. We have also—I regret from some points of view to say—had to increase our administrative staff very largely. I will deal with that later.
Before I come, as I shall shortly proceed to do, to deal with the details of the work we have in hand, there is one observation of a general character that I would venture to bring before the Committee. It is, I believe, a fact generally accepted by students of war organisation that whereas it is easy, or comparatively easy, to raise and train battalions, comparatively easy to accumulate stocks of armaments and other supplies, what presents the greatest difficulty is the building of an efficient war machine, the creation of a general staff—that is a thing that takes time. That is so, I believe, even where there is already in existence a great body of recorded knowledge and experience, but in this case, in the matter of Civil Defence, we have to deal with a subject where there is no background, no tradition and no body of authority to which to appeal. That fact undoubtedly adds greatly to the difficulty of the task. We have to create our machine, and we have simultaneously to make it work. That is, indeed, a formidable task, and I do not promise the Committee that there will be no more slips and no more delays in giving decisions, that there will be no more delays even in answering letters, but I do promise confidently that there will be a steady and a progressive improvement in output and in quality.
May I deal as rapidly as I can, consistently with giving the Committee a fairly complete picture, with certain special problems. First, the problem of evacuation was investigated last summer by a Committee of Members of this House over which I had the honour to preside. Their recommendations—they did no more than attempt to lay down certain governing principles—were adopted by the Government, and they are still valid. They recommended that a detailed survey should be undertaken as speedily as possible. That survey has been in progress for some time and the results were due to come to the Departments concerned, the Ministry of Health and the 1292 Scottish Department of Health, by the end of last month—yesterday. When that survey is complete, it should give us particulars of the accommodation which would be available in what we call the reception areas—details of the accommodation by small units of area and details of the number of children, with their mothers, who could be accommodated in reception areas under voluntary arrangements. When the survey is complete we shall be able to review the whole position, and see how far and by what methods it is practicable to attain to what must always be the ideal in this matter, which is that all who have useful work to do in vulnerable areas should remain in those areas doing that work, and that others should go to less vulnerable areas. My committee estimated, quite roughly, the proportion of people who could be spared, according to that criterion, from the vulnerable areas at one-third. They gave it as their opinion that accommodation in reception areas would prove the limiting factor. All the indications at present available go to support that opinion of my committee.
I am afraid that I cannot on this occasion go into any detail in regard to the carrying out of the plans that were made known to the House in regard to the provision of camps, because that requires legislation, but the Committee will perhaps be interested to learn that the chairmanship of the public corporation which it is proposed to set up for England and Wales to deal with the camp problem has been offered to and accepted by Lord Portal, who has very special qualifications in the matter. But, however the accommodation available may be ox-tended by the provision of camps, it is clear that, viewing the problem as a matter for which a solution has to be found in the comparatively near future, there is no practicable alternative to having recourse to the fullest possible extent to billeting. The Minister of Health, who will I hope be opening tomorrow, will be able to give details more fully than I could in the time at my disposal in regard to the progress made in the development of our evacuation plans.
§ Sir J. Anderson
In Scotland it is pro-posed that the powers of the existing 1293 Scottish Housing Association should be extended by Statute to enable them to deal with this matter. The appeal that, as far as possible, provision should be found for children who might have to be evacuated on a voluntary basis has met with a very satisfactory response in the reception areas. There have been here and there indications of some slight lack of imagination, and some people have been troubled by the prospect that precious articles of furniture might be scratched, or even broken. Those people have failed to look at the matter as it must be viewed in the light of conditions as they would be in the event of war, in the light of the widespread loss and destruction which would have to be borne by all sections of the community. My right hon. Friend will, no doubt, deal tomorrow with such matters as the safeguarding of water supplies, the provision of sanitary arrangements and public health generally and with the problem of welfare in regard to the evacuated population. My right hon. Friend is also directly responsible, subject to my general responsibility, for plans for the treatment of casualties, for the organisation of hospitals and, in close connection with hospitals, first-aid stations and ambulance services and for the organisation of the medical profession and nurses. He will, no doubt, be able to give full details to the Committee.
I come now to the functions of the Minister of Transport. A vital link in the chain of Civil Defence is the proper organisation and co-ordination of the various forms of inland transport. That is a task which for some time past has been occupying a great deal of the time and energy of my right hon. Friend and his Department. If Great Britain has lost her insular position in some ways, she is still vitally dependent for her foodstuffs and other essential supplies upon the sea ways and upon the sea gates. The uninterrupted passage of goods through our docks and harbours is of the first order of importance. We have to face the possibility of enemy action which will render necessary a considerable diversion of sea-borne traffic. The problem has been for months past the subject of continuous study, in which the dock and harbour authorities, as well as the food and other importing trades, have given, and are giving, the fullest benefit of their expert advice within our own borders. The railways, not with- 1294 standing far reaching changes, continue to be the backbone of internal transport and my right hon. Friend is in the closest touch with railway administration on the details of planning to enable the nation to take full advantage of this transport asset in time of war, not merely for the active and Civil Defence Services, but for the maintenance of other services and for the large movements of the civil population which we have to envisage.
The road transport industry has been showing a lively sense of its national responsibility and, under the aegis of my right hon. Friend, is actively engaged in bringing itself into a state of organisation to provide means by which the nation may make the most efficient and economical use of all facilities which the industry can furnish in time of war. The tracks upon which road transport depends are the public roads and bridges, and we have not overlooked the need for reserves of man-power and material to deal with urgent repairs and reconstruction. In this field, also, I gladly acknowledge the assistance which the Government are obtaining from representatives of highway authorities. Electricity, as well as transport, is in the care of my right hon. Friend, and I am glad to tell the Committee that definite orders have been placed for the creation of a national reserve of transformers and switchgear which could be available for replacement of machinery of electrical undertakings sustaining damage in time of war.
The Food (Defence Plans) Department of the Board of Trade have carried out, under the direction of the President of the Board of Trade, a great deal of preliminary planning and organisation with a view to securing the maintenance of food supplies in time of war. So far as concerns the distribution of food and food rationing, it is within the scope of my responsibility to see that the food arrangements are properly co-ordinated with the other plans for Civil Defence—it is essential, for example, that the arrangements for food distribution should take fully into account the plans for evacuation—and, so far as concerns this limited part of the food problem, constant contact is being maintained, through the co-ordinating machinery to which I have already referred, between the Food (Defence Plans) Department and the various Departments concerned with other aspects of 1295 Civil Defence. The wider problem of maintaining food supplies, in the sense of maintaining imports of food into this country, is, however, linked very closely with problems which fall within the sphere of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, and my Noble Friend continues to be responsible for co-ordination in connection with that wider aspect of the work of the Food (Defence Plans) Department.
I do not propose at this stage to go into the question of National Service, but I shall have something to say on that subject before I end my speech. I should like to pass now to work which comes within my own direct executive control. When I took office, I was able, by arrangement with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, to take over from him in its entirety the staff which had previously been engaged on what is familiarly known as A.R.P.—Air Raid Precautions. I was also able to secure for my own purposes, through the good offices of my right hon. Friend, the necessary accommodation in the Home Office building in Whitehall. The staff that I took over has been enlarged and developed according to the new conceptions of the scope of Civil Defence. To give some illustrative figures, a staff which, when I took it over, numbered 209 has been more than doubled in the few months that have since elapsed. I have been able to secure in that way, under my direct control, a great fund of ability, resource and willing service.
The question of supply for the purposes of civil defence presented a problem which at first caused me a certain amount of concern. The Committee will realise that supply is no part of the normal responsibility of the ordinary civil Department of State. The Home Office had had to improvise arrangements for dealing with their supply problems, and I want to say, as I think it is only fair to say, that I have myself been immensely impressed by the manner in which an administrative staff recruited and trained for quite other purposes succeeded in addressing itself to the essentially executive problem of supply. Nevertheless, I thought it prudent to bring the arrangements under review, and I was able to secure assistance from outside, from the General Post Office, which is a Department having very 1296 extensive experience of supply problems, and also from the London Passenger Transport Board. All the supply arrangements of the Department have been scrutinised in detail, and changes in organisation and personnel have been made which, I am confident, will justify themselves in results. I think it would interest the Committee if I gave a few figures as an illustration of the magnitude of our supply problem. In the matter of civilian respirators, we have taken delivery of 50,000,000 respirators and their containers. Of civilian duty respirators, which are a more complicated contraption, we have obtained delivery of very nearly 1,000,000—to be exact, 940,000—out of a total demand of 1,300,000.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Are the 1,000,000 civilian duty respirators the respirators that are going to be of some use, and the others merely for show? What is the difference?
§ Sir J. Anderson
The difference is this. The civilian respirator is intended to provide, and does provide, effective protection for people who are not engaged in any form of physical exertion while they are wearing the respirators. The civilian duty respirators are designed for people who have to do work and to exert themselves in air-raid conditions, and obviously a more elaborate type of apparatus is necessary in those circumstances.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill
What is a civilian who is wearing a respirator in a house and is not called upon to do excessive exercise, to do when he or she is called upon to put out an incendiary bomb? Must such a person change his or her gas mask?
§ Sir J. Anderson
A great many people, in conditions of war, will have to make the best of the situation.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It really serves no purpose, believe me, to disparage the provision that is made, and without justification to put doubts in people's minds. The civilian respirator, the general respirator which has been distributed on a large scale, is the result of long experiment, and is, according to the opinion of those best qualified to judge—and in this matter I and, I suggest, the hon. Lady, must be guided by technical opinion—well 1297 adapted for this purpose. It would be sheer folly not to discriminate in a matter of this kind between people who have strenuous work to do and people who may be expected to be able to go through a period of air raid without being expected to exert themselves.
§ Mr. De Chair
My right hon. Friend said that delivery has been made of 50,000,000 civilian respirators. Are we to understand that they are in addition to the respirators that were distributed during the crisis?
§ Sir J. Anderson
No—the total delivery of civilian respirators, through the Department, from the beginning. Of course, deliveries began long before I had any responsibility. I was giving the Committee a general impression of the magnitude of the supply problem. We have taken delivery of 127,000,000 sandbags. We have made arrangements with the industry in Dundee which will take up the whole of the available output, as far as it is possible to do so without cutting unduly into the normal trade of that industry. We have made arrangements by which we shall get delivery of between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 sandbags a week from now on, and we have placed an order in India for a further 200,000,000 sandbags, all of which are promised for delivery within the next few months. Of bleach we have obtained no less than 1,800 tons. We have on order 1,400,000 of the special device that has been worked out, after great trouble and much research, for the protection of babies, and 1,300,000 of the respirators for young children. Deliveries of both the babies' device and the respirator for young children, aged two years and upwards, will be completed within the next few months.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
In view of the great anxiety of women about the babies' device, will the right hon. Gentleman say a little about it, and how it is to work?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I shall be very glad to arrange for particulars to be given to the Committee, but I am not at the moment in a position to give a description which would be adequate. I could go on to talk about the special problems presented by steel helmets and protective clothing, but I do not want to take up the time of the Committee unduly. With regard to both those items of equipment, special investigations have had to be set 1298 on foot to see whether some way could be found of avoiding a bottle-neck in the trade by varying specifications, while still adhering to the requisite standard of efficiency. I would like to say a word or two about the problem of fire appliances. We believe we have succeeded in setting on foot the manufacture of types of appliance which will serve as prototypes for various kinds of pumps and trailers. Considerable deliveries of these things have already been made, and we have every reason to expect a rapidly increasing rate of delivery as time goes on. I ought to say to the Committee that in the matter of these particular items of equipment, which are of a somewhat complex character, nothing I have: been able to do since I took over could as yet have had any effect on the rate of supply.
I would like now to pass to an entirely different topic, the question of regional organisation, about which I think there has been some misgiving in certain quarters. There has been some misunderstanding; as to how far it was actual misunderstanding, I do not know; but as far as there may be a misunderstanding, I am very anxious to remove it. I can assure the Committee that there is nothing sinister behind these plans. They are founded on nothing but plain common sense. The purpose of the regional organisation which is being planned for war time, linking up with the peace-time regional organisation to which I have already referred, is simply to guard against a contingency which it would be utter folly to ignore—the contingency of communications between various parts of the country and the headquarters of Government being interrupted by war operations for a longer or shorter period. It has seemed to the Government necessary, in order to guard effectively against that contingency, to make provision for setting up in convenient centres an organisation which could, if necessary, and to the extent necessary, replace His Majesty's Government for the purpose of giving effective decisions in matters of immediate urgency.
For that purpose, we intend to appoint Regional Commissioners, 12 in number, for the 12 regions into which the country has been divided. We intend to equip them with adequate staffs. The staffs have been all selected. The headquarters of the Commissioners have been selected and equipped. Communications have 1299 been installed. The Commissioners themselves have not, in fact, yet been finally selected. These Commissioners will have no executive duties in time of peace. They will be expected to acquaint themselves with the characteristics of their regions and with the local authorities in the regions. They will be expected to have periodical conferences with the staffs that are being provided for the regions. Beyond that, they will have no responsibilities, and they will receive, as I mentioned in the House a day or two ago, no remuneration. In war time their powers will be derived exclusively from the central Government and the setting up of Regional Commissioners, in itself, will not, and cannot, involve any encroachment whatever upon the powers of local authorities.
In that connection a question does arise which, I must tell the Committee, is being actively explored at this moment. It must be perfectly clear that elected local bodies, as they function in peace time, may not constitute the most effective type of organisation that could be imagined for war conditions, and we have communicated with the representative associations of the scheme-making local authorities, the County Councils' Associations and the Municipal Corporations' Association—I shall come to the problem of London in a moment—putting forward a specific proposal as to how in time of war the interests and responsibilities of the local authorities could best be preserved in the type of organisation we have in mind. I hope I have said enough to dispel any fear or misgiving that may have arisen as to the plan we have in mind.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee whether these regional heads are to be drawn from the Army or are to be civilian heads?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not think I could be expected to Jay down at this moment any general principle or criterion. I am, at present, with my advisers, surveying the whole field and our purpose will be to find the men who seem to us the best qualified for these functions and the most likely to command general public confidence in the areas in which they will be called upon to act.
§ Mr. Marshall
As this is a matter which vitally concerns local government in this country, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance: that before any appointments are made we shall have an opportunity of looking at the names in this House?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am afraid I cannot give any assurance of that kind. The assurance which I can give and which, I am sure, hon. Members will find to be fully borne out when the names are announced, is that nothing will be done which a reasonable and impartial critic might regard as savouring of militarisation. This is a matter of civil defence, and that is being clearly borne in mind.
§ Sir William Davison
Was not the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) selected to look after London if he had accepted the position?
§ Sir J. Anderson
Nobody has been selected to look after London. I should like to pass on to another aspect of the matter.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that part of his subject will he say why the executive of the Urban District Councils' Association has not been consulted in this matter?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think the answer to that is that this is a matter which primarily concerns the scheme-making authorities—the municipal corporations and the county councils. There is no intention whatever of keeping anyone who is really concerned out of the consultation. If I am satisfied that the Urban District Councils' Association or the Rural District Councils' Association, or any other association, is really concerned in this matter, I shall be delighted to bring them into consultation.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that the urban district councils are the folk who will have to work this concern?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think I know, in general, the part which the urban district councils have to play.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I wish to ask the Minister something which concerns the women of the country. Why has he decided to pay women A.R.P. volunteers only two-thirds of the rate which is to be paid to men?
§ The Chairman
These are all matters for Debate, and I shall give every opportunity I can to hon. Members to raise them at the proper time, but they cannot properly be raised in the form of interruptions of the Minister's speech. The matter to which the hon. Lady refers, moreover, is not one with which the Minister was dealing.
§ Mr. Bevan
On a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman has been speaking for a long time, and the first part of his speech was a mere description of the work of his colleagues. If we are to have a useful Debate, it is desirable, in my submission, that we should have from the right hon. Gentleman a detailed statement of what is actually being done by his own Department.
§ The Chairman
I must remind hon. Members that it is not a point of Order to seek to dictate to a Minister what he ought to say. If the hon. Member says that he is rising to a point of Order, he ought not to raise what is not a question of Order. There is no obligation on, nor is it the duty of, the Chair to deal with a matter such as he has raised.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I dealt with the point to which the hon. Lady has just referred in answer to a question within the last two days. May I say just this about rates of pay? That will be a matter for decision by the Government of the day. All that we have done has been to indicate the rates of pay—or rates of allowance, which, I think, is a better way of putting it—which people who volunteer for whole-time service can look forward to receiving if war comes. That is the actual position.
I have a great deal of ground to cover and, while I do not want to trespass unduly on the time of the Committee, I have to try to do justice to the work of my Department, and in order to meet possible criticism I had to deal with problems of organisation which are very 1302 important. May I briefly explain the special arrangements which we are making for London? As is well recognised by those who have studied these problems, London is in a very special position as regards Civil Defence. There are, I think, 28 Metropolitan borough councils and many other authorities within the Greater London area, exercising jurisdiction within boundaries which have really no practical significance as regards attack from the air, or Civil Defence. While we must recognise the position of these responsible authorities we must try, to a large extent, to develop our organisation so that Greater London —not the London County Council area, but the Metropolitan Police area which, with a few minor adjustments, we thought most convenient and practicable —can be dealt with as one unit.
I have had discussions on this matter with the representatives of the Standing Joint Committee of Metropolitan Boroughs, with the representatives of outside authorities—the county boroughs of Croydon and East and West Ham and Middlesex and the other counties, parts of which come within the London Metropolitan area—and, of course, with the London County Council and the City of London. I am very grateful for the assistance which has been afforded to the Department by those consultations. We have made arrangements which, I hope and believe, go a very long way to meet the representations that were made to us and were pressed very strongly. We were asked to set up for Greater London an executive authority which could function for the whole area and to which the constituent local authorities might have direct access. We have set up that special authority and I am indebted to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for putting at my disposal for that purpose the services of a very experienced public servant in Mr. Harold Scott, who is normally chairman of the Prison Commission. Mr. Scott has been provided with offices and with staff, including representatives of the other Departments concerned in Civil Defence.
We have agreed to effect certain readjustments of functions between the metropolitan boroughs and the London County Council which, we think, will make for greater efficiency in regard, for example, to the work of rescue and demolition parties. We have agreed to 1303 make arrangements by which the personnel of first-aid parties can be trained centrally, although the responsibility for these first-aid parties must, for practical reasons, rest with the constituent local authorities. We propose to set up for London a regional co-ordinating committee to consider and advise on the problem of the co-ordination of the different authorities and services throughout the region, and that committee will include persons having large executive responsibilities in the region and also representatives of the various types of local authority. I very much hope that as a result of these steps we shall be able to make much more rapid progress in bringing our plans in London into a state of preparedness. We have also set up a special administrative office in Scotland with headquarters in Edinburgh, to which in most matters of civil defence local authorities are asked to address themselves.
I should like to say something about the technical research which is engaging the activities of a very considerable section of my Department, a section which is continually expanding in order to deal with new problems that have to be tackled such, for example, as problems of camouflage, obscuration of light, and structural protection.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I mean structural protection for the purpose of giving physical protection to people exposed to risk, and also for the purpose of giving physical protection to vital plant.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It includes the strengthening of basements, but I will come to that later, as it is a separate problem. I am indebted to the Department of Industrial and Scientific Research for putting at my disposal for these purposes of research and technical investigation the services of Dr. Stradling, who is well known, I am sure, to many Members of this Committee for his work in connection with building research.
In regard to training, which is a very important matter, our arrangements have 1304 been developed to a very considerable extent. The scope of the instruction given at the three existing schools has been greatly extended and to new local schools have been set up. As a result of these arrangements, I have no doubt we shall soon have available an adequate number of qualified instructors to give instruction to the new recruits of the various Civil Defence Services that are coming along so rapidly.
Now I come to a subject which I know has been exercising the minds of many people for some time—the problem of shelter policy. If I have to express myself somewhat emphatically on that subject, I hope no one will think that I am lacking in consideration for the views and the feelings of many who, I well realise, have been greatly perturbed in their minds by this very important problem. But I have no intention of standing in a white sheet in this matter. I have nothing whatever to apologise for. As the Committee will remember I announced, on 21st December last I think it was, a comprehensive policy—I described it as a comprehensive policy, and it was a comprehensive policy—for the provision, on the widest possible scale, in the shortest possible period of time, of protection against splinter and blast and the fall of debris. That policy has been put to practical tests in a variety of ways. The steel shelters, about which one has read so much in the Press lately and examples of which are on view in the neighbourhood, have been subjected to a succession of very searching tests, and they have stood up to those tests. They have satisfied all the expectations of those who were responsible for initiating that policy. I state that as a matter of fact.
Part of the policy consists in the strengthening of basements of houses. Plans have been worked out after very careful research, and experiments were made at Winchester 10 days ago from which the strutted basements that were subjected to test emerged in a manner which gave the fullest satisfaction to my technical advisers. We contemplate at once organising the available resources of architects, surveyors, engineers, and so on to get ahead, in agreement with local authorities, with the survey of basement accommodation all over the country, and as the next stage we intend to make arrangements, with the cooperation of 1305 the engineering contractors and the building trades, for the carrying out of this necessary work; and I should like to say in that connection that I am very greatly indebted to the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) for his co-operation in that matter.
§ Mr. Churchill
Can my right hon. Friend say what has been done in this matter in London up to the present— actually done? Are large areas surveyed, and are a great number of basements furnished, with approved plans and so forth?
§ Sir J. Anderson
That has not in fact been done. Surveys are in progress for the purpose of installing the steel shelters. In regard to the strengthening of basements, there were technical problems of very considerable difficulty and complexity which had to be investigated before we could launch a complete scheme, but I do hope that the next few weeks will give evidence of real progress in the matter of providing protected basements. I do not want to convey a wrong impression. Surveys have been carried out in various places, in the areas of various local authorities, but there has not been a comprehensive plan, centrally administered, for the carrying-out of such surveys.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether technical investigations have covered the problem of strengthening side walls as well as ceilings?
§ Sir J. Anderson
Surely. I would ask the Committee to bear in mind that in addition to those experts who give information to the Press so freely, there are other experts, to whom my Department has access and whose services are freely made use of, who have been studying, in collaboration with the technical officers of my own Department, continuously all problems arising in connection with the provision of shelter protection. As I have explained before, there is no single solution on which reliance can be placed. In the matter of shelters we must seek a solution along various lines. The immediate policy of providing, as rapidly as possible, protection against blast and splinter and the fall of debris, and—this has not been mentioned before—against spent material from our own anti-aircraft 1306 guns, is in itself a complete policy. It is not, as some people have suggested, a cheap and nasty makeshift to be superseded sooner or later by some more effective form of protection. It is a permanent policy. The only question that arises— and I will not burke that question—is whether that policy ought to be supplemented by a policy of providing some stronger form of protection, the sort of thing that people talk about as bomb-proof shelters.
The Government have been criticised because no final decision has been taken in this matter. I do not believe that such criticism is really justified. The problem is very complex. It has been continuously studied, and I am as anxious as anyone could possibly be to bring it to an early decision. Believe me, delays in this matter are as irksome to me as they could be to anybody. I realise perfectly well that thought has been converging from many different angles on this problem. It has found expression in the public Press. Rather a stir has been created, and I think there is not a little danger in This matter of stampeding public opinion, even of creating something perilously near to a defeatist mentality. You may ask why we have not yet been able to arrive at a final decision. If the matter had not been so grave, we might have been tempted, on a cursory examination, to say that there are so many elements of conjecture and uncertainty, so many factors, delays, expense, interference with normal life from every point of view, and that the subject seems so formidable, that one might have dismissed the problem altogether as outside the range of practical politics. That, in my opinion, would not have been right. Those who are genuinely concerned about this question are entitled to the fullest reassurance, and that can only be given after the most prolonged and detailed examination.
What are the circumstances that make the problem so complicated? It is not, as many have supposed, by any means merely an engineering problem, and even on the engineering aspects expert opinion is by no means unanimous. One has to consider questions of air strategy, and many points arise in that connection which can never be ventilated publicly. One cannot assume a static condition in regard to air attack. Offence will always take account of defence, just as defence 1307 has to take account of offence. One cannot assume that means could not be found, if necessary, of increasing the penetrative effect of bombs. One cannot assume any particular period of time as a period of warning on which one could, under actual conditions of warfare in the future, with certainty rely. These are all questions that have to be weighed and that are being weighed by my advisers, and outside critics are not really in a position to take them fully into account, even if they are aware that these considerations exist. The problem is quite different from the problem of active defence. In active defence it is probably sufficient if one can keep pace with engines of offence, because the instruments of active defence are turned over pretty rapidly and have a short life, but if we were to go in for a complicated and very expensive system of protection, we should have to be quite sure, not merely that that system of protection was adequate against weapons of offence as they are developed at the present time, but that it would remain adequate for at any rate a very considerable period. The margin of safety that must be provided would have to be exceptionally great.
§ Mr. Churchill
Could my right hon. Friend indicate the type of projectile that he has in his mind against which underground protection should be provided?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not want to be led into giving too many details on a very technical matter, but, for example, most of the proposals that have been put forward have been based on experience in Spain. The type of projectile against which protection has been worked out according to these proposals is, I think, a 500-lb. bomb.
§ Sir J. Anderson
A semi-armour-piercing bomb; but we have no reason to suppose that if we had large and deep shelters all over the country, an enemy might not think it worth while to use a type of bomb of much greater penetrating power than bombs of that description.
§ Sir J. Anderson
A very great many. I should like to point out to my right hon. 1308 Friend that in the last War bombs were dropped from British aeroplanes which weighed, not 500 lbs., but nearly three times that, and there has been considerable advance since then.
There are also psychological considerations to take into account. It is not sufficient in this matter to provide something which might theoretically give a certain degree of protection. We have to take into account the risk of panic. We have to remember that attack might be made at night, when everything was completely dark. Very few town dwellers have any experience at all of finding their way about in pitch darkness. When you have people awakened suddenly from their beds, rushing in a state of alarm into the dark streets, trying to find their way to large shelters, falling over one another possibly, when bombs were actually dropping, it might produce a very serious state of affairs indeed. All that has to be taken into account. I have been told, when I have put that point, that that might happen on the first two or three occasions, but that afterwards, when people got used to it, it would be all right. In warfare of the future the first two or three occasions may well be decisive.
Although a final decision in this matter cannot be given here and now, there are certain conclusions which seem to me clearly to emerge from the considerations and discussions that have so far taken place. The first of these conclusions is that heavily-protected shelters must in practice mean large shelters. Everyone seems to be agreed on that. The second conclusion is that whatever is decided upon in the matter of shelter policy ought to be carried out as speedily as possible for all who are exposed to the same degree of risk. We cannot afford to experiment. Whatever the decision is, it should be carried out rapidly for the whole number of people exposed to the same degree of risk. Any decision that is taken, therefore, must be irrevocable. The third point is that nothing that has so far emerged invalidates the general principle of dispersal which was enunciated before I had any responsibility for these matters. It is a most important principle that should not be departed from.
The Committee would, perhaps, like me to say a word about one scheme in particular which has attracted a great deal 1309 of attention. I refer to the Finsburyscheme. Nothing that I have to say on that subject must be regarded as spoken in any way in disparagement of the work of those who are responsible for that scheme. I think that in many respects it is a very remarkable, as it is, indeed, a very interesting piece of work, but it is by no means the last word on the subject of shelter policy. That scheme is, in fact, in itself the strongest possible argument for not coming to a hasty decision. The report on it shows clearly how many matters there are which still require careful investigation. Let me tell the Committee what the recommendations of that report, as far as I understand them, amount to: That all other forms of construction hitherto suggested are, in substance, condemned in favour of a new type of construction said to have been invented by one of the authors of the report. My experts with whom I have had consultations tell me that there are many technical and engineering questions that have to be further investigated before a decision can be given, even on purely technical considerations, on such a plan. Those who have suggested that on receiving the Finsbury scheme the Government ought immediately to have come to a decision to carry out a policy of providing shelters according to that plan all over the country, cannot have appreciated all that is involved. I should like to say a word about Barcelona before I leave this subject.
§ Sir J. Anderson
That is a special problem, but if the right hon. Gentleman looks at what I have said previously he will realise that large tenements will have to be dealt with under the splinter and blast-proof policy. [Hon. Members: "How?"] By the provision in basements or otherwise of communal shelters. That is what I have always said and it will be covered by the survey which will take place. I am dealing now with the question of heavily protected shelters.
§ Mr. Churchill
My right hon. Friend used the expression "all over the country." Is this question of shelters to be judged by whether it can be applied all over the country, or applied only in the target areas?
§ Sir J. Anderson
When I said "all over the country," I did not mean covering the country, but only the parts of the country where people were exposed to the same degree of risk. That is the criterion.
With regard to Barcelona, we have read a great deal of the experience there, but it seems to me that that experience affords no guide whatever to what ought to be done in this country. The case of Barcelona is very special. It is a specially planned city with enormous streets and wide open spaces. It happens to be on a sub-soil which is of a very peculiar character, which can be cut into in all directions and dug into deeply without requiring special forms of strutting and protection. These conditions are not repeated anywhere else in the country in Spain and certainly not in this country. [An HON. MEMBER. "Not in Valencia?"] No, there is another type of protection there.
§ Mr. Lawson
Are the right hon. Gentleman's technical experts making any use of the two centuries of mining experience in this country? What he is saying is elementary.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am glad if that is clearly understood, but it does not seem to be understood outside. The experience of Valencia confirms the validity of the dispersal policy. The Committee may have noticed that in talking about better forms of protection I have used the expression "heavily protected shelters." I have not called them bomb-proof. I do not know what a bomb-proof shelter is, and my experts do not either. There is very little material in existence from which we can judge, not the effect on the physical structure of a bomb of a particular size and charge, but the effect of concussion on the people inside. It may well be that, though bombs may not penetrate a structure, concussion on a particular type of structure with a particular resonance, especially the monolithic type, might kill everyone in it. I am sure the Committee will realise that elementary fact, but it is one to which I have seen no allusion anywhere in the Press. What is of importance in this matter, or would be in war, is not merely the total number of casualties, but the manner in which they occur. The killing of a certain number of people in one place, especially if it were in a shelter recommended to people as a means of protection, would 1311 clearly have a different effect on public morale, and on the faith of the people in the competence of the Government to protect them, than the same number of casualties occurring in different circumstances. That is a very elementary point, but it is frequently left out of account.
§ Sir J. Anderson
What about the effect on the public mind of people being killed in the street? If hon. Members will compare that with the effect on the public mind of a disaster in a coal mine or a factory or on a railway, they will see the bearing of the point I am making.
§ Mr. Marshall
Suppose a mother and two or three children are killed in one of the steel shelters. Will that destroy the confidence of the whole country in them?
§ Sir J. Anderson
How many mothers and young children, I wonder, might be killed in one of the big shelters? My argument ought to be considered as a whole. I am trying to give a connected statement, and, apart from the interruptions, I am doing so.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am making no complaint, but they make it a little difficult for me to develop the argument in its logical sequence. In what I have been saying of the policy of deep shelters I have deliberately been giving a side of the case that ought to be presented, because the public so far have heard a great deal about the other side and the problem has to be looked at from every point of view. I am not trying to announce a final decision. I am not in a position to do so. I am trying to explain the sort of considerations that have to be taken into account, and to explain why a final decision cannot yet be given. I do not want anything I have said, for example, to give the impression that the possibilities of underground car parks, which have been brought to my notice by hon. Members, which might serve a limited purpose as shelters, are being left out of account. The whole problem of car parks is being investigated specially by my experts and experts from other departments in conjunction with the best outside advice that 1312 I can obtain. The protection of certain points where vital work should be carried on continuously without interruption is already in hand, but for obvious reasons I do not want to be asked to give particulars. That is a special case and on a limited scale, and the considerations which apply to them do not apply to the problem of providing shelter as shelter. I can assure the Committee that a final decision on these matters will be given without avoidable delay.
I venture to hope that in the meantime there may be some suspension or some mitigation of the agitation which has been carried on in the hope—I am sure the Committee will realise it is a vain hope as far as I am concerned—of pushing or kicking the Government into giving a decision prematurely. I certainly am not going to be stampeded into a premature decision in this matter. Before I leave the subject I would say that I think, as I have indicated to the Committee, that there is a great danger of creating the sort of defeatist mentality that might be fraught with the gravest dangers to the State. Everyone would wish to provide the greatest possible security for the whole civil population in the event of war.
The question that really arises here is a question of providing protection for essential workers, because we shall go as far as possible towards the ideal of limiting the population in the highly-vulnerable areas to those workers who are essential, and to secure, in one way or another, the transference of non-essential workers to less vulnerable areas. What is the position of essential workers, from the point of view of shelter? I do not want to seem to be callous, but in the main they are workers who will be in reserved occupations, held back from joining the active services of defence because of the importance of the work they are doing. Is it really to be argued that they are entitled to expect a degree of protection wholly different from that which in practice can be given to those who are—I do not say in the fighting services, I do not say those who are taking the risk taken by those in the fighting services—but those who are now being asked to volunteer for the civil defence services? What will be the position of our policemen, auxiliary firemen, first-aid workers, ambulance workers, and even of the air-raid wardens, in the event of war? They are not going to be given 1313 protection during air raids in these bomb proof shelters. We have to do the best we can, and surely Members of this House will not encourage those essential workers to expect that the principle of safety before everything should be applied to them and to them only. That is not the spirit of our people. That is not the spirit that will win a war.
I do not want to take up time unduly. I have to cover this subject and I have covered it fairly comprehensively. The Committee will notice that I have said nothing at all about finance in connection with shelters, but that is not because I do not think it is important. Our financial strength may well prove to be our strongest arm of defence, and we should be very careful not to weaken that arm by rushing into expenditure recklessly, but I have said nothing about finance because, in my opinion, it comes last in the process of consideration. We ought first to consider the problem on its merits.
I want to say a few words about National Service, although my right hon Friend the Minister of Labour, who will be winding up this evening, will deal with that matter in detail. I have noticed that there are some people who have said— some who seem to have said rather gleefully—that the appeal in connection with the National Service campaign has failed. I absolutely deny it. Nothing of the sort has happened. There are cases, which I have mentioned before, up and down the country, where all the services are full and where they have reserves, first-line reserves and second-line reserves. There are other cases where, although the services are not full, as many people have come forward as can possibly be dealt with at the moment.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It was deliberately decided, as I hold the House at the time, not to drive the campaign too hard at the start. The Guide which was distributed was intended to be only the background of the appeal. The actual appeal has got to be local. The problem with which we have to deal is not the problem which arose at the beginning of the last War, when Lord Kitchener made an appeal for so many hundreds of thousands of men to come forward and be embodied in a national formation. The units which we have to fill now are all 1314 local units. Figures of recruiting in classified form will shortly be available. So far as Civil Defence services are concerned we have got, to put it at a safe figure, at least 1,250,000 people—a very respectable total. Of course there are deficiencies in particular localities, of course there are services which are still, in many places, in great need of recruits; but I have no doubt whatever that when the local appeal is made—and we have arrangements ready for driving the thing home wherever it is necessary—we shall get the response which is required. Why have we gone to the trouble of setting up 300 National Service Committees all over the country—a very fine achievement, for which the Department of my right hon. Friend is entitled to the greatest credit— if we contemplated that the whole job would be over in a few weeks? We want a continuing response.
In conclusion, and with many apologies for detaining the Committee for so long, I would say a few words about the true character of our Civil Defence problem as I see it. I want, if I can, to remove prevalent misunderstandings. It will take a long time to do so. There are so many false analogies. Civil Defence is, in the minds of so many people, compared with active defence, whereas, in fact, it is essentially different. The first thing I have always tried to drive home to people is that Civil Defence service is not really service to the Government: it is service to one's community. Active defence is the business of specialist organisations responsible to the Government. In Civil Defence there is a part for all to play— for the Government, the local authorities, the commercial and industrial organisations of the country, down to the individual citizen. Unless this principle is recognised, and until it is put into practice, we shall not bring our preparations to the requisite standard of efficiency.
A better understanding of that matter would mean less controversy of a kind which, from every point of view, is regrettable. We should not then hear of air-raid wardens threatening to go on strike in one place because of a proposal to take them away from the control of the chief constable, and in another place because of a proposal to bring them under the control of the chief officer of police. If there are no air-raid wardens in Little Peddlington that is primarily the concern of the people of Little Peddlington. If 1315 they cannot provide air-raid wardens for themselves from among their own numbers, no one else is likely to do it for them.
§ Sir J. Anderson
There are Little Peddlingtons that do need them; but the right hon. Gentleman should not take that illustration too seriously. If we had a proper understanding of the character of this problem of Civil Defence we should, perhaps, see more clearly the vital necessity for maintaining effective control by the local authorities in their appropriate sphere, and the financial responsibility that must accompany such proposals. It is not merely a question of Air-Raid Precautions in the old restricted sense of the term. Civil Defence stands not only for that service which nearly every citizen can render to his neighbiur and the community in which he lives, but involves also the necessity of adapting himself, his mode of life, and possibly the conduct of his business to an entirely new set of conditions. There must be complete adaptation of peace time conditions to conditions of war. It is not, perhaps, an easy exercise of the imagination to visualise what this means, but it is something that each must do for himself, with such help and guidance as the Government and public authorities can afford. Every organisation which brings people into association for any purpose can play its part in this matter.
I should like everyone to ask himself, as a matter between him and his conscience, what he is doing to help. I should like every hon. Member to ask himself or herself the same question. This is not a matter into which party differences ought to enter. I have been glad to learn that, so far as commerce and industry are concerned, increasing attention is being given to this matter, and in order to afford all the help possible I have recently set up a new administrative division in my Department, whose special function it will be to advise on the problems with which commerce and industry may find themselves confronted in planning their existence under war conditions. There are other organisations forming part of our national life which will have similar problems and, equally, will be in need of guidance. For 1316 example, I have recently seen representatives of all the universities and discussed with them in detail the great variety of problems with which they have to deal as they seek to prepare for possible war conditions. There is, indeed, as the Leader of the Opposition remarked the other day, still a vast amount to do, but there is nothing, I am convinced, which we cannot speedily accomplish with a determined and united effort; so that it may be said of us, as many years ago the envoy of a foreign Power at the Court of St. James reported to his Royal Master:This people is turned to its preparation in high mood. I would have you take note of that.
§ Sir Edward Grigg
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Minister of Labour will be giving some information about the various registers?
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
The Lord Privy Seal has expressed his regret to the Committee that it should have been necessary for him to speak for as long as he did. He has taken from an hour and a-half to an hour and three-quarters, and I do not in any way complain. Indeed, I congratulate him on the manner in which he has stood up to this long-distance job without losing his voice, for I have lost mine before I begin. I think the Committee are obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the pains he has taken in giving us all the information that he thought he properly could give, and for the considerable detail with which he has expounded his views, even though on some things he has not told us the conclusions which the Government have reached. It so happens that I thought this Debate would take place yesterday, and I have to attend to-night a meeting of municipal Labour parties on the matter of air-raid precautions in London. Therefore I shall have to leave the Committee soon after I have concluded, and for that I would apologise in advance, but I shall come back later. The right hon. Gentleman said two things which I will mention forthwith, perhaps returning to them later. I entirely agree with him that we must 1317 beware of creating a defeatist mentality among the general population. That is true, and in connection with public discussion of the preparation made by local authorities for air-raid precautions it is always a matter for consideration. One can so easily create a feeling of despair, hopelessness and impossibilism on the part of the civil population.
If I were asked to say who had made the biggest contribution to the creation of a feeling of abject fear and defeatism in the civil population of this country, my answer would be bound to be that it was His Majesty's Government. Whenever the Opposition in this House, whether Labour or Liberal, have indicated to the Government that a little more stamina and British self-respect and a little less abject fear would be good in the conduct of foreign affairs, all that we have had from the Government has been the cry that we were warmongers and that war would be a terrible and disastrous thing for the country. If there be any spirit of defeatism and abject fear in the people of this country, nobody more than the occupants of the Treasury Bench has created that exceedingly dangerous feeling, which might well weaken His Majesty's Ministers in the conduct of foreign affairs.
With great decision, almost bordering upon defiance, the right hon. Gentleman said that he completely refused to be pushed into any precipitate decision with regard to the deep shelter and what is known as the bomb-proof shelter. I do not want any Minister to be pushed into precipitate decisions about anything, but in all fairness this must be said. In view of the fact that this matter of air-raid precautions has been under the consideration of Ministers ever since 1930, to talk about precipitate decisions about anything is an exaggeration and is a little unfair to the Committee and to the critics outside the House. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman had the support on the bench opposite of the Secretary of State for Home Affairs—he is now gone —and the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs, who is still happily with us. I thought that I saw an expression on their faces as though they were saying to themselves: "Thank God we have got rid of this job and that this fellow has got it"—a feeling of relief. I have a considerable feeling of sympathy with 1318 the Lord Privy Seal that he had to hedge and hem-and-ha on a number of questions in the course of his speech this afternoon, on which, if the present Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State had done their job properly, he could have given clear and decisive answers to the Committee. He could have given clear and decisive answers if their predecessor, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, had done something instead of utterly ignoring the whole problem of air-raid precautions, almost to the extent of 100 per cent. during the whole period of his administration at the Homo Office.
I feel indignation on behalf of the country and of the Lord Privy Seal because of those two men, the present Home Secretary and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who really deserve penal-tiles and severe condemnation for the criminal way in which they ignored and set aside this matter. It is nothing short of a public scandal that those two men should constitute 50 per cent. of the inner Cabinet of this country. I heap upon them my imprecations and my condemnation, and I convey to the Lord Privy Seal a high degree of sympathy at the indecision which they left behind them when he took over this task.
I shall come back to the subject of the shelters later on, but the Committee and the right hon. Gentleman, in discussing this matter this afternoon, are undoubtedly all in the difficulty that we are today discussing things and arguing out the technical rights and wrongs of things that ought to have been determined, settled and made clear years ago. The matter has been under the consideration of Ministers since 1930. The matter was before the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was at the Home Office, and had he not been a National Liberal he would probably have been out of the Government for it. The matter was before the Home Secretary—who is now there—and at the time of the crisis, as was revealed in the Debate that we had in December and in which I had the honour to take part, the state of A.R.P. in this country was very worrying. It caused the utmost anxiety to all who knew the situation, and really was a condemnation of the Ministers who had been responsible for it, including the Prime Minister during those years since 1930. I want to be fair to the Lord Privy Seal. I say at once that 1319 within my own London experience—hon. Members from other parts of the country who are associated with local authorities may not be quite so satisfied as I am, and I am not by any means wholly satisfied——
§ Mr. Morrison
My hon. Friend will speak for himself in due course. I want to say for myself that in my experience the present occupant of the office of Lord Privy Seal has undoubtedly brought about improvements in administration which are an advance over those for which the present Home Secretary was responsible. That is not paying him a very high compliment, because of the state of affairs which obtained before. There was need for improvement. There are still very grave issues and important matters of policy upon which no decision has been reached. In my judgment, within my strictly limited Metropolitan experience, the administration is better, the organisation is more rapidly growing and it is easier to get on with the State Departments than it was under the regime as it was before. I say that because it is right and fair that it should be said prior to the criticisms which I have to make. I hear criticisms from other parts of the country, and on the part of local authorities, that there is still unreasonable delay in securing decisions upon particular matters, and that there is some slowness and inadequacy of policy on various matters.
It is necessary that the Committee should determine what is the purpose of air-raid precautions. I suggest first of all that the purpose is to give the maximum practicable protection to human life; secondly, to give the maximum practicable protection to property; and, thirdly, to give the maximum possible degree of protection to the maintenance of production and to the economic life of the nation. In considering all matters related to air-raid precautions those elements of the protection of human life, the protection of property and the maintenance of production and economic life, to which the right hon. Gentleman has not given much time in the course of his observations, are really the essence of the purpose of air-raid precautions by which 1320 specific action should be considered. There are other interests in air-raid precautions as well. There is the aspect of diplomatic negotiations. This aspect has a relationship to bomb-proof shelters, to which I will come later, and to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.
We are living in a rather blackguardly world. We are living in a world totally different in the diplomatic field from that of pre-war years. We are living in a world where statesmen may be statesmen, but it is literally the position that a statesman may be confronted by another with revolver in hand, ready, not after days of negotiation or weeks of discussion, but at a moment's notice, to fire the revolver and let the aeroplanes fly. That was the position of the Prime Minister at Munich and was the real cause of the immediate circumstances with which he was faced. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister could not defend himself because his own policy had landed him in that position of relative defencelessness at that moment. It is of the most profound importance that a British diplomat or Minister in conducting negotiations with foreign Powers shall not feel, at any moment during those negotiations, or immediately he has left, that the whole civil population or the bulk of it may be vulnerable, under the duress and the trials and troubles of aerial attack.
Therefore a really efficient system of air-raid precautions is just as important in the firm conduct of diplomatic negotiations as is the efficiency of His Majesty's Army, Navy or Air Force. It is important, therefore, that the Committee should insist that air-raid precautions, as a general body of administration, is not less important than any of the Defence Forces of the country; not that we under-estimate the importance of the sheer military aspect of National Defence. It is obvious that the officers and men of the Royal Air Force have an important job to do and that the men of the Territorial Army and the anti-aircraft units have a vital and important job to do. None of us wishes to under-estimate those things, but it is of the most profound importance that air-raid precautions should not be regarded in their totality as less important than any of the three Defence Services of the Crown. Neither A.R.P. nor any of them should be under-estimated or overestimated. The administration of A.R.P. is not primarily a matter for military 1321 technicians. These will be consulted and will no doubt give valuable advice and information. Primarily A.R.P. is relatively a straightforward job—I say "straightforward" in the relative sense of the term, because there is nothing in administration which is entirely straight-forward—for administrators, engineers, architects, chemists and so on, in relation to a specified end.
In that national work the co-operation of the local authorities is vital in some form or another—a lively and intelligent co-operation. I suggest that it is not enough to send circulars to the local authorities. I know it was enough, in the view of the Home Office under the earlier regime, in respect of shelters. For example, when we were in negotiation about important problems in connection with certain A.R.P. matters we raised the question: "What are you going to do about bomb-proof shelters to an adequate degree?" The answer of the Ministry was: "We have sent circulars to the local authorities and that is the end of our responsibility. The rest of it is theirs." That kind of administration is futile. The State must be in it to the degree of essential decision and responsibility. The financial aspect of bomb-proof shelters obviously brings the State into the matter. It still is not enough to send circulars to the local authorities and to assume that the authorities can then be left unaided to go on with the job. The bigger ones may be able to look after themselves, but all of them, and certainly the smaller authorities, want guidance and stimulation and, if necessary, push.
As the Government are finding only a part of the cost it is evident that they have not the power over all the local authorities which they would have if they paid all the cost, as we wanted them to do. But, even so, it is necessary that the Government, through this new regional organisation, should act, and I hope they will act, in relation to local authorities, not as a dictator, but as big brother, as guide, philosopher and friend to help them on. But at the same time, if it should be found that a given local authority will not give its officers the staff necessary for the purposes of air-raid precautions, the Government must be in a position to apply the necessary drive, if necessary a little coercion, if necessary 1322 a threat of exposure, to secure a reasonable minimum of efficiency. Therefore I attach very great importance to this new regional organisation. I am sure that, if the civil servants who will be running that regional organisation will develop with the local authorities relationships of helpfulness, of co-operation, of constructive aid, they can be of the greatest possible assistance to the local authorities.
I appreciate that there must also be some sort of regional link-up between the local authority administration of the area and the official regional administration of the Lord Privy Seal, and, in due time, with the State itself. It should be possible to give to the local authorities, within proper limits, speedy decisions on their applications for sanction for expenditure and so on, without waiting for delays in London. That will be helpful, particularly to local authorities at some distance outside the London region. I appreciate that that cannot be done as regards big issues of policy and fundamental principle, but, within proper limits, I hope the Lord Privy Seal will be able to delegate authority to the regional organisation in the localities. It is most unfortunate that the Lord Privy Seal has let himself in somewhat for a description which has been applied to the regional commissioners—who should not be confused with the regional officers. Somehow he gave the newspapers some justification for using the banner headline:Twelve Dictators to be appointed.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I gave no justification at all. When I saw the representatives of the Press, following the issue of a circular to local authorities, one gentleman present put the question to me, "You mean 12 dictators?" and I said, "No, 12 representatives of His Majesty's Government." The word "dictator" was never used by me, but it was used, and I immediately disavowed it.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am glad to hear the statement of the Lord Privy Seal. I think, however, it is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman did not make it public immediately. I had assumed that he had fallen a victim, as I know it is easy to do if you are not careful. When a journalist 1323 is present, nothing is easier than for someone to say, "They are something like that," and a headline is there before you know where you are. I accept entirely the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but, as I say, it is a pity that it was not made straight away, because, while this country will accept a proper degree of leadership and co-ordination, and a considerable vestment of authority in times of emergency, it will not stand dictatorship, and I hope never will; neither will local authorities.
I quite understand and appreciate the point that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. Let us suppose this position. There is a regional organisation, and local authority A is responsible for the reinstatement of roads should they be blown up. It does not get an explosion. But local authority B, next door, gets one on an important Class 1 road, and telephones to local authority A, "For Heaven's sake send some engineers and workmen to help us." Local authority A replies, "We are very sorry, but we cannot do it; we are expecting a bomb at any moment in our own borough." It is not unreasonable to say that in an emergency the local authorities, while being accountable to some democratic assembly in the end, shall be required, if one of their number is in trouble, to go to its help. That is all perfectly reasonable, and no one is going to be ridiculous enough to contest it. That is not dictatorship; it is public administration. In an emergency you have to do things which you would not do in a normal state of affairs. Therefore, this regional organisation, properly equipped and conducted, without any dictatorship, which would be exceedingly dangerous, may not only be of assistance to Ministers in their A.R.P. responsibilities, but of great assistance to local authorities and may ease the bureaucratic machine in its relationships with the local authorities. We are anxious that the spirit of the administration regionally shall be a democratic public spirit, and one of friendly co-operation between the State and the local authorities.
I come now to the question of recruitment. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is no case established for compulsion in relation to National Service and air-raid precautions. It will be far better if we can get success, as I 1324 believe we can, on a voluntary basis, than on a basis of compulsory service. Our people who are working in various air-raid services are working there from love of the public service, from public spirit, with a great deal of esprit de corps, and I am certain that they are a better body of workers than if they were merely doing it because the right hon. Gentleman or some local authority had conscripted them to do it. Therefore, I believe it is in the interests of the Service and of the nation that this thing should be voluntarily done, and I believe it can be voluntarily done. "National Service" is a new term, but it is really A.R.P. writ large on a co-ordinated basis. It has achieved a fair degree of success, but I believe it could have had a much better result if more had been put into it, and if there had been a greater co-ordination of effort at the time of the publication of the National Service booklet.
My feeling is that the Lord Privy Seal was rushed by his Ministerial and political colleagues. They had been subjected, quite rightly, to a good deal of criticism owing to the negligence of the Home Office and the other Departments prior to the crisis, and I think they said to the Lord Privy Seal, "For heaven's sake fix an early date by which you will be ready to get on, and be ready by that early date." I told the Lord Privy Seal and the Minister of Labour at the time that I thought that date was too soon, and I believe it was. I would urge them and particularly the Lord Privy Seal who is new to politics, not to allow panic-stricken politicians to rush them into promising to do a job by a certain date by which they cannot reasonably do it. Technically, the Lord Privy Seal kept the date. There was a certain meeting, which he and I attended, by that date, but nevertheless I do not believe the machine was really ready for the 100 per cent. recruiting job that needed to be done at that moment. My feeling is that he was rushed into rather precipitate, ill-prepared, panic action, as a reaction from the slackness of his predecessors, who were the very reverse of precipitate, and always acted slowly as a matter of principle.
The Government ought to have had its co-ordinated plan, with intensive local authority effort related to it—again needing preparation—and simultaneously 1325 there should have been adequate local and national publicity. At that moment £100,000 or even £150,000, ought to have been spent on publicity and advertising in order to get the 100 per cent. result that was required. But there was a lack of comprehensiveness and intensity in that effort. Some publicity is now being engaged in. I am not sure that it is adequate, and I am certain that it is later than it ought to have been. Another point that affects equipment is training, and I hope some assurance can be given that the Government will assist the local authorities, and particularly the smaller ones, to the greatest possible extent in speeding up the training of A.R.P. workers, particularly stretcher-bearers and first-aid workers. I feel that the speed of training is not fast enough, and could be improved. I would like the Minister to tell us whether the regional organisation is likely to have any beneficial effect on local staffing in that minority of cases where the staffing may be inadequate and the officers are not securing enough support.
There are one or two matters, bearing indirectly on recruiting, which arise from administration. They are small matters, but I mention them because I think that these little things which are wrong ought to be put right. In regard to the Auxiliary Fire Service, the Home Office, before the Lord Privy Seal came on the scene, circularised the local authorities and said they could pay a bonus of £1 to each member of the Auxiliary Fire Service when he had reached proficiency. It subsequently turned out that this was restricted to actual fire-fighting personnel, and the position, according to the present interpretation, is that, while the actual fire-fighting personnel get the large sum of £1 at the end of their training, that does not apply to those members of the Auxiliary Fire Service who are not fighting fires, but nevertheless are doing essential work in the organisation, and they do not get the £1. It thus works out that the whole of the women in the Auxiliary Fire Service get nothing at all. When this came to my notice, I said there would be a deuce of a row if these women did not get the £1. It would be said that women were being treated less favourably than men. They are doing their job, and in case of war would be taking very great risks, even though they were not going through the same physical strain 1326 as the men. I suggest that, if the £1 bonus is to be paid to members of the Auxiliary Fire Service when they have completed their training, and if you want to maintain the esprit de corps of the whole thing, you had better pay the £1to all, and not only to certain sections of the service. It would be utterly in-defensible to make a distinction between men and women. Theoretically there is no distinction, but to some extent it works out in that way.
The Home Office asked us in London originally to recruit 5,000 auxiliary ambulance drivers, practically all of them women. They afterwards increased the number to 17,000. There are only about 40,000 women private car drivers in London, and I am trying to get nearly half of them to promise to drive ambulances during a war, if it should come. I had an argument with the right hon. Gentleman, and I understand his case as to whether they should have a uniform or not. A woman in a uniform is going to be much more enthusiastic about joining the service. This is a recruiting point. It may be argued that they do not need a uniform; and it they are all put into uniform the Department is in for a pretty big bill. But it will be extraordinarily difficult to get these women ambulance drivers unless they are put in uniform, and brought out in public now and then. Cynics may say that it ought not to be so, but, as one who has to handle human beings, I can say that the problem will be much more easily solved that way. Despite these difficulties about recruitment, we can all, the local authorities and the State as well, say that the recruitment of about 1,000,000 people in the A.R.P. services in what is, after all, little more than a year, is a very great achievement. Those who say that this is an indication of the failure of the voluntary system are talking nonsense. It is an achievement which compares favourably with anything that the voluntary forces of the Crown have ever achieved.
I come to the question of the maintenance of production. The right hon. Gentleman said nothing about this important matter. We have to visualise the possibility of this country, in common with others, being subjected to severe aerial bombardment. Nevertheless, despite that disturbance of our social and domestic life, the fact remains that it will 1327 be of greater, and not less, importance that the economic life of the country should be maintained. I am not clear whether the Government have given consideration to this matter. Have they given consideration to the question of the location of industry in relation to this question of the mix-up of military and economic defence?
Ministers may say that there is a Royal Commission sitting to consider the geographical position of industry. I know that, and I know that it is taking account of this very problem. I gave evidence before the Commission, and spent a long time with it. But there is a responsibility on Ministers, in the meantime, to come to decisions. Have they thought about the location of industry in relation to national economic defence? Have they thought whether it would be expedient to close down certain non-essential industries which would not be needed in time of war? Have they thought whether industry can be maintained in running condition in the vulnerable areas? Do they propose to take what steps they can to secure the compulsory, reasonable protection of workpeople by their employers in industrial establishments, particularly those which must be maintained under war-time conditions in the interests of the nation? Are the Government, in the case of the shelter schemes, which are being developed in the various factories and economic undertakings, going to supervise them to see that they are adequate, reasonable and proper? It would not be wise to leave individual industrial undertakings to do what they like about the type of shelter they erect.
Can the Minister tell us anything about agreements with the public utility undertakings, and what arrangements have been made for the protection of the public utility services? Can he tell us more about the maintenance of food supplies in time of war, and whether London has a food controller or not? I know we had one; but shall we have a new one, and will he live in this country? All these are vital issues, and I am not satisfied that they have yet had consideration from Ministers. Also, what is being done to maintain the transport system in time of war? That is going to be a terrific problem. We must retain the railways if we can, but what is being done about 1328 road transport? We are taking away a large part of our road transport system for ambulances, fire services and so on. Nevertheless, road transport will be needed for economic services. Will the Minister give us some comprehensive picture of the road and rail services in time of war? Ministers have been thinking about this, after all, for years, and the Committee have a right to know what conclusions they have reached.
The Minister of Health will, no doubt, tell us about the organisation of the hospitals and other services. Are the first-aid and hospital schemes ready? Are the schemes for protection of hospital buildings and for the securing of a very large number of additional beds outside the vulnerable areas ready? It will be of the greatest importance that casualties in the great cities shall be got out as soon as they can safely be moved. What progress has been made with schemes for the provision of the proper number of beds required outside the cities for that purpose? And how are the Government arranging for proper supplies of medical requirements, equipment, vehicles, beds and so on? The London County Council have, in a number of ways, assisted the Government in regard to these matters; we are very happy to do so; but I am sure the Committee would like to know how things are going on in regard to these supplies.
In relation to the fire services, there is need for proper co-ordination between the various fire authorities and the State. In December, I drew attention to a very grave shortage of equipment. I do not want to give figures as to the situation at this moment, but I am pleased that the supplies have materially improved and that progress will be made in the next few months. But the supplies are not adequate. They will need to be increased much more. I shall be glad to know what is being done about this, because I have to find accommodation—it is all right, I have got it, but the equipment is not coming as quickly as it ought to do, although I freely recognise the difficulties. I am beginning to think that this problem, together with the problem of the Defence Departments, indicates that we would have been better off if we had had a Ministry of Supply.
I come to the question of evacuation. This is a State responsibility. The State is responsible for policy and decision, and 1329 for meeting the whole of the executive costs involved. There is some doubt among my hon. Friends as to whether the classification of areas, as between vulnerable, neutral and receiving, is right. We are open to conviction on the point, but, for example, my hon. Friends who come from the County of Durham tell me that there are some areas there classified as vulnerable and others in the same county classified as neutral. There may be argument as to whether sparsely populated areas are neutral and densely populated towns are vulnerable, but, on the face of it, I should have thought that the densely populated County of Durham should be classified as vulnerable, with its coastline and the other considerations that apply to it. We ought to know from somebody what is the real case for the classification of these areas, because if you get the situation, for example, that school children are sent to areas from which other people are going it will be a bit disturbing; and it looks as if that might happen under the scheme as it stands. It is entirely the responsibility of the Government as to where people go, but that should be cleared up, because it is causing apprehension. I understand that there will be certain privileged sections of the population in regard to evacuation. Quite rightly, school children, pre-school children, mothers, and possibly expectant mothers, will be privileged categories, and will be helped out by the local authorities before other people go. As far as I am concerned, if the panic-stricken people getting out would prevent these categories going, I would hold the panic-stricken people back by main force.
These people can be got out, provided that there is adequate preparation and provided that the Government can, with the co-operation of the transport undertakings, secure proper transport at the time, and provided that there is enough notice of the possibility of war. But one of the things that I am anxious about, both from our own point of view and from that of the other local authorities, is billeting at the other end. It is important that that should be properly prepared. Make no mistake about this, there was no preparation whatever at the time of the September crisis. Neither was there any preparation for the people going out. We would have got them out, and sooner or later they would have settled 1330 down, but they would have had a difficult time, because of the utter lack of preparation. It is, in my judgment, the duty of the citizen in time of emergency or of war to be ready to help people who, in the interests of the nation, must be shifted from one part of the country to another.
People who are to be evacuated must be ready to put up with inconveniences on the way and when they get to the other end. They must not expect a luxury hotel life. On the other hand, of the people who are to receive refugees the majority have been perfectly reasonable, kindly and. decent about it, but there are some people who are criticising, grumbling in advance, making aspersions about the school children from the poorer districts, which might have been appropriate in the days of Tory anarchy in the nineteenth century, but are not appropriate in these days, when the Labour party has made its mark. They are assuming that these children of the lower and middle classes are a nasty, dirty lot of children. It is not true of the vast majority, but even if it were true, the really nice, respectable classes of the population would deserve to have to take those children, because it would be partly their fault, and it might prick their social conscience. The truth is that the modern child cared for by the local education authority and the modern parent is a child of whom nobody need be afraid and of whom most people would become very fond.
If billeting has to be arranged—and I think it has—in houses or in camps, it has to be done fairly without injustice to anybody concerned. As it is, there are no compulsory powers in the matter, and I am apprehensive about the position under the existing scheme. Supposing some family who are visited by the local authority promise to take X children and Y adults—and it is important that we should have statistics so that adults can be taken as well as children—and say, "All right," and they are marked down to receive X children and Y adults. The emergency comes along and some well-to-do family calls; on these people and offers to give £5, £10, or £20 to fix them up in their cottage. The owner of the cottage may say, "I will take this; it is good money." Then the children who are sent out cannot go to that particular billet where they had expected to be 1331 taken. That sort of thing would create an impossible state of affairs.
If this matter is to be equitably administered there should be appropriate powers in the matter, and I invite the right hon. Gentleman to give that point the careful consideration that it actually deserves. It is important that the right hon. Gentleman should be allowed not only to take over private houses, but hotels, boarding houses, and large houses of the well-to-do, some of which will be needed for hospitals. It is necessary not only as a matter of administration that appropriate properties should be taken, but as a matter of importance to the social morale. It will do an enormous amount of good to the country if it is known and felt that those who own large properties or houses are to be compelled to play their part in the way they should.
I confess that when camps were first mentioned as a solution of the problem of evacuation, particularly in relation to children, I was not absolutely confident about it. If these children are taken out to large-scale camps within a reasonable distance of London they are likely to be targets for enemy aircraft. I wish that I could say that there is no aircraft in the world that would make a dead set at the killing of little children in camps where there can actually be no military advantage to the attacker, but I cannot say that. This has happened in Spain. The aircraft of Germany and of Italy have had specific orders to go for that kind of thing. Therefore, I confess that the idea of our children being housed together in very large camps anywhere near London makes me apprehensive, and I cannot become enthusiastic about it. On the other hand, if the children are to be sent a long distance, to North Wales or Cornwall, these camps will be too far away for peace-time holiday use by the education authorities, because the transport charges are so exceedingly high.
Therefore, I think that camps can play only a limited part in the solution of the problem. It must be limited, and in the main we have to depend upon billeting upon private houses and in hotels, boarding-houses and other property that is available and useful for the purpose. We have to be on guard against being unreasonable. There are the nice people who are not really nice, and the com- 1332 fortable classes who do not want the proletarian children. I feel that a lot of the correspondence in the "Times" is something on these lines, though I may be totally wrong about it. I should like some declaration from the Government on this matter, because we and the local authorities ought to know. I believe that there is a partial case for camps, and that they may be useful in other ways, but I am only expressing a personal view. I urge the Committee to be careful about improvising something attractive for other reasons which might not be able to stand the test of air-raid precautions as such.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the problem of babies, and perhaps someone will tell us more about how babies are to be dealt with from the gas point of view. It might be helpful. We understand that they cannot be provided with masks, but that there are other proposals.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is very difficult to explain in words exactly what the thing is. I think that the only course is to let hon. Members have a specification and description.
§ Colonel Nathan
Could not the right hon. Gentleman arrange for some specimen to be placed in the Tea Room, or something of the kind done, as specifications are very difficult to follow, and I speak as one associated with a children's hospital?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I can probably let hon. Members have the specification at once, but it will take time to arrange for a sample to be exhibited.
§ Mr. Morrison
Perhaps it would be well if both things could be done, but at the moment we seem to be a lost legion in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman has said that we ought not to be precipitant as to any decision on simple bomb-proof shelters for effective shelter against high explosives. I have said before, and I say it again to the Committee, we are not precipitant. This matter has been before Ministers for many years, and we really think that it is something in the nature of a public scandal that they should not have reached conclusions upon this vital point. It is a fundamental point in the whole policy of air-raid precautions. It is an essential and a vital decision of policy that ought to be reached. That is not to say that 1333 the Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues must not, in the meantime, go on with temporary and transitional arrangements. I do not complain about the provision of a steel shelter for immediate needs, provided I know that the right hon. Gentlemen is really going to reach a decision as to the more permanent shelter as rapidly as he can. A decision ought to have been reached by the present Government not merely months ago, but years ago. While the steel shelter is of some transitional value, I cannot believe that it is enough, and I am afraid of Ministers regarding the steel shelter as good enough for a permanent solution of the problem. It is not even adequate to offer temporary and limited use as protection against blast and splinters. The householder is told to put it in his garden. I am sorry to say that there are many householders or tenants who have no garden or have not a garden of sufficient size. That is true in many areas in this part of the country, in parts of the East End of London, and I have no doubt it is true in regard to large cities like Glasgow and other cities in Scotland.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but it is very important indeed that a mistaken impression should not get abroad. Let me make the position clear. The steel shelter is not put forward as an adequate expedient except where the circumstances are such that it can be used in the manner stated. Other expedients are suggested for the cases to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. [An HON. MEMBER. "What are they?"] They were set out in considerable detail in the statement that I made on the 21st December —the strengthening of basements and so on, and the provision of special communal shelters in underground premises or shelters specially constructed. There never has been any suggestion that the steel shelter should be used for a house where it cannot be installed according to the proposals put forward. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my interruption to make that point clear.
§ Mr. Morrison
I was perfectly clear about that. I understand that, but I do not see signs of a decision as to the long-term policy or the possibility of 100 per cent. protection against high explosives. It is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman that there has not yet been any de- 1334 cision on that point, but he rather indicated that he is enthusiastic about that line of policy.
§ Mr. Lansbury
May I ask whether there is an agreement with our potential enemies to allow us a transitional period before all this sort of thing happens? It is amazing to talk about transitional periods. I am puzzled.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has put that question to the right hon. Gentleman or to me.
§ Mr. Morrison
I cannot answer that question. I can only say that, in my view, as far as practicable, a 100 per cent. bomb-proof shelter is eminently desirable in the interests of the security of the people and in the interests of policy. I am bound to say that the time taken to achieve that end, owing to the delay of the Government, is going to be considerable. It may be a year.
§ Mr. Morrison
Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor my right hon. Friend will be able to influence Herr Hitler, I am afraid. I merely ask what is to be done to provide the maximum protection at this moment. My fundamental complaint is that the long-term and real policy was not faced a long time ago and dealt with effectively. The fact must be faced, therefore, that this so-called transitional policy is not meeting fully the transitional problem. It is admitted that in some places there are no gardens and no room at all, and it is not right to say that basement-strutted shelters can be provided. In some places there is no room even for a steel shelter. That is a serious state of affairs. There is an income limit in regard to the supply of the steel shelter of which in principle I do not complain, but it needs a little more elasticity to meet the requirements of particular border-line cases. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he might consider whether the £250 limit, or whatever limit is taken, could not be taken within the meaning of the administration of the Income Tax Acts. If that were done, the question of relief for children would come into it and 1335 you would get a fairer basis, and, moreover, the Income Tax returns are complete and you would be able to take effective advantage of them.
We are told that car parks are being considered. Has any information been obtained on behalf of the Government as to the use of car parks for subterranean shelters? Trenches are being dug. Some of the trenches in parks have been filled in. Trenches are better than steel shelters, but I still do not think that they are adequate. The fact must be faced that many of the trenches in open spaces are too far away for large numbers of the population and therefore cannot be regarded as adequate. The bomb-proof shelter is what we should aim at. It is of great value against panic, and anything that avoids panic is of real military value, especially if it is near the homes and the work of the residents, as it needs to be. In a bomb-proof shelter every person should have his appointed place and should go there and thus avoid a scramble for the best places. Moreover if we had them they would save large numbers of casualties, and afford relief to the warden services, the ambulance services and the hospital services. Indeed, their repercussion would be felt in all other services.
I believe that communal shelters would be cheap at the price and should be provided, although they would involve an expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds. That expenditure, in relation to the £2,000,000,000 or more which we are spending on defence, is a relatively small sum compared with the enormous advantages which would accrue if we could feel that the civilian population was to a high degree safe against aerial attack. Moreover—I put this last of all—would it not be a useful thing to put into work many thousands of people who are now unemployed, miners from the depressed areas, in the construction of these underground shelters? Would it not be a good thing if we could provide them with much needed employment for wages instead of being indefinitely continued on public relief of some kind? I confess that I am not at all happy about the state of mind of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to these shelters. I do not think he is taking the question seriously enough or appreciates the urgency of getting a clear-cut decision. Even if he gets a 1336 wrong decision let us have it, and the reasons for it. I think that adequate and proper shelters are necessary and ought to be pursued. The Finsbury scheme was the result of a great deal of thought, and although it may be technically subject to criticism they are entitled to a decision from the Government about it and also to the reasons for any decision the Government may make.
The tragedy to-day is a tragedy of lost years in air-raid precautions, for which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer must be held primarily responsible. If these years had not been lost many of the problems we are discussing to-day would have been solved. Whilst we recognise that there has been some improvement in administration since the right hon. Gentleman has held his office, there are important issues of policy on which we are still anxious and worried and upon which we must reserve our right to criticise and press him. We have no desire to make this vital service of air-raid precautions a mere matter of party politics. It is a field in which there is plenty of room for co-operation between both political parties and in which all citizens, irrespective of politics, can be helpful. I can promise the right hon. Gentleman that we shall not needlessly and out of pure malice make politics of this business, but he will understand that we have strong convictions as to what policy should be pursued and we must reserve the right to criticise the right hon. Gentleman until we get him to adopt the policy which we think is right.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
This Debate is the first occasion the Committee has had of taking stock of the progress which has been made in air-raid precautions and other branches of Civil Defence since my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has been entrusted with his very important responsibilities. We have heard Ministers on many occasions make speeches in which they have appeared to give the impression of perhaps greater activity in their Departments than has seemed to many of us to be the case. My right hon. Friend belongs to a rarer category. I did not feel, even in the comprehensive survey he gave us this afternoon, that he made the most of what he and his Department have done during the months he has been in office. Everyone who is in 1337 touch with the progress of our air-raid precautionary plans has been impressed by the fresh impetus and the new drive, of which there has been so much evidence during recent months. The change, the happy change, as many of us think, which has taken place in the Government's attitude towards the whole problem of air-raid precautions is due to a great extent to the ability and the long administrative experience of my right hon. Friend.
But in comparing the rate of progress of air-raid precautions now and under his predecessor, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be the first to admit that he is working under much more favourable conditions than his predecessor. In the first place, there was the September crisis. The Treasury are since then far readier to envisage and sanction large-scale expenditure than they were before. The second change which has taken place, and which I think is the more important one, is the decision which many hon. Members have been asking for for a long time—the decision to separate air-raid precautions from the other responsibilities of the Home Office. The old arrangement under which air-raid precautions was entrusted to the Home Office as a kind of minor side-line was a system which did justice neither to the Minister nor to the job. From hearing my right hon. Friend's speech the Committee must have been impressed by the great variety of problems with which my right hon. Friend has to deal. I am sure that he will readily recognise that if he had had to combine all the work he is doing now with the duties of a Home Secretary—if he had had to devote two mornings in the week to piloting the Criminal Justice Bill through its Committee stages, with all the preparatory work which that involves, if he had had to conduct Debates in this House such as the one the other evening on the disturbances in Parliament Square, if his time and attention had constantly been taken up with problems of aliens and refugees, in short if he had had in addition to his present responsibilities to discharge all the hundred and one day to day duties of a Home Secretary, he would hardly have been able to effect the rapid progress in Civil Defence upon which we congratulate him this afternoon.
I wish in my remarks to deal exclusively with the vital problem of shelters 1338 to which the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has just referred. By far the most important thing which the Lord Privy Seal has done since he has been in office, has been to scrap the shelter policy of the old householder's handbook, the policy of the gas-proof refuge room, with sticky paper on the windows, and to substitute for it the very real protection of what has become known as the Anderson steel shelter. I believe that the new steel shelter, provided it is well covered over with earth, will afford a very high degree of protection. On the matter of covering the shelter, I would ask my right hon. Friend if he will indicate what the Government's plans are for the provision of earth or sand or rubble for the purpose of covering over these shelters in places where they cannot be sunk more than a foot or two into the ground and where there is not sufficient earth to cover them.
I very much deplore the campaign which is being conducted on the platform and in the Press against these steel shelters. Nobody suggests that they are capable of resisting a direct hit, but any fair-minded person must recognise that they do afford an extremely high degree of protection against blast and splinters. In my opinion it is a most irresponsible and ill-considered campaign. It will have the effect not of securing bomb-proof shelters but merely of undermining the confidence of the public in the shelters which are being provided. I went to Islington the other day and talked to some of the people who have received these shelters. Many of them were pleased with them. But I met some people who said that they had refused to accept a shelter because they had been told that it was of no use at all. It is a grave responsibility for anybody to take to advise people against receiving and erecting these shelters. The result will be that if there is a war these people will be without protection.
In view of this controversy I would like to examine the shelter problem in some detail. There are, as I see it, three essential requirements for an air-raid shelter. The first is that the shelter must be close at hand, that is to say, it must be close to the factory or to the home of the people for whom the protection is intended. In the second place—and this in my opinion is the order of their importance—the shelter must be so designed 1339 as to avoid panic both inside and outside. That is to say that the shelter must either be small, or, if it is to accommodate a large number of people, then it must be internally subdivided and externally approachable by a number of separate entrances. The third essential requirement—and in my view only the third—is that the shelter must provide the greatest possible degree of protection. Now the new Anderson steel shelter satisfies the first and second requirements completely. It is very close at hand—in the backyard —and obviously there can be no danger of panic whatsoever. As regards the third requirement, the steel shelter does not of course provide against the direct hit but, apart from the direct hit or the bomb which falls so close as to be ranked virtually as a direct hit, the shelter affords very nearly complete protection.
If we were devising a theoretically ideal shelter I suppose that the type we should choose would be the continuous deep bomb-proof tunnel running along all our streets, to which access would be obtained by entrances at frequent intervals along the pavements. But I think that hon. Members will recognise that, from an engineering as well as from a financial standpoint, such a scheme is not a practical proposition. The alternative which is proposed by those who advocate it is the large bomb-proof shelter of the Finsbury type. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal— and I hope that he will be able shortly to tell us in greater detail what are his intentions in this matter—that there are quite a number of special instances where there is a definite necessity for a bombproof shelter, particularly in factories and docks which are themselves likely to be the specific targets of air attacks. In those special instances there is, I think, a very strong case indeed for the provision of bomb-proof shelters.
But apart from that, my own opinion is that what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney described as a policy of "bomb-proof shelters for all" must definitely be rejected. It must be rejected not on grounds of economy—for if it were necessary the money should be found—nor even on the grounds of the shortness of the time. Such a policy must be rejected on the grounds that large bomb-proof shelters do not satisfy either of the first two essential requirements to 1340 which I have referred. In the first place they cannot be sufficiently close for a very large proportion of the people for whose protection they are intended. It is obvious that, if the shelter is going to accommodate several thousands of people, the area from which those people would be drawn must necessarily be a large one, and therefore the distances which many of them would have to come would be correspondingly long. In the second place, the large bomb-proof shelter presents a serious danger of congestion and panic. The fact that the deep shelter does provide complete and absolute protection against a direct hit by even the heaviest bomb does not in my view make up for its failure to satisfy the first two essential requirements. If the shelter is too far away many people will not bother to go to it. Equally, if it is known that there is a danger of panic people will be afraid to go to it. Therefore I come back to my two original points, which I wish to emphasise at somewhat greater length. A shelter, if it is to be an effective shelter, must be close at hand. I believe that after a time, under war conditions, a very large number of people will become hardened and casual. If the raids are frequent people will become more and more reluctant to go even a few hundred yards to a public shelter, especially at night time. I would go so far as to say that even with the new steel shelters there will be many people who will prefer to take the risk of being bombed in their beds rather than get up and go out in the cold to the shelters in their backyards. I believe that is a factor which we must take into consideration in discussing shelter policy.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that in Spain after several raids, and after people had seen the destruction and the dead and mutilated people lying about, more and more people went to the deep shelters?
§ Mr. Sandys
In Spain, except on one occasion in March of last year, they did not have the continual raids which I think we may have to contemplate in a major war in this country. If you are only having a series of raids once a fortnight or two raids in the same 24 hours, it is worth while to go out to the public shelters. But if the raids go on hour after hour and day after day perhaps for a week, well, I cannot help feeling that 1341 people will get so exhausted going backwards and forwards to the shelters all the time, and perhaps having to stand up for long periods in crowded underground tunnels, that they will say, "Well I would sooner take the risk." I believe that is a consideration which my right hon. Friend should take into account in planning his shelter policy.
My second point is that the danger of panic must be avoided at all costs. That is why I do not like these schemes for mass shelters, such as the Finsbury scheme. It is, I think, proposed that some of these should accommodate up to 12,000 people. These proposals fill me with grave misgiving. I think these shelters present a frightful danger. In the first place, there is the danger of congestion and confusion at the entrances as well as in the streets leading up to those entrances. And once inside the shelter the danger of panic is quite enormous. I can imagine myself standing on the vast spiral ramp somewhere halfway down, with 6,000 people below me and another 6,000 above me—a sea of human bodies all around me. It is not at all a pleasant thought. A very few cases of claustrophobia might easily panic and stampede the whole 12,000. I have only once in my life come across an instance of claustrophobia. It was the case of a perfectly responsible person, a lady whom many hon. Members know. It was after King George V's Jubilee procession in the Mall. We were coming down from the stands, and there was a big crowd in St. James's Park. This lady got very much upset by the crush and started hitting out wildly with her umbrella in all directions. I must say it was a most distressing and disturbing sight. If a normally balanced woman could get into that state in the open air, in broad daylight, in peace time, in St. James's Park, well, I shudder to think of her condition if she were to find herself in a mass shelter with 12,000 other people, deep down in the bowels of the earth, in the middle of an air raid, in war time. One catastrophe of that kind, the stampeding of one of those shelters, and nobody would any longer dare to go into any of them again.
For these reasons, even if there were unlimited money and unlimited time, I myself would not favour a policy of large bomb-proof shelters for the whole population of vulnerable areas. What is more, 1342 there is not unlimited money. We must not forget that fact, even though we are growing accustomed to vote large sums amounting to hundreds of millions for defence. Money is not unlimited, and there is no room for waste. There is a limit to the credit even of this country. As for the question of time, that is certainly not unlimited either. The time factor in my view is the most important consideration in the whole matter. We all hope there is not going to be war, but we should not be discussing this subject this afternoon unless we felt there was a serious possibility of war. That is why I welcome the speeches which my right hon. Friend has been making recently. The Lord Privy Seal's recent speeches have made it clear that, whilst he does not expect war, he is nevertheless planning his air-raid precautionary schemes on the basis that there is going to be a war in the very near future. That is the only sound basis on which to make our plans. My own estimate—and in considering these questions we have to form some estimate—is that the danger of war will continue to increase until about next autumn, but that from then onwards the danger will begin to diminish and will gradually recede. I would not mention that view if it were not a view which is very widely held. If such an estimate is in the least correct, it is clear that our A.R.P. policy must be to provide the greatest protection for the greatest number in the shortest possible time. The emphasis must be laid, above all else, on the shortness of the time. I should not be prepared to say that the new steel household shelter is the very best form of protection that could conceivably be devised in any circumstances. I am, however, quite convinced that, given a limited time in which to complete our preparations, the Anderson Shelter offers the very best means of providing a high degree of protection for a very large number of people with the very least possible delay.
By devising and producing these shelters the Lord Privy Seal has not merely greatly increased the preparedness of the country for war. I think he has done something more important still. He has materially increased the prospects of peace. The distributing and erecting of these shelters is going to make a very profound impression abroad. I think it is going to make a more profound impression, perhaps, than the production of 1343 many new guns and aeroplanes. It will demonstrate to other countries the resolute and stout-hearted attitude of mind of our people. It will show that the British nation is not a nation whose nerves it would be easy to shake. It will show, moreover—and it needs showing now before it is too late—that there is a limit to the price which even the British people are prepared to pay for peace. Every family who erect one of these shelters in their back garden or back yard will, far more effectively than any speech of any Cabinet Minister, be demonstrating to the world that, if all our efforts at conciliation should finally fail, the British people, rather than sacrifice the freedom which is their birthright, are in the last resort ready and resolved to face the grim ordeal of war with calm determination.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
We have had a very interesting survey of this gigantic problem by the Lord Privy Seal. I make no complaint of its great length, because I realise that he had a very large field to cover, and, of course, the length of the speech was increased by constant interruptions—adequate evidence of the real interest of the House of Commons in this complex problem. And if the House is interested I am satisfied that the country is even more so. The wholesale distribution of gas masks brought home to the average citizen the seriousness of the question, and I do not think they want to be stirred into realisation of the necessity for active Civil Defence. I was glad the right hon. Gentleman was able to assure the House that the situation is very different from what it was in September. That was to a certain extent a censure on the administration that preceded him. It is appalling to think what the situation would have been last September if the dread event had occurred of a war in that last crisis. It is quite clear, on the right hon. Gentleman's own admission, that it would more or less, at any rate as regards Civil Defence, have caught the country unprepared.
We now have some seven Ministers identified with this work. Sometimes I think that a multitude of Ministers causes confusion, but inevitably, if we are going to have satisfactory results, it is necessary to bring in all these various Departments of State. I would impress upon the Minister that he has to be the 1344 top dog. In order to satisfy the country, he has to assert himself and be really the Minister of Civil Defence. We do not want him to degenerate into a mere coordinator. We shall make him responsible for failure. The Minister of Labour already has his hands full, because his job is to concentrate on such questions as unemployment, while the sphere of the Minister of Health is extensive, spreading over a large number of problems of health. Although these Ministers must be brought into this work, and must place all their organisation and knowledge at the right hon. Gentleman's service, I press upon the Minister to assert himself, to act as the leader and take the responsibility, to assert himself in the Cabinet and be prepared to give the nation a lead and not do what too often happens when responsibility is spread—refer questioners to another Minister and endeavour to shift the responsibility. What the nation is asking for is a clear lead. Democracy has its faults—some say it is on its trial —but it has great advantages. We are able to spread and share responsibility and in any problem which so intimately affects the lives of the people, provided that the Government will give a clear lead, they may be quite sure that the nation will generously respond.
One thing is not clear even after the right hon. Gentleman's speech of an hour and a half. It is not clear how far city life in a place like London—it applies also to places like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh —in the case of an outbreak of hostilities and danger of air attack will function. Many think, and I have heard it seriously contended by a very distinguished Member of the House, that London would be paralysed, the whole industrial system would break down and it would be a deserted city. It would be something like a month of Sundays. Anything of that kind would be disastrous. It would have world repercussions. It would discourage our friends and encourage our enemies. It would be equally unfortunate if the theory got abroad—some people apparently take that view—that it would be "business as usual." In the last War in the first few weeks people were running around talking about "business as usual," and then, of course, they went to the other extreme. What we want is guidance, both to employer and employed, 1345 not at the last moment, or on the outbreak of hostilities, or at some future time, but now and without delay.
One very powerful reason why the Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman was such a distinguished Chairman, and of which I was a Member, pressed forward the idea of the evacuation of schools was that, if we could get the children out of London and spread them over the country, it would materially simplify the evacuation of adults and, equally important, the sheltering of those who have to remain. There were many other reasons that influenced our decision, such as the effect on the nerves of the children. There was a great deal of conflict of evidence as to the reaction of the parents. A very powerful organisation came to us and said, and really believed, that the parents would never agree to part with their children and would insist on maintaining family life intact. That is a very good example of working out your policy in good time. When these proposals were put to the test 80 per cent. of the parents agreed to part with their children.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) said, we are still very far from a complete solution even of the small problem of the evacuation of school children. I am very glad that the work has been transferred from the Home Office to the Minister of Health, not merely because of confidence in himself, although I quite recognise the energy and initiative with which he has already taken the problem in hand, but because his Department is accustomed to co-operating with local authorities, and in this very big proposition of the evacuation of something like 2,000,000 children all over the country you want the most intimate personal contact and complete co-operation between the Minister and local authorities.
I met some 300 London teachers the other day. They invited me because they thought I could give them some information. I was able to say that my work stopped last July. We issued our report then. We hurried it up because we were told that it was essential that it should be ready by July, and we pressed on the Government the necessity of forthwith working out details. I recognise that it is a big job. I found every one of those head teachers in complete darkness as to what was really to happen if they were 1346 called upon to organise the evacuation of their schools. They did not know where they were to go. They had some idea of what railway station they were to start from, but they were in complete darkness as to their destination. I press on the Lord Privy Seal and the Minister of Health to hurry up this work and to bring education authorities and the school teachers into co-operation so that they will be able to work out the details, and to the success of wholesale evacuation detail is everything.
I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend said about school camps. We went very thoroughly into the idea. By all means let school camps, as such, be built. They will provide excellent holiday camps and will provide facilities for thousands of children and it will be an excellent asset to the nation and a permanent investment. As a contribution to the problem of evacuation, however, I am afraid these 50 camps would be of very little assistance. It would be a matter of dealing with millions, and these camps, in an emergency, would provide accommodation for only 17,500. Therefore, we must fall back on billeting as a solution. As far as I can gather, the bulk of the people in the reception areas realise their responsibility, although there may be a certain amount of grumbling and discontent. If these people realise that this is their contribution to the safety of the State, I think their spirit will change.
We have to recognise that in the case of aerial bombardment there is bound to be a wholesale exodus from the large towns. During the last War, and even during the crisis last September, there was a considerable exodus from London. In so far as people are not economic units and are not likely to make a contribution to the economic life of the city, they should be encouraged to leave and to make their own arrangements for doing so; but even here, I suggest that it would be wise for the Government to give some guidance. Thousands of people are puzzled to know what their duty would be in such an emergency. Would it be their duty to leave their work directly hostilities broke out, or would it be their duty to stay at their job and carry on with their ordinary work? For instance, what arrangements are the Government Departments making? I have heard that at least one or two Departments have 1347 made arrangements already to move their staff and organisation to other towns. There is no reason for secrecy, and I suggest that it would be wise for the Government to let the public and the staff in the Government Departments know clearly and definitely, in 1939, before the trouble arises, what they would be expected to do, in order that they might make arrangements for their families.
Many wealthy corporations and industrial organisations—for instance, Imperial Chemical Industries—have made arrangements, in the event of war, either to break up their staff and scatter it about the country, or to move it to new headquarters in the Provinces. London is essentially a city of small industries and workshops. One-fifth of the insured persons living in the London area are working in comparatively small workshops and scattered industries. It would be a mistake to think that these industries are not essential industries. It may surprise many hon. Members to know that 30 per cent. of the engineering productive capacity of the country is in London. The Ministry of Labour estimate that 62 per cent. of the workers in London are in industries and employment which would be essential in time of war.
Advice ought to be given to these small industries as to whether they should make arrangements to shift their factories, workshops and offices into the country, or whether they should carry on and rely upon the State to provide the necessary shelters. Many thousands of small people, such as retailers and distributive firms, would find their living gone on the outbreak of war, and they would not know what to do, or how best to serve the State. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has a department which concerns itself with planning. Has he worked out in detail any plans with regard to the industrial life in our great towns? So far, we have had no guidance in that direction. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has been engaged on this work for only four months, but the question is an urgent one, and he ought to give a lead to business, industry, employers and employés by letting them know what they would be expected to do in case of war.
Another question which arises is that of rent. In talking to a group of employers a few days ago, I suggested to them that they would be wise to make 1348 arrangements to transfer their headquarters to neutral areas. I was immediately asked the practical question as to what would happen with regard to rent. Would such people be required to pay rent for offices and workshops which they were not occupying? There ought in such circumstances to be a moratorium. The Government ought to state their policy on this now, so that business men and small people who are struggling to make both ends meet would know exactly what would be expected of them.
I do not intend to delve deeply into the thorny and controversial question of bomb-proof shelters. The right hon. Gentleman took great exception to the description "bomb-proof shelters," and described them rather as strongly protected shelters. I agree that on this matter there is a very great difference of opinion, but there are several highly technical organisations and responsible engineers and architects who would provide adequate bomb-proof shelters of any sort which the right hon. Gentleman might decide to have. Let the right hon. Gentleman take cover behind technical advice of the highest quality before he turns down proposals for providing shelters for those who have to remain in the great towns. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and with the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) that there is a great deal of confused thought on this subject. Nobody has suggested that all the 8,000,000 people in Greater London should be provided with bomb-proof shelters.
§ Mr. Sandys
That is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) asked for.
§ Sir P. Harris
I do not think that even the right hon. Gentleman had that in mind. The conditions in the suburbs, where there are scattered buildings and two-storeyed cottages, are very different from the conditions in the centre of the City. The same thing applies in the provinces. In the centre of London, there are often 80,000 people to the square mile, and many people live, not in cottages, but in block dwellings, some of them old-fashioned and out of date, which would be shattered without even receiving a direct hit. If children are evacuated, and if a large number of people who are not required for the industrial life of 1349 the City are dispersed, the problem will be very much reduced. If one leaves aside those parts of the great towns where people are living in scattered houses, where they have gardens and will be able to use the steel shelters which the right hon. Gentleman is to provide, the problem of providing deep shelters will be very much simplified. We have a very great deal of technical advice on this subject. Most hon. Members will have seen the report of a lecture delivered by Mr. Cyril Helsby to the Institution of Structural Engineers. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has read that excellent paper. I would like to quote the opinion expressed by Dr. Oscar Faber in the discussion that followed the lecture. Dr. Faber is probably one of the most experienced constructional engineers in the world. He was responsible for the construction of no less a place than the Bank of England. He is an engineer of great experience and very high prestige, and I think his opinion should have some influence on the right hon. Gentleman. He said:In the matter of the shelters, however, with detonator slabs of reinforced concrete and a soft cushion layer, with the shelter proper underneath, such shelters could be built in London just as effectively as they had been built in Barcelona, and they were certainly bomb-proof. The cost would be something like from £12 to £15 per head of the population, assuming that large numbers were being dealt with.To suggest that the people of this country were not worth £12 to £15 per head when it was remembered what it had cost to bring them into the world and educate them, did not seem to make sense.That is an opinion which cannot be ignored. We have heard a great deal about the Finsbury scheme. It is not, in fact, a scheme that was invented by Finsbury, but the scheme of four responsible and highly qualified architects, one of whom is a constructional engineer. The plan has been worked out in detail, and it is claimed that it would provide safety to the extent of 95 per cent. for a cost of some £10 per head. It is not for me or for the Committee to recommend one particular scheme as against another, but in the light of the technical advice that has been given, I suggest that it is time the Government made up their mind one way or the other. Let them say definitely whether or not the country can afford these bomb-proof shelters, and whether these shelters would provide adequate 1350 safety. During the last two or three years, the Government have never been ready to take decisions and assume responsibility in these matters. Let them make up their mind and give the nation a lead. If they do not do so, they will have a serious responsibility and if ever war comes, they would be very wise to keep away from lamp-posts, for the public would hold them responsible. They have discussed the problem long enough, and it is time that they came to a definite decision on what is a very practical, a very real and a very vital matter.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
Like the hon. Baronet, I make no complaint about the length of the opening speech in this Debate. Indeed, I could well have listened to the Lord Privy Seal for a considerably longer period because there were many other matters on which he might have spoken. I think the length of the speech indicates the vast scope which has to be covered by the Minister in charge of this entirely new service. There has been a change in the atmosphere of air-raid precautions since the Lord Privy Seal took over, and rarely within recent months has a Debate taken place in the House of Commons which had excited more intense interest, both here and outside, than this Debate. The evidence of that may not be apparent in the attendance at the moment. It is to be found, however, in the number of Members who desire to take part in the Debate, and with that in mind, I shall do my best to curtail my remarks.
I am certain that the Lord Privy Seal can rest assured that the House of Commons is anxious to help in this matter. For that reason he will not be upset if he finds that some remarks in this Debate are of a critical nature, and even that many people are a little more outspoken than they might otherwise be. That is because they are anxious to put before my right hon. Friend, in the most forcible manner possible, the ideas which they have collected on this subject from those with practical knowledge of it, and having said that, let me at once say that I look back with some regret on the words which the Lord Privy Seal used about the A.R.P. personnel. I am certain he did not intend to do so, but he conveyed to me a certain impatience, and even intolerance, of complaints 1351 which have been brought to his attention by those who compose this great army of 1,250,000 men and women.
§ Sir J. Anderson indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Mabane
I am glad to see from the shake of his head that my right hon. Friend had no such intention. I am sure the last thing he would desire is that any of this great army should feel that he was impatient of points which they desired to bring to his notice. For my part, I desire to pay a tribute to the keenness of those engaged in A.R.P. work in all the parts of the country with which I am familiar. It is, indeed, remarkable. The enthusiasm and ability of many of those who are in positions of control, the inventiveness with which wardens are setting about their work and their knowledge of the tasks which they are performing, will surprise anybody who takes the trouble to visit any of the centres where the air wardens meet together. If any hon. Member should be under the impression that the duties of an air warden are light, or that the training to be undergone is simple, I would refer him to A.R.P. Memorandum No. 4, where he will find set out the syllabus of training. I, myself, if I may say so, spent part of last Sunday morning —what some might regard as a busman's holiday—in a gas chamber, where there were 1,400 wardens completing the last part of their training, and one could not but be impressed by the tremendous enthusiasm of those men and women.
I wish to concentrate particularly upon the matter of personnel to-night, as I see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is to reply to this Debate, and I will deal only with what seem to me to be severely practical points. I hope my right hon. Friend and the Committee will not think that the details to which I shall refer are unimportant. If they were to go among the A.R.P. personnel they would find that these points are not regarded by them as unimportant.
Before I go into those matters of detail, however, I should like to ask some questions about the numbers. I was surprised to find in the "Statement relating to Defence," these words:The estimated establishment of volunteers for general air-raid precaution purposes, for the whole country, is of the order of 1352 1,100,000. Up to the end of December the numbers reported as enrolled were about 1,150,000.It appears to me that those two sentences, worded in that way, are misleading. These figures appear to indicate that the establishment is already full. I was particularly alarmed by that statement, because it seemed to me that it might tend to discourage recruiting. Any member of the public reading it might say, "There is no need for me to volunteer because the establishment is already more than complete." Of course, the figures cannot mean anything of the sort. The important figure is the number of volunteers who are in training in the sense that, having enrolled, they are going on with their training. Such information as I have indicates that many of those who gave in their names during the week of crisis have never been heard of since, and that in some areas as high a proportion as 70 per cent. of those who gave in their names have not undergone any further training.
There is, however, a more important gloss to be put upon these figures. Whereas there may be 1,150,000 who have given in their names over the whole country, when that number is distributed geographically, the picture becomes entirely different. In county areas where, to be frank, the need for wardens is not so important, the establishment is not only made up, but in many cases very much exceeded, whereas, in the congested industrial areas enrolment has been by no means satisfactory. In virtually every case, the establishment in those areas is by no means made up to full strength. With some hon. Friends of mine, I have done considerable work in this matter, and I can give figures to the Committee which illustrate the conditions in some of the congested areas, far more accurately than the figures in the document from which I have just quoted.
If we take Birmingham, Huddersfield, Leicester, Leeds, Manchester and Norwich, areas which represent a very substantial figure of population, we find that the establishment of wardens in those towns in aggregate is 35,000 and the enrolment to date is 23,900, while the number trained is only 10,000, that is to say, less than one-third of the establishment. If we take first-aid personnel (in this case omitting Leicester) we find that the total establishment for those areas is 1353 30,000; the number enrolled is 14,800, or 50 per cent., and the number trained is 7,500, or 25 per cent. of establishment. We also find that the establishment of auxiliary firemen for these towns (in this case excluding Norwich) is 22,000, while the number enrolled is only 11,000, or again 50 per cent. and in the case of other services, such as decontamination squads and so on, the establishment for those areas is 12,800 and the number enrolled is about 8,000. So, we see that the figures of enrolment in the congested areas, where wardens are badly needed, are not nearly so good as the figures indicated in the "Statement Relating to Defence" which referred to 1,150,000 enrolled up to the end of December. It is important, as I say, that the matter should be made clear lest the figures in that document might appear to be a discouragement to recruiting, or might convey, even to Members of this Committee, that the matter was over, and that there was no further need for effort.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
If I may interrupt my hon. Friend, I would point out that when those figures were given originally it was said that a further statement would be made covering the period up to 8th February.
§ Mr. Mabane
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. I was about to come to the question of publicity. It is a long time since the Home Secretary was asked to publish figures month by month showing the extent to which volunteers had come forward. The motive behind the demand for publicity was to encourage the inhabitants of areas where there were deficiencies to come forward and enrol.
I turn to another matter which I consider to be highly important in relation to A.R.P. volunteer personnel, and that is the nature of the organisation. I observe that in the second edition of A.R.P. Memorandum No. 4, warden officers, if I may so call them, are given capital letters—Chief Wardens, Divisional Wardens, Head Wardens, and so on. But such a thing as a Chief Warden or a Divisional Warden is known neither to God nor man. The terms occur in no Statute, and there is no formality of appointment. I observe it is said in this document that men of certain qualifications should be chosen for these higher positions in the warden organisation. 1354 Can my right hon. Friend give this Committee and also the wardens, some assurance that before long these appointments of warden officers will be formalised?
I take the parallel of the special constabulary. In a city there is the chief constable in control of the regular constabulary, and side by side with him there is a chief of special constables, usually appointed by the watch committee. Under him the special constabulary organisation in that city works, and he is responsible for promotions in the special constabulary. It would be a great encouragement to those who are taking part in this great volunteer A.R.P. army, if the hierarchy, as I may call it, of the warden service were formalised, and if in each city or town there was a chief warden, formally appointed by the watch committee or the A.R.P. committee, such appointments to be approved by the Lord Privy Seal's Department. Such an officer would work side by side with the chief constable and under him there would be subordinate officers, whose promotion he would, in the main, control. If such a formalisation, for which some of us have pressed for a long time, were undertaken, a number of good consequences would flow from it. It would tend to remove all the difficulties which have arisen as a result of the circular putting the warden service under the chief constables. It would raise the prestige of the service, and it would make the volunteer personnel feel a great deal more satisfied with their own position.
It is important to realise that this organisation depends upon volunteer wardens, some of whom are appointed to senior positions, and that any one of these men or women may, at any time, say, "I am not going to do this work any longer." There is no contract of service, and that is the next point to which I would draw attention. In one of his earlier speeches on this subject the Lord Privy Seal indicated that the volunteer personnel would be asked to undertake some contract. I have made inquiries from these volunteers about whether they would like to undertake a formal contract or not, and I find an almost unanimous desire among them to undertake some form of contract. At present, they merely give their names to some body and that is the end of it. There is no contract comparable with that 1355 of the Territorial Force or even that of the special constabulary. The latter is a very light form of contract. In most places a special constable can resign on giving a month's notice. These wardens have no sort of contract at all, and my inquiries convince me that they themselves would prefer to feel that they really had some status, and that they were not regarded, as one of them said to me, as if they were a kind of "Fred Karno's army."
If I may turn to another matter, which, I believe, is of considerable importance, in connection with this volunteer work, it is the question of the travelling or out-of-pocket expenses of the wardens. I am sure hon. Members are not aware of the amount of money and time that these men and women, numbering 1,000,000 and more, are putting in. I was talking the other day to a Divisional Warden, who told me that in the last 18 months he had run 90miles a week in his car at his own expense. I have same intimate knowledge of the time given and the expense incurred by these volunteers during the week of the crisis. They make no complaint, but many of those who are in senior positions do not like to feel that many of their wardens, often unemployed men or men on low wages, have to pay their own travelling expenses to come to training or to engage in many of the tasks that have to be done consequent upon the training.
During the passage of the Air-Raid Precautions Act many of us pressed that this matter should be dealt with, and indeed words were inserted that led us to believe that these expenses were to be given. Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether the Lord Privy Seal's Department know in how many areas travelling expenses are now being paid, and, if so, on what basis they are being paid? In one large city the other day I saw travelling expenses being paid, and I will indicate briefly what happened. The wardens come along, and at the outset of their evening's training or work one of the officers, who is sometimes a police officer, says, "Will those who want expenses come forward and fill in the form." That, of course, has a very considerable deterrent effect. Anyhow, those who want expenses go along and sign the form, and eventually they are 1356 presented with their two pence or three pence, and, so far as I can judge, the cost of the time of the officer doing the clerical work is more than is paid out in expenses. Why not pay a lump sum? I feel that that matter, if it could be dealt with, would add to the general satisfaction of this volunteer army.
§ Mr. Montague
The hon. Member suggests that wardens should have the status of special constables. Has he any idea of the kind of authority that should be vested in them and how it should be exercised?
§ Mr. Mabane
I was not suggesting that the wardens should have the status of special constables. I merely said that many of them desired to enter into some form of contract, and I gave the example of the special constables' contract as a contract that is light, in that it is easy to avoid; I mean, that a man can resign by giving a month's notice. There are other forms of contract into which an individual may enter, of a much more arduous character, but I want the Government to devise some form of contract that would be as light as possible. The hon. Gentleman will realise why many of these men desire such a contract. They want to be certain that in a time of emergency, not only themselves but others who joined with them also, will turn up.
To refer to another matter, hon. Members will know that the A.R.P. volunteer is entitled to a badge. These badges have been issued. They are solid silver badges, and they have been issued, presumably, because the Government desire them to be worn. I think it would be a good thing if they were worn, but the badges issued are too large. Some of us told the Home Office in July last that they were too large. They are of a size that the Englishman does not want to wear. At the present time there are being sold in the shops precisely similar but somewhat smaller badges, more of the size of the Territorial Army badge. That badge is being bought for 2s. I should say that not one in 10 wardens wears the large badge, and I suggest that it would be a good thing, if these badges are meant to be worn, that the Government should make arrangements to strike smaller badges and issue them in exchange for the larger badges. I would also ask whether it is legal for any ordinary shop 1357 to sell even the A.R.P. badge indiscriminately to anyone who cares to buy it.
Then I would like to say a few words in regard to the devlopment of an esprit de corps and of the social activities of the wardens. It is very important, from the point of view of the wardens, that for this purpose they should be provided with adequate premises, and I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether any further progress has been made in the provision of premises in which these wardens can develop social activities and create the sense that they are a body of men who have to work together and who will work together in time of war.
I have concentrated my attention on this matter of A.R.P. personnel. If hon. Members were to go among these wardens, they would find that in many directions they have advanced beyond the instructions issued to them, in the first place, by the Home Office and now by the Lord Privy Seal's Department. They have had to improvise, and in default of instructions, they have decided to do certain things themselves. This is discouraging, and I want, therefore, in conclusion, to make a further suggestion that I think may be of value. There are, in all the large towns and cities, chief wardens. They have no means of communication higher up, except to their local authority, and I should like to see the Lord Privy Seal's Department arrange that in areas, perhaps in county areas, such, for instance, as the West Riding of Yorkshire, the various chief wardens should be called together for a conference about their own particular difficulties. The organisation might even be extended, and there might be, if we can devise a word to indicate a rank above chief warden, an area chief warden over the chief wardens for the whole of the West Riding, and there might eventually be the great warden of all for the whole county, to whom communication might be made of the difficulties arising in particular areas and those difficulties communicated directly to the Department of the Lord Privy Seal.
I am certain that if such a channel of communication were provided, it would result in the work of the wardens being made much easier and in the instructions in many cases being much more practical. To a very considerable extent the instructions issued centrally about the duties of wardens, either in peace or in war, are 1358 devised, not entirely but substantially, sitting at an office desk, whereas if before they were issued they could be built up on the practical considerations submitted from the chief wardens in the great towns and cities, I think they would be much more likely to be practical and would help the wardens to get on with their job a great deal better. I have asked a great number of questions and concentrated on points of detail, and I sincerely hope that on some of them my right hon. Friend will be able to give me a reply at the end of the Debate.
§ Mr. F. Anderson
Before the hon. Member resumes his seat, will he say, first, how far his inquiries have gone with respect to air-raid wardens and their desire to have some form of contract? The second point that I would like to ask is this: Does it not indicate that there is a doubt, a dubiety, in the minds of those people who want a form of contract that their courage will not stand up to the work required to be done, and does it not also indicate that if they sign a form of contract, it may be a deterrent to those who are prepared to volunteer already?
§ Mr. Mabane
I do not think so. I have made inquiries in many parts of the country and from many wardens, and I have found no dissent from the notion that there should be a form of contract. They feel that it would give them a greater dignity and prestige, and, particularly in the case of those who are appointed as senior or head wardens, that it would give them some security in their position. So far as I can judge, there is nothing in the notion that a form of contract is likely to act as a deterrent to those who have volunteered already. If the hon. Member will come with me, I will take him among many of these wardens, and he will find them clamouring for a form of contract, because they believe that thereby they will be able to do their work better, both in peace and in war.
§ Mr. Anderson
I take the hon. Member's word, of course, in regard to those wardens of whom he speaks. I think he used the term, in regard to them, "turning up to do their duty." Is that the reason why he suggests a form of contract, with the object of having some kind of compulsory action, so that these people will turn up to do their duty?
§ Mr. Mabane
Certainly, that is one consideration, and indeed, if the hon. Member will consult his right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), he will find that Hackney has a magnificent scheme, and that during the crisis, whereas they could work it with 80 per cent. and they could not have worked it if 75 per cent. turned up, as a matter of fact I believe 85 per cent. turned up, but it would have been much better if the 15 per cent. who did not turn up had been under some sort of obligation to do so.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
I will not continue the discussion of the question whether A.R.P. wardens want compulsory powers or not, because I understand that it would be necessary to have legislation if it were proposed to give such powers. I would like to say, as chairman of a fairly important air-raid precautions committee, that I am constantly in touch with wardens, and that I have yet to find one of them who has expressed an opinion one way or the other on that subject to me. If there has been that desire in my district, I have not met it at all, although, of course, I am not saying that it does not exist in the hon. Member's district.
§ Mr. Mabane
Will the hon. Member relate to the Committee how the senior wardens, head wardens, divisional wardens, and chief wardens are appointed and what security they have in their positions?
§ Mr. Morrison
There have been enough long speeches this evening, and if I am to tack on to my speech a disquisition on the appointment of wardens, it would considerably lengthen my remarks and would not get us anywhere. It might interest the hon. Gentleman, but it would not interest anyone else. We are not concerned very much in our district with the point of view which the hon. Member raised. We are a party of neighbours who try to look at the air-raid warden as the father of a street to whom his neighbours can look as a man who will lend a hand. They are not concerned about questions of promotion. They are only anxious to do a spot of work for the good of their neighbours.
I was interested in an earlier point of the hon. Member and, perhaps, more sympathetically inclined towards it. That was the desirability of something being 1360 done to provide for recreational facilities for A.R.P. workers. One of the difficulties which I find is that there is a tendency for each section of the A.R.P. services to go off on their own. Therefore, it is essential, in making provision for recreational facilities for A.R.P. volunteers—apart from the fire brigade, which has to be close to the fire station —to lay down that the centres should be open to volunteers in all sections so that they can get to know each other and build up their own organisation. It is not the business of the Government, or of Parliament, or even of the local authority, to lay down the kind of recreation facilities that the air-raid wardens and volunteers should undertake. It is for them to undertake it themselves. In our district we are proposing to call meetings of the volunteers in different areas and to leave them to appoint a committee from among themselves to decide the kind of recreation they would like to have. It is popular on the part of some people to say to air-raid wardens, "We will give you a dart board." The people who are joining these services are not the kind who want to play darts every night. Many of them are getting on in years and do not want to waste their time in that way. We are following the line in our district of leaving them to settle the kind of recreation they want.
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Gentleman is always worried about money. Whenever he takes part in a Debate it is my misfortune to follow him. On a previous occasion I had to resist with great difficulty the temptation to follow him into the question of fares for air-raid wardens which was worrying him. I have never heard a warden ask for his bus or tram fare. Now the hon. Member is worried about who will pay for recreation facilities. Our volunteer firemen last week got up a dance and the town hall was crowded. I have no doubt they have made enough money to buy a dart board and several other things. There is no difficulty about getting the money. These people can raise the money, and why should they always be coming to the local authority and asking for it?
I do not want to approach this problem in any partisan spirit. Indeed, although 1361 it may be a little unorthodox to say it, I have not been able to discover any party politics in this business up to now. If, unfortunately, an emergency were to happen, it is certain that bombs would fall upon Liberals, Conservatives and Labour alike. We would all be in the tub. Therefore, I do not want to put forward the suggestion I am about to make in any party spirit. What has puzzled us who live in the Metropolitan Police area is how it came about that an announcement was suddenly put in the Press that certain districts were danger zones and others were neutral throughout the Metropolitan Police area. My own district of Tottenham has been labelled a danger area but the next district of Enfield has been labelled neutral. In Enfield there are the Enfield Small Arms Factory, the Royal Gunpowder Factory, which would blow up the greater part of North London if it went up, and a reservoir which supplies water to over 3,000,000 people. The people in North London are asking who was the genius who hit on the idea that Enfield is a neutral zone and Tottenham a danger zone. This has not done our district any good. People who are not tied as to where they must live because they work in the centre of London are not going to live in a district which has been labelled by the Government a danger area. Consequently, people are leaving the district and those who in the ordinary course would move in are not doing so. Thus a great deal of damage has been done to the district for no reason. The Lord Privy Seal said that London was to be treated as one area. I suggest that instead of this artificial differentiation, which is meaningless and has annoyed a great many people, the Government should lay down that the whole Metropolitan Police area is a danger area. We would then understand where we are getting to.
There are some people who think it is clever to ridicule all that is done for A.R.P. I think the Finsbury scheme was interesting, but it was a pity that the promoters of it went out of their way to deprecate everything else that had been done and to say that nothing else was any good. That was a mistake. In my constituency we are distributing the steel air-raid shelters, and from what I can gather, after being in close touch with them, the people are fairly well satisfied: that they afford a measure of protection. 1362 Certainly, every ex-serviceman knows that if you have a tin shack, as some people are calling these shelters, sunk two or three feet in the earth with a few inches of soil on top, it will be a valuable protection. Some of us here would have been glad to have had as much protection during the last War. It does not get us anywhere to call these things tin shacks and other names, as if they were no good, because it destroys the confidence of the people in what, I believe, is a very valuable shelter. The Lord Privy Seal will have to be prepared almost immediately for a great demand from people who live in flats for some provision for their protection. They are not going to see their neighbours with these shelters in their gardens when nothing is being done for them.
The Lord Privy Seal mentioned sand bags and said the Government were now being supplied with them at the rate of 4,000,000 a week. What is to be done with them? My local authority has accumulated 500,000, and we are constantly receiving requests from private firms to supply them with sandbags. Are the local authorities to be allowed to sell or give them away to householders, firms and shopkeepers who wish to have enough to sandbag the front of their premises? The local authority have had no information as to whether the sandbags are for their own purposes for protecting corporation property or are for distribution to the population.
I am told that there is difficulty in obtaining incendiary bombs. We should like to get supplies of incendiary bombs, because one of the things we hope to do when the light evenings come is to invite the people in each district, particularly the housewives, to assemble in the public parks to see a demonstration of how to extinguish an incendiary bomb. It would be an advantage to every housewife to know that if water is thrown on to an incendiary bomb the flames will go up 10 or 12 feet. The last thing one should do is to throw water on it. There is, however, difficulty in obtaining incendiary bombs, and I understand that a neighs bouring authority, which, after much trouble, succeeded in obtaining four of them for demonstration purposes, have lit two or three bonfires under them, but up to now have not succeeded in igniting them.
1363 That leads me to another point. London has a population which is constantly shifting, and we have found that men in our district who have become excellent auxiliary firemen are moving away to other districts. Up to now there is no decision as to what is to happen to the fireman who moves, or what is to happen to his uniform. This is an extreme case, but I give it as an illustration. We had one of the thinnest firemen who ever joined an auxiliary fire brigade. We got him his uniform and he appeared twice in it, feeling very proud of it, but later he informed us that he had changed his employment and was moving to South London and wanted to know whether he should hand in his uniform or take it with him. We as a local authority have paid 40 per cent. of the cost of that uniform, but it will be no use leaving it with us, because we are never likely to get so thin a fireman again. Unless there is to be power for local authorities to arrange for exchange uniforms in the case of firemen who move there will be difficulties.
Coming to a more serious point, one of the difficulties when dealing with the problem as a whole is to know what the population of a district will be in the time of emergency. I gather from the Lord Privy Seal that in the danger zones the population will probably be reduced by one-third, but we are not sure. Bound up with that point is another question. Will the Government say what is their policy in regard to the self-evacuator, the person who goes away on his own? This week we have started putting in these steel shelters, and we shall put in 6,000 or 7,000 within the next 10 days, but suppose the people who get the shelters evacuate themselves, clear off, what is going to happen then? The whole question of the food stocks to be held in a district rests on the basis of how many people will remain in it. I shall not say anything about camps, except that I am sorry that the decision of the Government has been to build only 50 camps, with accommodation for 20,000 children. My constituency alone has 20,000 children, so that provision does not go very far. I hope the Minister of Labour and the other Members of the Government have read the debate on the subject in another place a few days ago and have appreciated all that it conveys.
1364 It would be out of order to ask for detailed particulars of the Bill which is to be produced, but I hope it will be presented soon, because there are a number of matters which are becoming exceedingly urgent. As the Minister of Labour knows, I am a member of the Metropolitan Water Board. In common with other public utility bodies the Water Board were promised early last summer that legislation would be passed to legalise the expenditure they are undertaking upon air-raid precautions. Up to now they have spent over £250,000 and I think they are justified in asking the Government to produce the legislation with as little delay as possible. Then there is the question of what steps are to be taken to ensure that employers make provision for the safety of their workpeople. Many employers have already made excellent provision, but many have not made any move at all. I hope the Bill will make some reference to that aspect of the matter.
Finally, I would say a word about bomb-proof shelters. I am glad that the Lord Privy Seal says that he is examining this question closely. I have not made up my mind about bomb-proof shelters, because a number of difficult questions have to be thought out. It is no good saying that bomb-proof shelters will be the solution of everything. People are talking now about bomb-proof shelters built 30 feet under the ground and with accommodation for 5,000 to 10,000 people. The first point that occurs to me is, How shall we know when the alarm goes off how many aeroplanes are coming over? If one aeroplane is over the neighbourhood of the Crystal Palace is the whole population of Greater London to get out of bed and dive down into these deep shelters? If that is the case it will only be necessary for the enemy to send to London one aeroplane a night for a fortnight and the people of London will be completely worn out.
Then, suppose there is an alarm at midnight or one o'clock in the morning. To reach the air-raid shelters people will have to go along the streets in a complete black-out. Some people speak as though there will be neon lights to show where the entrances to the shelters are. I heard the other day the story of a trial black-out in a certain town. Three lady teachers, intelligent persons, had seven minutes in which to get to the centre at which they were to report. 1365 They started out immediately the alarm sounded, but it took them an hour to cover the distance which they should have covered in seven minutes, because they got lost in the blackness. Those with experience of a London fog know how difficult it is for anyone to find his way along the street in which he lives, every inch of which he thinks he knows. We are told there is to be eight minutes' warning of the approach of aeroplanes to Greater London. Picture 6,000 or 7,000 people trying in black darkness to get into an air-raid shelter.
The next question I ask myself is, What is to happen if 5,000 people try to get into a shelter which has accommodation for only 2,500? There will be a scramble. When I ask that question I am told, "The way to prevent it is for everybody to have a ticket. Everyone will have a ticket and will know to which shelter to go, and will proceed there." If there is to be admission by ticket it means that someone will have to be at the door to inspect the tickets, and it will take five or six times as long to get the people inside. Those are practical questions. It is no good dodging them, because they will have to be faced. Another question occurs to me. Suppose, as happened frequently in the last War, that a number of aeroplanes which are trying to get over the centre of London are held up on the outskirts for any reason—plenty of reasons will occur to hon. Members—and they find themselves in difficulties. The first thing they will do will be to drop the whole of their "eggs"—as we used to say in the old days—in order to try to get away. Consequently, 50 or 60 bombs may be dropped in a very narrow space, and we may get a situation in which the entrances and exits of a bomb-proof shelter are both smashed in, with 5,000 people below. There may be answers to all these questions, but I am trying to think them all out. I do not want to make up my mind as the Lord Privy Seal has not made up his, but I hope that when the Government do make up their minds they will do so with abundant evidence of the cases for and against, and that they will give us an opportunity also of coming to a decision.
I would like to make one or two practical suggestions. I wonder whether the Lord Privy Seal would consider giving 1366 permission to local authorities in certain dangerous areas to construct at least one bomb-proof shelter at a considerable distance down below. I am trying to push forward on my local authority a scheme, and if I describe it to the right hon. Gentleman who is now representing the Lord Privy Seal perhaps he will be able to follow what is in my mind. In our district there is a football club. It is, in fact, more famous for its football club than it is for its Member of Parliament. Every time there is a football match all the streets round about are choked with motor cars and coaches. We are afraid that on one of these Saturday afternoons some house in a little back street may catch fire and that the fire engines will be unable to get to it because of the congestion of motor cars.
My suggestion is that the Lord Privy Seal should give us permission to construct an underground car park, which would be used not only for parking those cars, but for another purpose. It will be necessary, if we ever have an emergency, for people to find safe deposits. I want a place for our local authority to keep its records. Tremendous difficulties would be created if the records of the local authority were lost. I said a moment ago that I was a member of the Metropolitan Water Board. In a certain part of London not long ago, a water-main burst and flooded a solicitor's office. In that office were thousands of title deeds of property respecting people who were buying their own houses, and those deeds were floating about in five feet of water. The damage caused was enormous. That is the kind of thing that happens. Imagine it happening in time of war and the damage that would be done. If local authorities were empowered to make some kind of underground place they could use it as a safe deposit for their papers. They might also be able to allow businesses or even householders to use the place in order to store insurance policies, birth certificates and other precious articles which they treasure and which cannot be replaced. This would be a useful service. I mentioned it to a bank manager and he said straight away: "It would be a Godsend to us, because the books of the bank could be put safely down below. We would gladly pay for the privilege." I do not know whether the Lord Privy Seal would consider giving us such permission on a limited scale, particularly 1367 when there is a prospect of our getting a revenue from it. Those are some points that one meets in a practical way in trying to act, as I am, as chairman of my local committee. I am convinced, provided the proposals that are under consideration now are carried out in a reasonably efficient way that we shall be able to prevent at least 75 per cent. of what would otherwise be casualties.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Cook
I propose to confine my remarks to an aspect of air-raid precautions which, I think it will be generally agreed, constitutes no mean part of the general plan, that is, fire fighting. I do not pretend that the Lord Privy Seal is friendless in regard to the fire service, but it cannot be denied that there are many critics of the Home Office in that sphere of our public life. I have heard nothing but praise for those officials of the Fire Department whose duty it is to travel the country and give advice to local authorities and local brigades. Not only do they display an ardent desire to assist, but they show a willingness to tolerate, which is a great asset when officials are dealing with laymen. My remarks, which may be critical, refer, therefore, to what I would term the quartermaster's section of the Fire Department.
I was extremely disappointed that, in the space of one and a half hours, the Lord Privy Seal should gloss over so lightly this important matter of fire fighting. I was particularly sorry by virtue of the fact that I asked him a specific question a fortnight ago, when he told me that he would give me a definite answer this afternoon. As we know, it has been ignored. I consider that much time has been lost in organising the Auxiliary Fire Service by the official mind changing so frequently and altering or cancelling its circulars as a result. I believe much time could be saved if, in the future, correspondence affecting fire brigade matters were addressed direct to local fire brigade committees instead of it going via the general air-raid precautions committees, as is the present practice. It is obvious to those of us who know the circumstances of the organisation that there is a lack of coordination among fire brigades, particularly in the rural areas. I believe that 1368 this is probably due in no small measure to the fact that the rural brigades have not yet attained a peace-time standard, and, as a result, have not become eligible for A.R.P. grants. I would remind my right hon. Friend that there are many fire brigade associations throughout the country whose advice and co-operation should be sought officially, instead of being ignored as they are at present.
The schedule of equipment appears to me to be carefully compiled and complete, but it is clear that the method of distribution of both apparatus and equipment should be expedited many hundreds per cent. In present circumstances apparatus and equipment are supplied piecemeal, direct from the manufacturer. I would suggest smaller contracts spread over a greater number of manufacturers. If it is a genuine excuse that there is a lack of apparatus at the present tune, I recommend my right hon. Friend to concentrate his attention on the organisation of fire brigades who are in close proximity to the Metropolis and to give preference to those brigades who are situated in the suburbs of our large towns. I am in a position to cite many instances of major hold-ups in fire brigade organisation due to the inability of the local authority to obtain delivery of apparatus and equipment.
With the Committee's permission I would like to give three examples of those difficulties. I have the case of an urban district authority responsible for the welfare of a population of 124,000 people. Last October, that local authority requisitioned for 16 trailer pumps. In December it was promised one, but so far not a single machine has arrived. It is not surprising to find that this difficulty is reflected in recruiting auxiliary firemen; despite this vast population, the recruits to date number 35. I have another case of a large town in which is situated a public school with upwards of 1,000 boys. It has received the trailer pumps for which it asked, but, unfortunately, has not been supplied with a single inch of hose, and, so far as recruiting in this particular town is concerned, despite intensive propaganda, only 40 per cent. of the total number required have so far been obtained. My third example is that of a university city which had no difficulty in proving its peace-time standard. It applied for 30 trailer pumps, and, so far, has received six. At the inception of 1369 A.R.P. schemes in that city it succeeded in recruiting 294 volunteer firemen. Of that number, 80 dropped out of the ranks after the crisis of last September. National Service Week had the effect of recruiting another 35, but 275 volunteer firemen are still required.
There is general criticism in the fire service of the failure of the Home Office to supply other items. Hoses leak, couplings are faulty, and many volunteer firemen at the present time have no respirators. I want to put a specific question to my right hon. Friend who is going to reply. Why is it that local authorities who report defective hoses are told that they should keep them. Surely such an attitude of mind is not only discouraging to these volunteers, but is also unfair to the taxpayer. Brigades throughout the country at the present time are being issued with light trailer pumps with branch-pipes the outsides of which are highly polished, but the insides are as rough as stone, as if they had come direct from the casting mould. Even the most amateur fireman knows that the important point about a branch-pipe is that it should be smooth on the inside, because otherwise there is a retardation of the flow of water. There is another difficulty with regard to hose which is being experienced by firemen throughout the country. That is that they are being supplied with hose in 100-foot lengths. Such lengths are cumbersome when they are dry, and are extremely difficult to carry when they are wet. I would recommend my right hon. Friend to lay down a standard in this respect and issue only 50-foot lengths, the normal length for peace-time requirements. It may be argued that by doubling the length of hose you reduce the cost of the couplings by 50 per cent. but surely such savings would be negligible in comparison with the total amount it is intended to spend upon the Auxiliary Fire Service.
The Home Office has been asked from time to time to supply practice incendiary bombs, and I was interested by the experience of the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) in this respect, because I have had brought to my notice the application of a local authority for a supply of incendiary bombs. They were referred to a certain firm to supply them, and they were told to exercise the usual caution and care when handling them. On arrival, how- 1370 ever, these bombs proved to be so innocuous that, when they were placed in a wooden box, there was only a slight scorching, and when they were burning at full pressure they could be held in the hand. There are a number of cases where attachments for trailer pumps have proved quite useless owing to the fact that modern vans, which are the type of vehicle mainly used for this purpose, have bodies which overhang the chassis. The Beresford-Stork trailer pump is the apparatus which is being issued in rural areas, but, owing to the fact that it has a cooling system which prevents the sucking up of dirty water, it would seem preferable that a reciprocating pump should be supplied for agricultural districts. While on this question of trailer pumps, I would call the attention of the Lord Privy Seal to the fact that many local authorities are experiencing difficulty in obtaining the loan of vehicles because they find that, the vehicles they require are already earmarked for purposes in connection with the War Department. Owing to the non-receipt of much apparatus and equipment, local authorities, in order to, bridge the gap, are lending their own peace-time equipment, and therefore I think that the Government should not be surprised if they find that these local authorities claim some form of compensation from the national Exchequer. As I have already said, I have received over the week-end, from places throughout the country, reports of the position of the Auxiliary Fire Service. There was one local authority which, in despair, decided to launch but into verse. It instructed its air-raid precautions officer to send the following telegram:Oh where, oh where are our little pumps gone;Oh where, oh where can they be?Its poetical effort was rewarded at the rate of two pumps per line of poetry submitted, for four pumps eventually turned up. Again, I have a letter from an air-raid precautions officer which I can only summarise as a message of exasperation and despair. This official advises me that he was appointed as A.R.P. officer on nth April, 1938, and he tells me that on that date everything pointed to the possibility of completing the A.R.P. organisation and training in his area in record time. He then enumerates the various disappointments he has since suffered, and he concludes with the following phrase: 1371It is indeed hard to persuade the civilian population that the Government's intentions are serious in A.R.P. matters.The question of remuneration has already been raised. The views of local authorities naturally differ upon it. It is true that the Home Office, in one of its many circulars, has advised on this matter, but I wish they had put forward a more definite ruling, because then existing divergencies of opinion among local authorities would have been avoided. Reference has been made to the terms of service. I think it is most unsatisfactory that the whole of the Auxiliary Fire Service at the present time could be brought to an end by the volunteers giving a week's notice. Such a slender term of engagement is extremely discouraging to those chief officers who give so much of their own time to the training of recruits. I would suggest that every auxiliary fireman should be asked, at the conclusion of his training, to sign on for a period of reserve. The question of a suitable badge has also been referred to. Members of the Auxiliary Fire Service are entitled to a badge when they have completed their training, but chief officers are not entitled when they are in private clothes to any outward sign of their rank. That is an anomaly which should be removed. In order that recruiting may be stimulated, a number of attractive posters should be distributed. I saw in one of last Sunday's papers an announcement inviting the public to take an interest in A.R.P. The letters "A.R.P." themselves appeared as though in a fog. There was no local reference, and I, therefore, concluded that it was inspired by the Government. I suggest that the people who are responsible for announcements of this sort should use a little more imagination. I believe there are many difficulties which could be removed by the setting up of regional departments for the Fire Service specifically, as announced in general by the Lord Privy Seal in his opening speech. I am convinced that all is not well in the sphere of fire fighting in relation to A.R.P., and I appeal to the Lord Privy Seal to look into the questions I have raised.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Colonel Nathan
I am sorry the Committee will have to wait until the conclusion of this Debate for a full statement as to National Service. Although the 1372 Lord Privy Seal gave us some interesting information, he indicated that our real information was to come from the Minister of Labour at the end. I wish we could have had that information before us for the purposes of the Debate, but the Lord Privy Seal has said sufficient —and we all know it is so—to indicate that there has been a very remarkable response to the appeals made to the people of this country under various headings of National Defence. When one considers the large number who have volunteered for Civilian Defence, and adds to that the number who had already volunteered for the Defence Forces—the Army, Navy and Air Force—one realises that it makes a total which would be remarkable under any voluntary system at any time. It is not only the numbers, but as I know from personal observation, the spirit also that is good. A few days ago I was at the headquarters—not a great distance from this House—of the anti-aircraft battalion with which I have the honour to be associated. There were in those headquarters at that time men of the Territorial Army attending lectures on the use of their searchlights for the defence of London. The only reason they were in the lecture rooms and not in the Drill Hall was that the drill hall was occupied by members of the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, and that the rifle range was occupied by men and women from this district hearing a lecture on another branch of defence work. When such a number of people, of a great diversity of interests, are attracted to one single objective at the same time, it shows a state of affairs with which we may well be satisfied.
My main object in rising now is to draw attention to one isolated point, to which I hope the Minister of Labour will refer when he replies, and to which he will perhaps give me an answer. For the purposes of National Service, we all know that the man-power of the country has been divided into a variety of categories. There are those within and those without the reserved occupations. There is a register being made by the Minister of Labour for the purpose of classifying those who have special qualifications, other registers are being made by other Departments, and a variety of organisations are making their own registers. I would draw attention to one category of man-power which has so far been left 1373 out in the cold. There is a body of people who are not large in numbers but are able to mobilise a valuable measure of support. They are the refugees. In our Debates, and more particularly in the course of Question and Answer across the Floor of the House, many references have been made to the refugees in one aspect or another; but in regard to National Service, none. Yet the refugees have a contribution which they are anxious to make. There are amongst them some who have inherited the martial tradition, and have earned the rewards of valour in the field, fighting for what was then their homeland; there are many of scientific and intellectual attainments of the highest order; there are employers who have brought new industries to this country; there are skilled technicians who are engaged in making known new processes; and all that great variety of skill and knowledge and experience the refugees are anxious, by some means, to place at the service of the country as their contribution to the common effort. After all, they have the best reasons for doing so. Victims of religious, political and racial persecution, exiled from their own homeland, they have found in this country the possibility of beginning life anew under the protection of just and equal laws. So it is easy to understand their anxiety to serve.
Hon. Members will know that there are in existence a number of committees for refugees. It is less well known that there is also a committee of refugees, and I am speaking on behalf of the London Committee of German and Austrian Refugees, who are already engaged in the preparation of a census of refugees and a register of qualifications which may be useful to the State in time of war. The Register, when complete, will be submitted to the Government in the hope that practical use will be made of it. Among the refugees—many of them, but no means all, my own co-religionists—there is to be found every variety of knowledge and experience, both practical and intellectual. It is scarcely for them, and perhaps it is not for me, to suggest the manner in which their services may best be utilised. There is the possibility of a foreign legion. That raises very considerable and difficult questions of policy upon which the Government would have to take a decision, for when I say "foreign 1374 legion" I mean a foreign legion available for service in the fighting line. There are also those who are qualified to assist either in the intelligence organisation of the military and trade departments or other work of that kind. Many of them, obviously, have high qualifications as interpreters. There may be openings for clerical work, and there is first-aid and other work arising out of air-raid precautions. Whether their services should be used in the strictly military sphere, or for Civil Defence or for civilian duties in connection with any of these matters, is a question which I would ask the Government to consider.
This, however, I particularly desire to make clear. I am speaking not only of what I think the refugees would wish me to say; I am speaking of what I know they would wish me to say, for they have asked me to do so. At this time, when service is required from all men of good will, they, who have the best of reasons for feeling good will and giving it practical expression, are anxious to be among the foremost in giving their services to the common cause. That the guests should be forced to stand aside while their hosts were fighting, maybe for their lives, would be intolerable to the refugees. It would be the last humiliation. It would be the bitterest of all the affronts that they have suffered to their dignity as human beings. I have told the Committee that they are already taking steps to organise the information upon which the Government may act. I am here to say in their name and on their behalf, deprived as they have been of so much elsewhere, that they offer, freely and gladly, all that they now have left—themselves. I trust and believe that such an offer will evoke some sympathetic response from the Minister who is to reply for the Government. I will only add that it is not only an offer, but also an appeal. It is an appeal from those who owe and acknowledge loyalty and allegiance to this country where they have found their home, that they may have a place where and when danger comes, and face that danger by the side of those among whom they live.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Sir Gifford Fox
I am sure that all of us who have listened to this Debate this afternoon were impressed by what a little has been said about the question of gas. In the original Debate in this House on 1375 A.R.P. everyone talked about gas. Today, except for one or two interruptions, it has hardly been mentioned. I was very sorry to hear the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill), who is not here now, interrupting the Lord Privy Seal and trying to make out that the civilian gas mask is no good at all. We all know that some two years ago a group of some Communist, Socialist Cambridge scientists tried to make out that these masks were no good. The fact is that the masks are perfectly satisfactory for the purposes for which they are made, and, if there is a concentration of gas, civilians will be able to get away from that concentration provided they use the gas masks. Naturally, those who are decontamination squads require a stronger type of mask.
I would like to say a few words about A.R.P. from the point of view of the reception areas. My constituency is one of those into which people are to be evacuated, and the problem is not easy. We believe that the fewer people to be evacuated the better it will be for all sections of the community, both for those who live in the towns and those who live in the countryside.
The whole problem of the provision of deep bomb-proof shelters and evacuation is linked closely together. If we have these shelters in the cities there will not be the need to evacuate so many people. Candidly I am very disappointed that the Lord Privy Seal is not able to tell us that he had come to a decision and had decided to build deep bomb-proof shelters. I remember some time ago a Debate in this House in which the Government only toyed with the idea of evacuation.
We know what happened in the last crisis. We realised that the Government had to face evacuation, and we know the difficulties which had to be faced quite quickly and suddenly. We also know that at one time the Government said they would not use underground tubes for sheltering the civilian population. In the last crisis the Charing Cross tube was closed while certain things were done in it. I imagine that that was to help to make it stronger. So it is important that we should really try to solve the problem of the deep bomb-proof shelter and build these shelters when there is peace, and not suddenly start digging as 1376 we did in the last crisis. I cannot believe that there is anything in the argument that if you have a deep bomb-proof shelter which is perfectly safe for people to enter that they will not come out again and continue their work. I do not believe that that is the spirit of our people. If they can have shelter for the time being when there is a great air raid on, it will be of great benefit. It is not very easy to know whether it is necessary to have a lot of these shelters, fairly small units, or some really big ones. It was suggested in another place the other day that the way to solve the problem would be to have a north and south road, and an east and west road deep under London coming out in Green Park with dual carriageways. It would cost a great deal of money to carry out such a scheme, but it would help to solve the problem of our road traffic. And if there was an emergency, it could be used as some form of shelter and security.
We also want car parks. We spend large sums of money every year in widening our roads and pulling down buildings in order to find more room for the traffic on the roads. We might try and use our misfortune by building car parks deep down below the surface, and at the same time help to solve the traffic problem, and then, if ever war came, we would have shelter for our civilian population. It has been suggested that, if we had these deep shelters and all the lights went out, there would be great confusion. I agree, but there would be just as much confusion if one went into trenches and there were no lights. I went to one of the first black-outs in this country, and hon. Members who were present will remember what happened. It was about midnight when we got out of an omnibus and went to see the demonstration. Most of the hon. Members who were in the omnibus, including the borough Member, never found it again. He did not find us until dawn broke when he arrived in the Black Maria. I welcome the idea of steel shelters. It is a most practical proposal, and they can be put up very quickly, but there is one point upon which I must offer a criticism. Why cannot everyone in an area get a free shelter? Why should a free shelter be limited according to means? There will be cases where one man with a slightly larger income will not be able to get a free shelter and his next door 1377 neighbour with just a little less income will do so. We have had free gas masks, and I cannot see why free shelters should not be provided for all the people in a district.
It is assumed that there must be evacuation, but it may prove that the evacuation of a large portion of the population is fundamentally wrong. One can imagine the position when enormous numbers of children are being evacuated and on the first day during evacuation an air raid starts. The big stations are bombed, traffic is disorganised and these refugees are scattered in all direction. They will be able to write to their parents to say where they are, but a bomb might destroy the post office and then the parents would not be able to know where their children are. That would be very demoralising, indeed, for parents. And an evacuation camp might be hit by a bomb. During the last War there was an air raid on Newcastle which did considerable damage and completely disorganised the work in the munition factories because the people did not want to be separated from their homes. There is no doubt some opposition in the reception areas to the idea of billeting children in private houses. I do not agree with this view. The vast majority would welcome and give willing shelter to the children who came. I agree with the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) when he said that people in the country need not be afraid of the children from the cites; they would soon get very fond of them. But I am certain that the children will not want to leave their own homes. Every child has memories of his home, whether it is large or small, and to take them from their toys, their pets will be a great calamity for them.
What is going to be the accommodation in these reception areas? There has recently been a census, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us the result. I can visualise great confusion in reception areas 30 to 60 miles from London. First of all, the big hospitals in London are going to be evacuated to hospitals 60 miles away, and if you are to have large numbers of children and other people evacuated there, the area is going to be very full. It is difficult to see what arrangements can be made quickly to feed such large numbers of people. The people who have houses in these areas 1378 may not be as young as they were once, they may have a few servants who may leave, and 14 to 20 rooms in the house. Under the evacuation scheme they may have to take a dozen children, and they are very worried as to whether they will have any help to look after them. They would like to know whether National Service will provide people to help them to look after these children. There are cases in the country where the husband will have been called up and the wife will, therefore, be left to look after these children who are to be billeted upon her. Again, what arrangements are being made to prevent children suffering from tuberculosis or any other illness being placed indiscriminately in houses where there are other children? And are steps being taken to prevent children being put into houses in the country where there are cases of tuberculosis? A question on which there is a great deal of misconception in the reception areas is whether each child is to have a separate room. Some people do not seem to realise that they can put children into a room made into a dormitory.
Then as regards the evacuation camps. I suggest that there should be one at least in each county. They could be very useful for taking young children who are unruly and disorderly and who cannot be controlled in the villages. Local authorities in these areas are also faced with great difficulties. There is the question of water supply. A great number of villages in my own constituency have a very limited water supply. Are the Government going to provide money to enable an adequate water supply to be taken to these villages? It is perfectly certain that the normal water supply will not be sufficient for a population twice as large as the ordinary population. Then there are the health services. Is the personnel for these services in reception areas to be told that it must continue at work? Is this work to be considered as a reserved occupation? The question of uniformed ambulance drivers was raised by the right hon. Member for South Hackney. I do not wish to discuss this question, but in the case of the St. John Ambulance and the British Red Cross Society the volunteers have to provide their own uniforms, while the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service are to be given an allowance by the Government for their uniform. They are to get £16 for a uniform for an officer. 1379 That seems to me to be a large sum of money. The St. John Ambulance and British Red Cross Society are to get no help until mobilisation.
§ Sir G. Fox
Until they begin to serve in military hospitals, the members of the Volunteer Aid Detachment have to pay for their own training, their own uniforms, their washing and their travelling expenses.
§ Sir G. Fox
I am sorry if I have transgressed, but I was led astray by the remarks of the right hon. Member for South Hackney. We are grateful to those Ministers who are helping to organise air-raid precautions services. The people of this country are doing their best to volunteer and to help to work the services, but they want guidance on many points; they want to be told how best they can help.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not think that the Committee should allow the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wands worth (Colonel Nathan) to pass without notice, because I feel that as representing the views of the refugees he was expressing what all must recognise as a very fine feeling. Before I make the few practical suggestions and criticisms which I want to offer to-night I feel I must say—what I believe to express the feelings of every Member of the Committee—what an awful feeling of nausea came over me at having to sit and listen to a discussion of how gas-masks should best be designed for babies. It seemed to me to be a very dreadful commentary on what we have been given to understand is an era of peace following on the Munich Pact. It would surely be the wish of everybody that some practical proposal should be offered by the Government to those people whom I believe to be a fundamentally friendly people across the seas to get together with us and discuss how we can both do away with this vast expenditure and waste of money.
I now come to the suggestions which I desire to make. First of all, I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will not involve us 1380 with another weedy growth of officialdom, and I would ask him to consider the possibility of making use of many organisations and bodies which already exist throughout the country, through which much of this voluntary work can be carried out. Secondly, I want to speak about what has been referred to as "the tin shelters." I do not wish to say anything in depreciation of the tin shelters except as a solace to those who may not have them, and I suppose there will be a great number of people who will not have them. Whilst they may be good in their way, most of the people would be comparatively as safe tucked under their beds close to the wall! I would like to call attention to the way in which these shelters are being put up, because I have been to inspect them. The shelters are all right, but it is perfectly useless putting mud on them unless they are properly revetted, and I hope sandbags will be issued at the same time as the shelters. Mud may be very good provided the crisis comes within three weeks and it does not rain in the meantime!
With regard to deep shelters I find myself in complete disagreement with the hon. Member for South Norwood (Mr. Sandys), and I hope that what I am going to say may perhaps be helpful to the Lord Privy Seal in making up his mind. In his opening remarks the Lord Privy Seal pointed out that he had not made up his mind because it was impossible to say to what depth the bombs might go. If you build a dug-out capable of withstanding bombs which penetrate to a depth of 60 feet there would not be very much difficulty from an engineering point of view in putting false tops on at some future date. Then he said that it is very likely there would be panic if people could not find their way to these deep dug-outs in the dark. My experience in the Great War was that people very soon learned the way, if they did not find out in the shortest possible time on the first occasion. Finally he expressed the view that a monolithic structure would end in the concussion of people inside the dug-out. I submit that no engineer in his senses would dream of constructing a monolithic structure unless it was properly protected by a suitable number of false roofs.
I have a suggestion to make with regard to the protection of London. We have heard quite recently, and we all 1381 know it, that there is a great deal of improvement needed in London streets, and I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that the Government, instead of spending £80,000,000 or £120,000,000 on carrying out the recommendations of the Bressey Report should use that money in the construction of underground roads which would prove of very great value in peace time. They would entirely solve the traffic problem in my opinion, and they could be made for almost the same sum. I am advised that a 15-feet diameter underground road, lined with cast iron and properly concreted, can be made for £100,000 a mile. That would enable you to have 1,200 miles of road and as you can calculate that 5,000 people go to a mile, you could get the whole population of London into that cubic capacity for £120,000,000, which is the cost of the Bressey scheme. To turn to another point, we have heard much to-night about camps to which the children are to be evacuated. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will take some steps to prevent the appalling land racket that would go on in connection with the purchase of ground necessary for these camps. A warning has already been issued by Mr. Langley-Taylor, a member of the Camps Sub-Committee of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, who says that the price of land is already soaring from £15 to £50 an acre.
I want to make a brief reference to the muddle which exists in my own constituency, and I hope the Lord Privy Seal will issue some instructions which will clear up the doubt in the minds of my constituents. We were first of all told some little time ago that we were a very vulnerable city on the East Coast. As a result, when the crisis came we set about organising to provide deep dugouts, and generally planned the place to obtain proper protection for the people. We submitted our plans to the Home Office, but were promptly turned down. Then we were naturally surprised to hear that we were regarded as a suitable place to receive the evacuated population of London. We should very much like to understand which we are, so that we may get along and organise on the right lines.
I should like to point out that quite insufficient instructions are provided for works employers. We have firms which have works with from 1,500 to 2,500 employés, and there are not sufficient instruc 1382 tions telling us what we ought to do. I hold the view that we ought to evacuate, but I know that that is not entirely approved of. Finally, may I put in a plea with the Lord Privy Seal to see that there is no profiteering in this matter? That came very much to the front during the last crisis, and I would commend to him the system which I have put forward in this House several times before, namely, that people who undertake contracts for this kind of material should be required after quoting a firm price to submit on completion of the contract an audited statement showing what profits they have made, and if they have made excessive profits they should be required to return them to the Government. Criticism has been levelled against the amount of response that there has been to the call for National Service. I have no difficulty in dealing with that matter, sitting as I do on this side of the House. What I say to my people is this: "Support National Service, support A.R.P., but remember that neither of them would have been necessary but for the ineptitude and incompetence shown in seven years of National Government."
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Major Sir Ralph Glyn
I think the Committee are very grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for the general survey that he gave us of his work, and there are very few points that one could raise which he did not touch upon. In regard to the remarks of the hon. Baronet opposite with regard to health services, hospitals, and so on, I am assuming that those points will be fully covered by the Minister of Health to-morrow, but I am anxious to ask for enlightenment for those of us who are interested in certain public factories which we know are going to be taken over in time of emergency. The right hon. Gentleman made no mention of what are considered to be the proper precautions to take by what is called the good employer. It has been laid down since the early days that certain precautions should be taken for the protection of workpeople which every good employer would make, and it is clear that those are of a character rather different from what would be necessary if the factory is to be kept going night and day during the time of war and perpetual crisis.
Therefore, I suggest that those factories and works should be put into a category, and those responsible for the management 1383 should know as soon as possible if they are to prepare something in addition to what is done under the category of a good employer. It is a matter that is really urgent. The right hon. Gentleman says his policy is that there should not be evacuated from vulnerable areas those people who are essential for National Service. If that is so, clearly very special steps must be taken to protect those workers should they be subjected to deliberate attack. A rather ridiculous incident occurred in connection with a shipyard works. A local authority representative arrived and insisted that trenches should be dug and shelters made in spite of the fact that, if you dig down more than four feet, the sea comes in. He said his instructions were that in all circumstances such digging should be done. As the shipyard is entirely full of destroyers and war vessels of that kind, we thought the instructions given by the management were sufficient that, should there be an attack, the workers had better get inside the hulls of the ships, but that did not satisfy the representative of air-raid precautions, who maintained, in spite of being reminded again and again, that we must go on digging trenches in the shipyard, which was, of course, hopeless.
Another point to which I wish to draw attention is in regard to transport. I admit that I am speaking now from a prejudiced point of view, but we are anxious that not only the House of Commons but the country should understand that, if in time of war a tremendous extra duty is thrown upon the railways, it is essential that we should have the stock and the ability to carry the extra traffic. We know what duties are going to be put on us with regard to evacuation. Clearly, if all the passengers who wish to go from A to B are going by road in peace-time, they cannot expect the railways to have the rolling-stock ready to take them by rail. The sooner the Lord Privy Seal can make the Minister of Transport realise the importance of the "square deal" the better. Willing as the railways are to function, we must have the good will and assistance of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, and, I hope, Members on all sides of the House.
In regard to the deep dug-out, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke 1384 second in the Debate, who has perhaps greater experience than anyone in the administration of this city and has shown great public spirit. I have a personal experience of deep dug-outs. There was a proposal for one which in times of peace should be used for the parking of 5,000 cars. There was a conference at which representatives of local authorities, the chief of the London Fire Brigade and the Chief Air-Raid Precautions Officer seemed to be at rather different points of the compass, because the fire brigade chief said, "If you have a car park and there should be an explosion in the petrol tank of a car, I insist on having explosion vents to allow the force of the explosion to go outwards." The air-raid precautions man said, "If a bomb falls I decide that the building be so constructed that the force of the explosion should not go inwards." Until the chief of the fire brigade and the air-raid precautions officer can make up their minds as to a solution of these points, it is going to be difficult for anyone else to collaborate to make these deep dug-outs what they should be. I also agree that it is a great idea to use the requirements of air-raid precautions to get things done which might have taken centuries to get done otherwise.
I hope the Lord Privy Seal realises how many Members on both sides feel shame that there should be so many young unemployed men who cannot be used at this time to bring the country up to what we want in regard to preparations in connection with air-raid precautions. I know that the Minister of Labour has done a very great deal in the matter, but I feel that more camps could be constructed to a uniform pattern, using wood perhaps, but having the work done in Special Areas, having unit construction, and set up where they may be selected. That would give a great deal of employment not only centrally but locally and, if it is done on mass production lines, there is no reason why a great many of these young men should not be trained in carpentering work. There seems a sort of obsession against using wood for house construction. If you go through the villages of East Anglia you will find perfectly good wooden houses which have been standing for 70 or 80 years, and I hope and believe that the world will reach sanity before that time.
1385 One hon. Member thought the number of camps that had been approved—50—was not sufficient, and I cordially agree. I cannot believe that any enemy would definitely select one of these camps as a target and, if they were properly camouflaged and properly placed, the chances of their being the subject of attack would be slight. I believe that, by establishing these camps and getting them known to school children during times of peace, you will bring about two things. You will do a great deal of good to town children by getting them into the country and having six weeks of education in happy surroundings. There has been a practical experiment in my own constituency. Teachers and children come out and live and do their work in good, healthy surroundings, and the amazing difference in the child after three weeks shows quite clearly that we ought to make it the normal, and not the exception. I believe that you can find plenty of sites off railway lines, where there are water and accommodation, and where they could be easily camouflaged, and would not be a direct object of attack.
Another matter to which attention must be drawn is the question of rural water supplies. It is a most serious matter. In my constituency, on the Berkshire Downs, there are no streams and ponds. We are told that we should make a canvas barrage and pump the water into it. That is not sufficient. There must be a survey of the water supplies, and every district must have a definite point on the Ordnance map showing from where water can be drawn and in what quantity. That is not done in the Ordnance Survey at present. This is a matter to which the Lord Privy Seal ought to draw the attention of the Ordnance Department, and they ought to see that in the survey of the country greater attention is given to the sources from which water can be supplied for the putting out of fires, and so on.
I want to refer to the reception areas. I know that any remarks which one may make on this subject are liable to be misrepresented, but there is instinctively in the minds of the country people the feeling that an Englishman's home is his castle. No one would suggest for a moment that at a time of emergency everybody would not be delighted to welcome the children and to do what they 1386 could for them, but there are various points with which the Lord Privy Seal did not deal and which are of special importance. It may well be that a reception area which is already detailed for the evacuation of children from London may have adjoining it a large town, from which it will also be necessary to evacuate the children. Who would have preference—the children from London or the children of the workmates of some of the people who work in the, large town adjoining the reception area, but who live in the country? For instance, there are two very big works near Oxford, both of which I assume would be working for war purposes all the time during the war. They might be the target of hostile aircraft. People have asked me whether they are to be allowed to accommodate the children of their workmates who live in such a town, or whether they are to have children from London, and if so, where are the children of their workmates to go? I hope that to-morrow we shall be given some particulars as to the results of the survey that has been made. I hope that some attention will be paid to the natural desires of people to look after the children of their workmates whom they know, if towns such as those to which I have referred have also to be evacuated. This is an extremely difficult problem, but it is one which ought to be tackled.
There is a matter on which I would like the Lord Privy Seal to consult with the Church of England, the Methodist Church, and others. I think it would be a good plan if children, when they are first taken to the reception area, could be sorted out in churches, chapels, or public halls arid not casually left at the doors of the cottages. This would give an opportunity for a medical examination to be made and for getting the children into cottages where there are other children of about the same age. This is a personal question, and I feel that what ever may be the final plan, whether it is camps or billeting, the most essential thing is that contact should be made between the teachers or other people who are to take the children to the districts and the people in the districts. If that could be done, a great deal of doubt and uncertainty would be removed. I hope that before this Debate is over, the Lord Privy Seal, or one of his colleagues oil the Front Bench, will give those who represent the reception areas a better. 1387 answer than we have yet had to the questions that have been raised with regard to billeting.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I think that every hon. Member listened with great pleasure this afternoon to the Lord Privy Seal when he said that everything was being speeded up, that the plans were being telescoped and that for 1941 we must now read 1939, and that the programme of the Government was very different from what it had been before the crisis. I listened with special pleasure when the right hon. Gentleman said that he was succeeding now in building up a general staff. I have believed from the beginning of this work that one of the major weaknesses of what the Government have tried to do has been the weakness of their general staff. After such generous admissions by the Lord Privy Seal, it would be ungenerous of us to dwell at any length on the long history of Government inaction and hesitation, to which my right hon. Friend briefly referred this afternoon. I will not mention the 12 years from 1925, when the War Department first began to consider this problem, to November, 1937, when the Government produced their Bill; but I do want to say a few words about what has happened since November, 1937.
It was shown in the Debates on that Bill that if we were to have air-raid precautions, every party desired that they should be a reality and not a sham. The Debates showed that the Government had only to ask for any money that was necessary, and they would get it. They showed that Members of all parties—or perhaps I should say Members of all parties outside the Government—were alive to the real dangers of air warfare as the Spanish contest had shown them to be, and were determined that the lessons of the Spanish contest should be learned and applied in this country. In other words, the Government from that time onwards had only to decide and act, and they were certain of general support. Since November, 1937, it has become increasingly plain that we have very little time. The Lord Privy Seal was all too right when he said that for 1941 we must read 1939. I remember, in November, 1937, asking Captain Liddell Hart what he thought was the real danger-point ahead in international affairs. He said that it was the 1388 summer and the late autumn of 1938, but that if we should get through that period, the whole of 1939 would be a year of serious tension. He proved to be right. We have had two major crises—21st May, when Herr Hitler attempted his first lightning coup against Czecho-Slovakia, and then September; and now very good judges believe that we are within sight of a third major crisis not less serious than the last.
The history of what has happened about air-raid precautions during the last 15 months has left us with a feeling of anxiety about the preparations that have been made, and I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will not think that it is in any way personal to him if I say that anxiety still persists. Of course, the Government have moved very far since then. In the Debates on the Bill, they were standing on the principle that the individual citizen was primarily responsible for the measure of protection required for his family and himself. They were urging that the individual citizen must prepare his own reserve in his own home. They said he must do it at his own expense. They founded that policy on the theory of what they called dispersal, and on the theory that gas was the greatest danger which we had to meet. They had made no provision whatever to ensure for the householder the sandbags, the timber, the struts, the fire pumps and other things which he would need to make his household reserve worth while. They were at that time putting forward schemes which made no distinction between the different risks of air attack in different parts of the country.
There was a standard system applicable alike to the London docks and the West coast of Cumberland. They were rejecting proposals for deep shelters. They were refusing to allow any mention of evacuation in their Bill and in various other departments they were very far from being prepared for the danger which had to be met. Broadly speaking, they were defending a policy of which Professor Haldane said that if the whole of it had been applied during the war in Spain, it would not have saved a single life. In the Debates of November, 1937, their position on all those points had been absolutely riddled and at the time of Herr Hitler's coup of 21st May they had virtually given up the theoretical arguments which they previously put forward.
1389 I ventured in the Debate in June last, following Herr Hitler's coup, to make a summary of the situation as it then was and on almost every point from sirens to evacuation and indeed the A.R.P. organisation itself, I was able to show that either local authorities were awaiting instructions, or that they were without the necessary equipment, or else that the Government had just set up a committee to consider what should be done. Yet on that occasion the Government replied with a most optimistic survey of the situation. They soothed the feelings of the House with fair words. Time went on and we came to 28th September and when the crisis was over the Government's own principal official, Mr. Eady, made the famous statement from which I quote only these words:We were not prepared. We had hardly begun to prepare.Ten months had passed. We had been through these grave crises and the Government had full warning and yet they had achieved no direct results. In London and the Provinces there was a virtual chaos of paper plans and of untrained and unorganised volunteers. I dwell upon these events because I think they have lessons which we have all to learn, including the Lord Privy Seal, and I think the first lesson is this—that broadly speaking over a period of three or four years the critics of the Government have been right and that if the Government had taken the advice of their critics we should have been incomparably better prepared than we were. The second lesson is that the root of the malady was the Government's inability to take big decisions. On smaller matters, yes, but on the big questions where large issues of policy and large amounts of money were involved, they shirked making the decisions required. The third lesson is that the Government had not then, as I hope they have to-day, a real sense of the time factor, of how time was passing.
To-day is 1st March. It is five months since the Prime Minister signed the Munich Treaty and it is three weeks since Signor Mussolini, having captured Barcelona, told us that he and Herr Hitler would soon be making other enemies of the Axis bite the dust. Have the Government really learnt the lessons of which I have spoken? Everybody admits that the Lord Privy Seal has shown remarkable 1390 energy. Things have been much better since a Cabinet Minister was put in charge, and I think it is now plain, what was not plain before, that the Lord Privy Seal's purpose is to provide real safety and not merely to create a facade of sham protection by which public panic might or might not be stopped. I am sure that in many departments the right hon. Gentleman has made real progress but there are gaps and to-night I wish to refer to three. The first is the organisation of the army of volunteers throughout the country. There are already 1,250,000 of them. In the county borough which I have the honour to represent, not a very large town, the Government scheme provides for 3,800. They have to act together under war conditions. The problem of their organisation is in reality a military problem but it has to be carried out by civilian officers under the control of the local council and I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that there is still real danger that these volunteers may remain unorganised or imperfectly organised. In many cases, I am certain, the problem will be substantially unsolved until there is a much larger number of full-time officers engaged on the work. In one place an A.R.P. officer told me that he could not hope to organise his wardens unless he received authority to have a full-time air-raid chief warden. In another place a medical officer told me that out of, I think, 15 medical sections which he ought to have organised, he only had one and that the existing voluntary organisation could not help him to carry through the work alone. I know this is a matter which the Lord Privy Seal has in mind. His circular No. 9 of this year recommends local authorities to appoint more full-time officers. I know, as I say, it is in his mind.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I agree, but I want it to be in the very forefront of the right hon. Gentleman's mind and to be kept there. It is useless to bring together hundreds of thousands of willing people unless the essential organisation is there to make their services of use, and I am sure that, owing partly to what I may call the inelasticity of the machinery which has been set up and partly to the difficulty of getting approval for each extra item of expenditure, these appointments are not being made.
§ Mr. Mabane
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he suggests that the full-time officer should be, as it were in command, in the same way as the commanding officer of a Territorial battalion or as an adjutant?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The second There should be assistance, of course, but I suggest that there should be an officer at the top. There would be the Lord Privy Seal's co-ordinating officer and then there would be an air-raids officer and the medical officer, and the medical officer would have his wholer-time assistants working on the medical part of the job.
§ Mr. Mabane
But the hon. Gentleman, I take it, does not want the chief warden of the town or city to be one who is not a volunteer?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Not at all; but I suggest that a full-time officer should be added. I hope I have said enough to make my meaning clear. I think it is one of the things which might be overlooked and I hope it will be borne constantly in mind. I pass on to the two major topics of the Debate, which are, I think, by far the most important topics we have to discuss to-day. I refer to evacuation and bomb-proof shelters. We are faced with the prospect of an attempted knock-out blow. That is what, may be attempted against us. In his evacuation report last July the Lord Privy Seal said:The whole issue in any future war may well turn on the manner in which the problem of evacuation from densely populated industrial areas is handled.Later he said that the scheme which he recommended would enable the Government to get the situation in hand and remove the chief temptation to a potential enemy to attempt the knock-out blow. How far has he got with this matter, which he then stated is one of great urgency? As I understand, the Government have decided that certain categories of people shall be evacuated and shall have preference—school children, their teachers and other attendants, nursing mothers and their young children, and expectant mothers. I understand that by their survey they are now, so to speak, counting up the accommodation which is available for people who are to be evacuated, and they are going to see how far the available places will meet the num 1392 bers whom they want to evacuate, and then decide whether they can add any other categories to the children, the mothers, and so on. I want to say, with great respect, that I believe they will have to go further than that and that they ought to do it very soon. I believe there are others who must be sent away from places which are likely to have much bombardment—the aged, the invalids. Does anyone think they could be kept in places where there was heavy or constant bombardment? That would mean always a very considerable addition, for which, I think, early preparation ought to be made.
In the second place, it is certain that great numbers of people will evacuate themselves. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) when he said that if adults and other people try to push before the children, we should use forcible means to prevent that happening, and I am certain that it was in the public interest that a quarter of the population left Paris before 28th September last. I believe it is in the public interest that a great portion of the population of London should leave the capital, and I am sure that the Lord Privy Seal must make preparations for another immense addition to those for whom his calculations have been made. Further, I am sure that there are some places where, whatever the Government may desire or order, total evacuation for habitation purposes will take place. The suburb of Barcelona known as Barcelonetta was totally evacuated, and the area are a around the docks was totally evacuated for a very long period of time. I am sure the thing would happen in the docks area in London, and perhaps on Tyneside, perhaps in some of the areas around munition works. The bombardment would be such that while, perhaps people could come into work, with these shelters, they would not be able to live there. If this is really so, I think the Government ought to make their decisions on these points now, and I think they ought to decide what businesses it is desirable should be moved out, and what categories of the population they want not to be in the most dangerous areas.
If the Government are going to decide that more people must be evacuated, they will have to find more accommodation, and I suggest that they have by no means solved that problem, indeed, that in 1393 counting their accommodation now they are being far too generous to themselves. Let me explain what I mean. They have done some zoning, and I am glad of it, but I am afraid that they are counting as reception areas places that ought never so to be counted. Take, for example, all the towns to the East of London. I am told—I have not, I regret, looked up the list again to-day, but I think I remember it rightly—that Chelmsford and Colchester are counted as reception areas. If they are reception areas, they get no steel shelters, but they have a large increase of population, and Colchester and Chelmsford are on the route which German bombers would follow to come to London, and on the route by which they would return, and that is the point, for if our balloon barrage, our anti-aircraft guns, our fighter squadrons are successful, a great number of the German bombers will go back with their bombs aboard, but they will not carry them across the North Sea. They will look for the best targets they can find, and they will drop their bombs there.
I think all these places on the Eastern side of England may well be among the most dangerous places there are. Let me take another example. I was at Peterborough the other day, and I was told that they were making arrangements there to billet people under the survey in the very centre of the town, a quarter of a mile from the main line railway station, 300 yards from a petrol dump, 600 yards from an aerodrome, and about the same from a factory which is making large quantities of war material. I was even told that some arrangements were being made for billeting in houses scheduled for demolition. I take another example. There are some places which are called neutral, which I think ought not to be so regarded. I take Derby as an example, because I know it well. Derby is the home of the Rolls-Royce works and of other factories engaged on armament work. Derby is so important to the Government that they have given it batteries of anti-aircraft guns, and they are giving it a balloon barrage. But Derby is called neutral, and not only is it neutral but from other towns people are to be billeted in the small towns close around, almost up to the margin of the county borough itself. I think that those who in Derby believe that there would 1394 have to be evacuation from areas round the Rolls-Royce works—at least children, mothers, old people, and the sick, would have to go—are right, and that provision for their evacuation and other plans should be made for those who come from further a field.
This argument leads me to the conclusion that accommodation ought to be increased, and I venture, at the risk of increasing the crisis within my own party and of incurring the displeasure of strict disciplinarians, to say that I agree with the last speaker that a wider extension of camps is well worthy of the consideration of the Government. I believe that whatever the Lord Privy Seal may do by billetting—and I think he ought to go to the very limit, as I said in evidence before the Committee—he will need more accommodation and that if he makes more camps the money will not be wasted. I think it is right and proper that we should argue that these things are desirable in time of peace and that if out of this hideous waste we can get something that will increase human health and happiness, let us thank God and get it.
According to the statistics of those receiving holidays with pay, a very great number of such people are already in receipt of that benefit. I think the number is being increased by about a million a year. In any case there are 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 more of wage earners who hope some day soon to have holidays with pay. They cannot pay the price of holiday accommodation at the present rates neither in boarding houses in seaside resorts or in the commercial camps, where the prevailing rate is 30s., 40s., 50s. and even 60s. a week per head. They cannot do it, and I am sure that those borough councils which are planning municipal camps where poor people can have holidays at a rate they can afford to pay are on a good scheme. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will see his way to give them encouragement and help.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I think that the Lord Privy Seal has hit on the right size, that is to say, from 250 to 300. During a war they would be greatly expansible and take many more people than in peace time. On the question about danger, while I think that an enemy might attack them, they could easily be camouflaged 1395 and provided with trenches or other dugout accommodation.
I turn to the question of shelters. I am afraid that the most important thing about the present Debate is that the Lord Privy Seal has told us he has not a policy on shelters. He has a policy to deal with splinters, blast and falling debris, but not to deal with direct hits by high explosive bombs. He has a policy for trenches, steel shelters and strutted basements. In some places trenches are right. In some cases steel shelters are right. I welcome them, for they are a departure from the refuge room and from the principle that a man must look after himself and pay for himself. I am certain, however, that they will not do everywhere and that they have severe limitations. I am told that in Salford, for instance, there are 42,000 houses, of which only 4,000 have available space in which to fit a steel shelter, and of those 4,000 only 2,000 have soft earth. A steel shelter may do many things, but it will not afford any rest from the nervous strain of a continuous bombardment and it is not gas-proof. Therefore, it is open to objection in various ways. Strutted basements form another line of defence. They may be of value in some places, but I do not think the public have yet been told how to make them safe, or even reasonably safe. In Spain they proved to be veritable death-traps and were abandoned. It is a long and costly process to make them safe, and when they are finished they will not be nearly as good as real shelters.
I deeply regret that no decision on real shelters has yet been made. Perhaps I may be forgiven if I say I rather regret the way in which the Lord Privy Seal spoke about the Finsbury plan. He has shown that he has no particular affection for that plan. I hope that he has no hostility towards those who put the plan forward. I am not a technician in these matters, but I am told by some who are that the research work done by the Fins-bury people is among the very best that has been done anywhere in the world.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am glad to hear that, and I withdraw what I said. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not reject 1396 that plan. If he does I hope he will produce some better reasons than those he produced this evening. They would have been valid against every shelter made in Spain since the civil war began and against almost every dug-out made by soldiers in the last war. I think that he began from a false starting point when he said that people in the danger zone would be themselves in the reserved occupations and, therefore, must expect some risk and be on the same footing as people in the field. But for people in the field we try to give the maximum safety and I am sure that the principle ought to apply. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about bigger and better bombs. Of course, on that principle we would never build a battleship at all. He used what I may call the monolithic argument, that everyone inside a shelter might be killed by concussion.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
But there must have been a great deal of experience in the last War of heavy shells hitting dug-outs and other shelters. There must be parallel experience which would help to show whether that was a great danger or not. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulty of finding one's way about in the dark. I understand that devices with luminous paint have already been tried, and have been shown to solve the problem of finding the way to a shelter in the dark. He used the psychological argument that being inside a shelter might frighten people. I think that long experience has shown that the psychological argument works the other way. Indeed, all those objections have been proved by experience in Spain and China and elsewhere to have only a very limited validity indeed. I quote the figures from memory, but I believe that in the first air raid on Alicante, when there were no shelters, some 500 or 600 people were killed, and that six months later, after shelters had been made, a raid of similar proportions produced a death-roll of only 14. In his report upon evacuation the Lord Privy Seal said:Whatever might be done about evacuation there must be a real shelter policy, because a very high proportion of the essential activities of the country is carried on in areas which might be exposed to severe aerial bombardment, as is notably the case in London. As regards industry, London contains one in 1397 five of the insured workers of the country, and we were informed by the Ministry of Labour that 62 per cent. of the London workers are engaged in industry groups which would be particularly important in wartime for production, commerce and government.If that is true, we must make it possible for essential people to remain in London in conditions in which they can do their work without being subjected to a constant nervous strain such as would certainly break them down. To that end there is only one policy, and that is real shelters. No one is wedded to the Finsbury plan. Other schemes have been carried out with success in various places in Switzerland. In Sheffield, Birmingham and other places it might be possible to solve the problem of shelters by tunnels in rock—in the rising ground which there is there and in many other places. Whatever plan is adopted, the essential thing is that the Lord Privy Seal should make his decisions of principle now; that he should authorise the workable schemes which have been presented to him and tell the people to go ahead with them; that he should concentrate his research intensively upon this problem until he has got an answer that satisfies him; and that this should be in a period of days rather than weeks, if it can be done. Above all, I hope that in this, as in every other matter, he will remember the time factor. Our foreign policy has been founded on the principle that time is on our side. I have doubted for a long time whether that were really true, but if the dictators came to think so, as they might at any moment, the Lord Privy Seal would find he had no time at all, and I hope that he will make his decisions now on this and, indeed, on all the great problems he has to face.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
I am sure that all who have listened to the Debate to-day will agree that it has been one of the highest importance. Some of the subjects discussed to-day do not call for an interim reply from me to-night at any length. Two of the principal topics discussed have been, first, the problem of evacuation and, second, the problem of shelters. As regards the second, the House will not expect me to add anything, except perhaps by way of comment, to what my right hon. Friend has said in advance of a decision; and in regard to the first 1398 topic, the Minister of Health will be discussing all the problems connected with it, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport all the cognate problems which have vital relation to such issues as that raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Abngdon (Sir R. Glyn) about the railways. I will say two things about shelters. The first is that it is clear from the Debate that opinion in this House, equally with opinion outside the House, is very much divided on this issue. Opinion is not by any means as unanimously in favour of the deep-shelter policy as one would gather from popular discussions in some papers in recent months. On the second point, relating to evacuation, the hon. Member opposite dismissed the arguments of the Lord Privy Seal in a very cursory manner. He will find that a good many men with experience in the War will pay a great deal more attention to the arguments produced by my right hon. Friend than the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) was inclined to do in the speech to which we have just listened.
I will do my best to acknowledge freely the spirit of leadership shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) in his whole approach to this subject to-day, but I will not be led into following him in the few words he used of political controversy, to which he was quite entitled, or the rather more words of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, in relation to that matter, save to say that I must not be taken by silence, or by the few words I use on the subject, into accepting what they said. If we are to have controversy at any time about these matters I would remind them that there will be another side of the balance sheet to be drawn up, and that the limelight will be thrown on the action, or lack of action, there as well as here. The whole tendency of the Debate has been wholly practical, and there has been no disposition in any part of the Committee to do anything but answer questions which really matter from a practical point of view. Rarely, in my experience in this House, have I listened, either in Committee or in general Debate, to a greater wealth of constructive suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney asked several questions on matters affecting the personnel of the Department concerned with 1399 air-raid precautions. He asked whether the regional officers would have power not merely to co-ordinate but to use what he called coercion.
§ Mr. Brown
I thought I heard it as I was sitting here. At any rate, I will look with interest at the exact phrase in order to see how I happened to be led astray by the right hon. Gentleman. He seemed to be asking for something which might be described as sympathetic compulsion. Perhaps I am getting him more accurately there. He wanted a co-ordinating function on the part of the regional officer, but he wanted some way of getting from some local authorities what he thought was an admirable thing. I was just referring to Circular No. 9 of 1939. The Committee will see that the point is already in the mind of my right hon. Friend. It says it is part of the plan for expediting the progress of air-raid general precautions. Immediate steps have been taken to strengthen the regional side of the Department. This will have the effect of reducing the delay as the senior inspectors will have authority to indicate approval on behalf of the Department of definite parts of local authority schemes. I hope that that instruction will have the effect which the right hon. Gentleman desired to have, of shortening the period of delay in approving a good many of the smaller decisions.
The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of the bonus, and seemed to think that the fact that it is given only to actual fire-fighters means that there is discrimination against the women in the Service, because they do not qualify. He will understand that the bonus is given for a special reason, namely, the length and exacting nature of the training, and I think the issue there turns on whether or no anyone in the Service completes the 60 hours' training. If that is done, I can say that there will be no discrimination as between one person and another; it is a question of whether they are in the Service and doing the long and intensive training to which the bonus was meant to apply. I will not deal with the other major problems which the right hon. Gentleman raised, because they concern the Debate to-morrow and the reply to 1400 be made by my right hon. Friend. With regard to the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) about shelters, my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will consider that point sympathetically, but I may mention that some local authorities are doing it already, and perhaps my hon. Friend may find some use for that precedent.
The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) was anxious to know whether thought was being given to the provision of guidance for industry. Hon. Members know that the hon. Baronet has taken a very active and live interest in this problem, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney has, I understand, just returned from attending an air wardens' conference, it may be that the hon. Baronet is doing the same thing in some other part of London. We know the great service that he has given, not only on the Committee over which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal presided, but also in other directions. My right hon. Friend has set up a division of his own Department specially to deal with the problems to which the hon. Baronet referred. In reply to his question as to whether my right hon. Friend has had technical guidance on all these various problems, including, of course, problems of shelter, I can say that there is no one in the whole Kingdom who has access to more authoritative advice, both in his own Department and from the official bodies, than my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal.
In a speech wholly concerned with the very interesting practical problems arising out of the setting up and enlargement of this brand-new service, for which there was no precedent whatever, my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) put one or two practical questions. In the first place, he wants to know whether the warden officers will be appointed by the local authorities. The answer is that in the circular concerned the local authorities have been urged now to proceed with appointments of that kind. It is not only in the minds of those working in the ranks of the Air-Raid Precautions Service that this issue bulks largely, but, also as the circular shows, it is much in the minds of those at the centre. My hon. Friend also raised the question of expenses. The answer is that the local authorities have discretion in that 1401 matter, and they will get a grant for any reasonable allowances for out-of-pocket expenses.
As the Committee knows, the point which my hon. Friend raised with regard to an enforceable contract was made quite clear in the original statement of the Lord Privy Seal and in the speech of the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) which immediately followed that of my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield. Those who are in contact with the rank-and-file in the Air-Raid Precautions Services do not agree as to whether it would or would not be of advantage to the men in the ranks to have a contract of service of the kind that my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield desires. The fact is that we have taken the view that an enforceable contract is not possible, and we have preferred the way of the honourable undertaking. I am much obliged to the hon. Member for letting me have a copy of the small badge which he said was being sold. He asked me whether it was legal to sell such badges. I will have the point examined. I cannot give an answer now, but I would have said, as a layman, that it would not be legal to wear such a badge unless the training had been fulfilled. This being an official badge, it would appear to me that it would not be legal for anybody who was not qualified to wear it, but we will go into the matter and get a legal view.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
While the right hon. Gentleman is looking into that, will he look into another point which is very similar, as to whether employés who are trained by their firms will be entitled to wear the badge?
§ Mr. Mabane
Will my right hon. Friend look into the question of whether the smaller badge can be worn?
§ Mr. Brown
The Department will certainly look into that, having regard to the awkwardness of the larger badge. With regard to the zones at Enfield and Tottenham, the hon. Member for North Tottenham will have an answer to-morrow when, on the question of evacuation, the whole matter of these zones will naturally be discussed. With regard to incendiary bombs, I understand that supplies are coming forward much more rapidly now. Perhaps the hon. Member will make an 1402 inquiry later when he may have, from his own practical point of view, better results than he has had hitherto. I agree that the men who understand the value of the shelters are those who are, like many Members of this House, ex-service men who served in the last War. Many welcomed such a shelter between 1914 and 1918. With regard to shelters for social activities, I would like to point out that, of course, the circular of 26th January makes it quite clear that that is a matter for the local authority, and grants-in-aid may be made.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan) raised a point with regard to refugees. He will not expect me to give an answer now because he will know that there are difficulties, as the question of nationality is a vital one, but I should not be fair to him if I did not warn him that there are difficulties involved in using in our defence services those who are not naturalised citizens of our own country. My hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Sir T. Cook) raised some points about practical affairs in regard to fire brigades, about which he knows so much. Special notice will be taken of those points by the Department, and if he has any further points of detail, my right hon. Friend will be glad to have them brought to his notice.
Perhaps the Committee will now allow me to say a word or two about the question of personnel, as I believe this House and the country will want to know what sort of progress we are able to report about the volunteering for National Service as a result of the preliminary part of the campaign. It was quite clear that both before and during September, 1938, as those who have read the National Service Guide and the schedule of reserved occupations will clearly understand, we had made many preparations of a material character for these two calculations, which are not the result of weeks but of months of work. It was plain in the crisis that three things were needed, (1) knowledge as to the branches of the services and the conditions of enrolment; (2) the need for making latent enthusiasm effective, and (3) guidance needed by the public as to the relative importance of their normal occupations and the various Defence Services. To meet these things a guide has been provided and there have been set up—a very remarkable 1403 piece of work—202 powerful local committees, with the addition of between 60 and 70 sub-committees, in order that, what this country always desires to do in these matters, the enthusiasm of local patriotism as well as of national patriotism should be harnessed in a practical form. We also had, of course, the schedule of reserved occupations.
If I have time a little later I will say a word about the details of the schedule, but I do not wish to conclude this speech without giving the Committee a number of figures so that the country as well as the Committee may have a more accurate view of what has been achieved in the first three weeks. The figures I shall give will refer to the period 25th January, when the National Service Guide was first issued, to 18th February. That is the period, and it is only that period. There have been complaints that there has not been enough publicity and drive about this campaign, and the answer is that we have made it perfectly plain from the beginning that there was no intention in the first stages of this enrolment to have a very big drive, and that what was intended was to make a sound machine to measure the problem and then to see what size of machine would be necessary for a campaign for the services. That has proved to have been wise. The analysis of the figures that I shall give, analysed in relation to the services, will show three things, first, that there are already areas in the country where all services are full, and it is clear that in these areas you want no stimulation.
§ Mr. Brown
That is so, and the Territorials. But there are two functions, as the hon. Member and the Committee know. There is the general function applicable to the whole country for stimulating recruiting for all services, national in character, and there is a particular 1404 service to which the local authority has special reference, namely, to see that their own local needs are met. The first thing that comes out of the examination of the first result is that, with regard to that problem, there are areas where the services are full, and that is also true not only merely of A.R.P. services in some areas but of the particular Territorial contingents which are peculiar to those particular areas.
The second thing which is disclosed is that there are areas where some services are full and others which need more recruitment. The third thing is that there are areas where there is a great deal of stimulation to be done. While I do not tell the Committee that there is no stimulation wanted in the county areas and county borough areas, it still remains true that the problem is mainly a large town and city problem. Having said that, let me give the Committee the figures up to 18th February. The number of applications for the different services from the issue of the handbook on 25th January up to 18th February through the Ministry of Labour offices was 218,000.
§ Mr. Brown
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to make my speech in my own way. It is my good fortune, or my misfortune, to have to present statistics and they are the essence of this problem. I have got them out after a very difficult analysis in a succinct form, and I think they will give the Committee an idea of the position. The applications received for the different services through the Ministry of Labour have been 218,000. The number of applications for the Army have been 62,000, of which not more than 10,000 have come through the Ministry of Labour channel. The figure for the Army is 62,000. [Interruption.] I am talking about the applications of all kinds for the Army. I am not making any distinction between any of the services.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I had the impression that National Service Committees were not concerned with the Regular Army.
§ Mr. Brown
We must remember two things in this campaign—first, to get a balance between all the services concerned and, secondly, to get a balance between the Forces and industry. I am going to give the Committee the complete returns for all the services with which the country is concerned. With regard to the Air Force, the applications have been 61,000, and we have in that period a total number of applications for all services of about 370,000. When we remember that in the month of August, 1914, in the first weeks of the War, the first 100,000 was not completed until the end of August, hon. Members will agree that this is a remarkable figure. It is important to let the country and the world know that some of the statements made outside the Committee and outside this House are not by any means justified.
§ Colonel Nathan
I never interrupt, but I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he wishes the Committee to understand as a statement of fact that the recruits for the Army during a period of three weeks have been 50,000 and the recruits for the Air Force 40,000.
§ Mr. Brown
I said the figures were of the applications that were made. I will now tell the Committee what the actual enrolments have been. The Committee will understand that there is a considerable time-lag between application and enrolment, due to formalities, medical examination and other things. The Army enlisted by the end of the first half of February 10,000 recruits; the Air Force enlisted 12,000 recruits, half for immediate service and half for the waiting list. The Navy enlisted 1,350 recruits, the Mercantile Marine 4,050, the Women's Land Army 4,100, trained assistants and auxiliary nurses 6,700, midwives' service 600,wireless reserve and wireless telegraphy board 1,700, coastguards 450, and A.R.P. services 173,320, made up as follows: 127,241 for general A.R.P. work, 23,837 for fire services, 20,240 for police service. That means that from the beginning of the campaign in January to the 18th February there have been enrolled in the various services on an application list of 370,000 no fewer than 212,270 in these various services.
1406 Let me now tell the Committee one or two other points. Take the Central Register. With regard to the Central Register of Specialists, we have a separate committee which has now nine separate subcommittees. At the moment we have received at the Ministry of Labour 17,526 names. Ninety-five per cent. of the doctors of the country have registered for the emergency register of doctors, 42,750 approximately, and 85 per cent. of the dentists of the country have registered for the central register of dentists, 10,200 approximately. Those figures will give the House some idea of the spirit of patriotism stirring our people, when it is understood that the local committees have only just begun to take a full cognisance of their problem and there has not been, what there now will be, a concerted drive to make sure that those services which are short and the towns and cities in which they are short shall be made aware of the needs of the local committees and arrange that the local committees shall have bimonthly a complete statement of the needs, and, secondly, that we shall be able to make use of every form of propaganda and appeal that is necessary to see that the efforts for the protection of the public in those areas with regard to local services is really directed to those ranks that need supplementing.
There is, of course, a problem inside the total figures. If you asked me what the needs are, my answer would be that the various services have stated their needs and, with regard to air-raid precautions, it is clear that when we take the total figures there is one very important point to which we must pay particular attention. In the defence paper on the one hand and in the figures given to the House on the other we see that the total enrolments in the country and the total needs are not far apart, but I should like the Committee to be seized of this point. When we talk about areas that are backward, inside the problem of the total enrolment there is a great variety of circumstances locally. There are surpluses in some areas and deficiencies in others, so we may have, as we have now, for general A.R.P. Services a strength of over 1,250,000 with total needs of 1,400,000 and yet we may have a much larger deficiency problem when the actual facts about various cities and towns are examined both centrally and locally.
1407 We have had returns made from all the areas. When the promised survey is made at the end of March we shall have to consider the form in which it can be made available to the House and the country so as to give them and local authorities a picture of the whole thing. Of all the services that requires stimulating generally there can be no doubt whatever that the survey shows that the Auxiliary Fire Services are the ones that most need a stimulus. I have no doubt that every single local authority is now applying its mind to the reasons, and we shall, of course, overcome them. There are very great differences in areas, and not only in areas, but in cities. I was in a city in the West Country not many days ago and I was told by air wardens in one part of the city, who knew that they had filled their quota for that part of the city, that they were sorely troubled as to why another part of the city was not producing its quota. That is a problem which will have to be met, and local feeling no doubt will make itself heard, because this is a matter for everyone. It is not a matter of party politics, nor merely a matter for national defence, but of defending the homes of the men, their wives and their children in the whole community.
There is no doubt whatever that the local machine is the right machine for bringing those problems to bear on the citizens in the area by leaders who are trusted in that area. In a number of areas there are strange differences. I was reminded of two by the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield. If the hon. Member wants to look at Yorkshire, I advise him to look at the remarkable achievements at Hull. Let me 1408 take two boroughs near London. I regret that I have not time to give statistics. We shall have to take the earliest opportunity we can to complete the whole subject.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.— [Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.