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 expense of the Office of the Lord Privy Seal.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)
The Debate yesterday showed two things. It showed quite clearly that in considering this novel subject hon. Members were determined to examine it in all its details, for although all the speeches ran to unusual length I do not think there was a complaint from any side that the speeches were too long in view of the importance of the subject. It is true that the speeches of yesterday showed how vast is the field which we have to review. So, without more ado I shall come straight to examination of the problems which have been entrusted to me and my Department. In the first place, I should like to say that the whole plan of Civil Defence rests on the regional organisation. The Ministry of Health's activities are intimately bound up with local government, and these new developments touch both the Ministry and the local authorities at a great number of points. The Ministry of Health, therefore, plays a considerable part in the regional emergency organisation.
It was intimated yesterday again by the Lord Privy Seal that the country is being divided into 12 regions, to each of which a commissioner and a deputy-commissioner will be appointed. Each of these regions will have an office and staff, and we at the Ministry will provide a number of officers who will serve on the staff of the commissioner. In war time, of course, the regional commissioners will be responsible for co-ordinating the emergency services of the several departments. But 1498 so long as communications are maintained with Whitehall the regional commissioners will not be responsible for the execution of those services, that is to say, things will run on normal lines unless and until communications are interrupted. Each department will have its own regional office and regional staff for the conduct of the services for which it is responsible. The regional staffs will look to their parent offices for instructions. Of course, in the event of a breakdown of communications the regional commissioner takes over full responsibility for all such services. That is to say, he acts in the region as the Government would act if it was still in communication with the region.
In peace time it will be the duty of the regional commissioner to establish touch with the local authorities in his region, and with that object a regional council, under the chairmanship of the commissioner, will be set up in each region. The council will consist of representatives of the county councils and the county borough councils in the region, and of the regional staffs of the Government Departments concerned. The Ministry of Health, like the other Departments, will have a regional office and regional staff for emergency purposes in each of these regions. We have already offices adequate for the purpose. Some of these offices are now being improved.
The Committee may like to hear the lay-out of the Ministry's staff, because that indicates the lay-out of other similar staffs at the headquarters of the regional commissioner. We shall have a senior regional officer, who will in each case be a senior administrative officer of our Department, that is to say a civil servant. He will be in general charge of the regional staff. He will be assisted by a deputy, who will act also as establishment officer, a medical staff, and officers representing such departments as water and sewerage, engineering, housing, evacuation and finance. He will represent, so to speak, the medical services and certain branches of civil engineering services in the regions. I think it is desirable to emphasise that there is nothing in that organisation which can be said to be at variance with our normal practice. In an emergency central control is inevitable, but under the proposed organisation, there 1499 will be full co-operation with local authorities, for instance, in the councils which the regional commissioners are to set up. The function of the regional officers of the Ministry will primarily be that of assisting and advising local authorities in any difficulties which they may encounter. That is a function, after all, to which officials of the Department are accustomed. As Minister of Health, whose previous title was that of President of the Local Government Board, I am very jealous of the status of local authorities in this matter. We are keenly desirous that their importance in this scheme should not in any way be minimised, and right hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite will be reassured in understanding that that is the approach which we make to this great problem from the local government side.
In health questions the regional medical staff will be concerned both with the normal peace-time public health and national health insurance services and also with the treatment of casualties. I do not want to elaborate that point now, for I will have to speak on it in some detail later. But the regional staffs will have other work. They will be seriously concerned with the reconstruction side of housing for instance. In an intensive series of air bombardments one must expect an extensive destruction of the housing of the people, and it is very desirable to have an organisation capable of dealing with that.
A plan has been prepared for this purpose and its final details are now being worked out. The aim of our plan is to secure that damaged housing accommodation which is occupied and still must be occupied will be immediately rendered reasonably habitable by repairs of a temporary nature, and that subsequently, when time is available, repairs of a more permanent character will be carried out. It is contemplated that that work will be carried out under the control of the housing authority, and that they will use as their agents such building staff as they possess, together with locally organised units of the building industry. We are in touch, through the Lord Privy Seal, with the building industry, and both labour and employers have indicated their willingness to render public service to the full extent of their capacity. They 1500 have worked out elaborate plans for dealing with this difficulty. The locally organised effort will find expert assistance at its disposal both at Whitehall and in the regions which we are setting up. We shall also have here in London a team of people skilled in building administration who will be available to strengthen our representatives in any hard-pressed regions. Suppose that some region were heavily bombed and a great deal of destruction were done. We can send down from here a team which will assist the local authorities and the building trades in their efforts to get essential shelter reestablished as soon as possible.
In view of the present activity in the building industry it is unlikely that there will be a demand for ordinary building materials which could not be met. There is an adequacy of ordinary building materials; but of course, for emergency repairing substances, such as corrugated iron or roofing felt, it may well be that there will be some shortage. We are examining the available supplies of these materials in the light of possible demands, and if a shortage is disclosed we shall take the necessary steps to see that it is made good at the earliest possible moment.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will desire evidence that advantage is not being taken of these national needs in order to profiteer. The case of cement was mentioned last week. It has not been mentioned in these Debates, but it might be desirable to refer to the very natural anxiety which was evinced by some hon. Members. The present position is that a strong committee exists under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Hillsborough Division (Mr. Alexander) and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Hicks) also sit on the committee. That committee has investigated the case of cement, and it recommended that I should go into the question with the manufacturers. That is being done. It is obiously undesirable, therefore, that I should go into the matter further now, except to say that, comparing the end of 1935, when admittedly there was no great amount of Government activity in this direction, with the end of 1938, cement showed a rise of five points. I looked into the figures relating to other building materials. There was a rise in the case of building 1501 lime of 10 points, in the case of joinery timber of 11 points, in the case of carcassing timber of 18 points, and in the case of common bricks of one point. There was, as will be seen, undoubtedly a rise in the price of cement during that time, but in other building materials there has been a rise in some cases greater, and in some cases less. Facing bricks show a rise of four points.
§ Major Milner
Does not the fact that the Committee suggested that the matter should be gone into with the manufacturers indicate dissatisfaction with the position?
§ Mr. Elliot
I think the Committee were right. There was a rise and we intend to go into it with the manufacturers.
§ Mr. Elliot
I received the report just before Christmas.
So much for the housing activities. Of course, the Committee is very greatly interested in the provision of medical services—a matter which may touch any of us very greatly indeed. The medical services for which the Ministry's regional medical staff will be responsible fall into two sections. The first will be the maintenance of the public health services, and the second the treatment of casualties. The treatment of casualties is, for the moment, under the control of the Ministry's hospital officers. There is one in each region, and he has been posted to the region for several months past, working in the closest consultation with the local authorities and the voluntary hospitals. The Parliamentary Secretary and I have visited several regions and had conferences with the hospital authorities and officers in those regions. It has been intended for some time that we should regionalise our medical staff, that it should not be concentrated in Whitehall, but that the officers should go into the regions and live there. That scheme is now being put into operation, and the hospital officers will become part of our medical organisation, whether there is an emergency or not.
We envisage further that a principal regional medical officer should be appointed in each region to supervise the medical administrative work. He will 1502 work hand in hand with the local emergency committees representing the medical profession which, as hon. Members know, have been set up to regulate the supply of medical personnel. A remarkable piece of self-organisation has been done by the medical profession, starting with the register, which covers 95 per cent. of the doctors, and now completed by the regional organisation which covers every part of the country and practically all the effective medical personnel. The principal regional medical officer should be aware of any sudden drafts of doctors which might deplete the ranks of the general practitioners, for, of course, the general practitioners would still play an essential part in health insurance work and general practice. But the main emergency activity of the principal regional medical officer will undoubtedly be that of superintending the arrangements for the reception and treatment of casualties. He will work through the hospital officers.
I come now to the hospital organisation which we have drawn up in recent months to meet these very distasteful possibilities.
§ Mr. Messer
Are we to take it that the regional medical officer will supplant the county medical officer?
§ Mr. Elliot
No, Sir. The region is very much larger than the county. The regional medical officer will merely be the representative in the region of the Ministry, to whom the county medical officer will normally apply. Instead of being in Whitehall, the regional medical officer will be in, say, Cambridge or Bristol. It will be more convenient. He will not in any way supplant the county medical officer or the borough medical officer. In case of emergency, the county and borough medical officers will be able to get access more easily to the regional medical officer, and if there is no emergency, their inquiries will be more expeditiously answered.
§ Mr. Lipson
Will the regional medical officer be one of the medical officers at present living in the region who will be appointed to this office by the Ministry of Health?
§ Mr. Elliot
No, he will be a permanent officer from the Department who will go down to the regions. I was about to deal with our hospital organisation. The 1503 problem which our hospital organisation must be designed to meet is the problem of a very large number of casualties coming very suddenly and tending to taper off. Such, we are assured by the Defence Ministries, is the most probable outline of the curve of casualties in hostilities which would be involved by air warfare over Great Britain. To deal with this problem, we propose to work, as far as possible, through the existing hospitals and the existing hospital organisations of this country, both municipal and voluntary. Within the regions which I have already outlined, the local government units form the basis of an existing structure. There is one great exception to this, however—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney(Mr. H. Morrison) will realise—and that is Greater London. The problem of Greater London requires special treatment, and a special organisation has been worked out with that in view.
The general picture may be summed up as follows. There are at present 500,000 institutional beds in England and Wales; 130,000 of these are in mental hospitals. Our intention is that this great number should be organised into a co-ordinated single system which will receive casualties occurring amongst either the civilian population or the Fighting Services. It would manifestly be absurd, if a bomb fell at the end of Westminster Bridge and wounded a passing sailor, an airman, two members of the anti-aircraft gun crew and half a dozen civilians, that ambulances should come and remove these four different categories of persons to four different sets of hospitals. The major principle upon which we are going is that a casualty is a wounded person, either civil or military, and that until the stage of convalescence, he or she will be treated primarily from the point of view of injury and not of occupation.
§ Mr. Elliot
No, Sir. The figure of 500,000 is the total number of beds in our institutions, occupied and unoccupied. That is the basis from which we start to build the organisation which we intend to set up to deal with any possible further claims upon those beds as a result of 1504 enemy action over our country. This great hospital system contains, of course, a proportion of spare beds, and a considerable number of persons who are convalescent and on the point of leaving. We carried out a careful survey last year with a view to finding out what proportion could be made immediately available by making use of those two facts. It is estimated—and this estimate has been carefully checked—that by using the accommodation at present existing and that which can be released by sending home those who are fit to go, approximately 120,000 hospital beds could be made available in England and Wales within 24 hours of the receipt of warning. In a number of cases, it will be necessary to transfer patients from evacuation areas to reception areas, but, as the Committee will perceive, this does not, of course, make available additional beds.
The next stage is to increase the actual bed accommodation of the country. This will be done in two stages. In the first place, arrangements are being made to introduce additional beds into certain hospitals and institutions. For this 80,000 extra beds, with bedding, have been provided, and arrangements for distributing these beds and bedding are well advanced. These also will be available in the first 24 hours. In addition to all this, room can, if necessary, be made within the existing hospital system for the accommodation of a further 100,000 beds by taking in ancillary buildings. To sum up, therefore, 300,000 beds could be made available for casualties within the existing hospital system, and 200,000 of these would be available within the first 24 hours of the development of an emergency.
Two big problems now have to be faced: first, the actual detailed organisation under which the scheme will work—for these are merely gross figures—and, secondly, the problems of staffing this enormous expansion. Originally, the emergency hospital organisation was conceived in terms of casualty clearing stations and base hospitals, and it was thought that local authorities could properly be expected to initiate proposals for the casualty clearing stations, provided that the Government undertook full responsibility for the base hospitals. On consideration, however, it became clear that under air-raid conditions, the distinction would not be entirely applicable, 1505 as there can be no fixed front line. Accordingly, any hospital might at any time be called upon either to treat casualties arising locally or to receive for prolonged treatment casualties transferred from other hospitals. For this reason, it was decided that the local authorities should be relieved of all their direct responsibility for the organisation of hospital accommodation, and that the Government should undertake the whole of this service, with assistance from the authorities. At the same time, as I think the Committee will agree, the idea of casualty clearing and base hospitals cannot be entirely abandoned, since it must be assumed that certain areas are more likely to be subjected to intensive attack than others. Consequently, we base our general organisation on the assumption that arrangements must be made to move casualties from the presumed danger areas, with as little delay as possible, to the rural and semi-rural areas which must be presumed to be comparatively safer.
I do not need now to go into the details of the hospitals organisation we have adopted. It is fully explained in the Emergency Medical Services Memorandum No. 2, recently issued from the Ministry. One of the most important features of the emergency scheme is a proposal to link up casualty hospitals in the danger areas both to each other and to selected hospitals in the outer areas. The object is partly to enable arrangements to be made in advance of an emergency for spreading the medical and nursing personnel—naturally, one does not wish to concentrate them in the highly dangerous areas—and the equipment, which in peace-time are mainly concentrated in a comparatively small number of hospitals, situated in the larger towns; and partly that the evacuation of patients from the danger areas to the hospitals outside may, as far as possible, be pre-arranged. The Committee will realise that some of the hospitals in the rural areas which are to act as base hospitals for the larger towns have at present neither staff nor surgical equipment on the scale necessary for undertaking heavy casualty work, and it will be necessary to send out to them some of the equipment and personnel, both for the purpose of starting these hospitals, and for the purpose of removing that equipment and personnel from the more dangerous areas in the heart of great cities.
1506 The Department's hospital officers are at present consulting with the hospital authorities and working out these affiliation schemes. The most important of all these is the great problem of London. The London region presents, of course, an entirely special problem. The mere local government of London makes it a special problem itself. Therefore, we had to work out an affiliation scheme in some detail. It is not intended that casualties should be retained for treatment in London, and we want to take them out as soon as possible. There are 50,000 existing hospital beds in the County of London, most of them first-class surgical beds, and accordingly, it is considered not only that there is no necessity for increasing the number of these beds in an emergency, but that only a proportion of the beds in the larger general hospitals should be kept in commission for casualties. This means that only a proportion of the medical and nursing staff need be retained. With this in mind, we have worked out an administrative scheme for London of a somewhat novel kind. We envisage the London police area. The term "Greater London" has many meanings, but I will call it Greater London for convenience.
§ Mr. Elliot
The scheme will go outside Greater London. We have divided the London region into ten sectors radiating from Charing Cross, each having at its apex one or more of the great teaching hospitals. These hospitals, together with the municipal and other hospitals in the same sector, are being linked to hospitals and institutions out in the Home Counties, which can be expanded into base hospitals. In the event of air raids over London, the casualties received in the inner hospitals would be evacuated outwards along each sector to the institutions outside. These institutions will be staffed and equipped as far as practicable from the inner hospitals where the occupied beds are, as already explained, to be substantially reduced.
It is plain that detailed plans will have to be worked out for each of these groups of hospitals. The sectors are, in effect, 10 new synthetic cities and we have to get some sort of group officer who will take a whole sector as his charge. We 1507 have now appointed, in consultation with the 12 London teaching hospitals, representatives who will be designated as "group officers," and whose responsibility it will be, each for his own sector, to work out the plan for the sector in advance of an emergency, in collaboration with the Chief Medical Officer of the London County Council and the medical officers of health of the hospital authorities outside. We have undertaken to pay fees to the group officers in consideration of the expense to which they would be put in working out their schemes. I have here a list of those officers. I do not know whether the Committee would be interested to hear their names. They are:
- Sector A: Sir Girling Ball, F.R.C.S., and C. A. Joll, Esq., F.R.C.S.
- Sector B: Norman Lake, Esq., F.R.C.S., and W. J. Pearson, Esq., D.S.O., M.C., F.R.C.P.
- Sector C: E. Rock Carling, Esq., F.R.C.S., and C. H. S. Frankau, Esq., C.B.E., D.S.O., F.R.C.S.
§ Mr. Elliot
I can reassure hon. Members. The name is spelt differently from that which they have in mind. The others are:
In the list there are three members of the Distinguished Service Order and three holders of the Military Cross, and I think that practically every man jack of them is a Fellow either of the Royal College of Surgeons or the Royal College of Physicians. I think we are very fortunate to have 12 such distinguished gentlemen to assume this responsibility. They have all accepted nomination, and so, I am able to say that the London hospital plan is drawn up and will be operated on lines approved by the leaders of the profession, and that those who are to be in charge in war, are in charge now. They will, as I have said, work in collaboration with Sir Frederick Menzies, K.B.E., M.D., F.R.C.P., K.H.P., the Chief Medical Officer of the London County Council.
- Sectors D and E: Russell Howard, Esq., C.B.E., F.R.C.S.
- Sector F: Professor T. B. Johnston, M.D.
- Sector G: C. Max Page, Esq., D.S.O., F.R.C.S.
- Sector H: H. E. A. Boldero, Esq., F.R.C.P.
- Sector I: Sir Charles Wilson, M.C., F.R.C.P.
- Sector J: John Hunter, Esq., M.C., F.R.C.S.
1508 As for the structural precautions to be taken for the protection of hospital buildings, these are of great importance, and I propose to go into that question in some detail later in my remarks.
§ Mr. Simmonds
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of London organisation, would he say whether any of these sectors run very much to the East of a North-South line through London?
§ Mr. Elliot
They overlap the Home Counties in each direction, but not to any great extent. They run up to 50 miles outside London all round, so that if some important institution is just outside the administrative boundary of Greater London, it shall not by reason of that fact alone, be entirely ruled out of consideration in the event of a possible emergency arising in the centre.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of group medical officers for London. Is there a group representative of the Ministry of Health for each of the regions, or will the Ministry be represented merely as it is at present, centrally?
§ Mr. Elliot
I am discussing the London plan now. Nobody suggests that London is the whole of Great Britain. Since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney is not in his place now, that blasphemous observation may be allowed to pass and we will agree that it is not the whole of Great Britain. But surely that remark is not relevant. I am discussing at present the exact organisation of London and the regions immediately adjacent to London. The organisation of Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Dundee or Glasgow is quite a separate matter from this. I am merely saying that a special organisation is required for Greater London, which presents problems of a special kind owing both to the complexity of its administration and its enormous size. Now I turn to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle). The answer is "No." The Ministry's organisation is, of course, centred in London and it is not necessary to have a Ministry officer for each group, although we shall, of course, 1509 have more or less an "opposite number," that is, a Ministry officer for the London region with officers working under him.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
In the course of the Debate yesterday some hon. Members expressed anxiety about whether women and children were to be evacuated along the line likely to be taken by aircraft coming over, and I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any of the spokes of the wheel which he has described go out to the East or the North-East.
§ Mr. Elliot
I would point out that the question of evacuation is quite a separate one, to which I shall come later. The spokes of the wheel, as they have been described, reach out beyond the confines of Greater London to bring in institutions which might be just over the border.
§ Mr. Elliot
Eastwards and north-eastwards and in every direction. The essence of the air-raid problem is not the question of direction. A person might be very much safer in a rural part of Essex than in, say, the centre of Cardiff, although Cardiff is further west than Essex. As I say, I shall come to the question of evacuation later, but I would point out that we must not conclude that the pilots of aeroplanes will always take the shortest way. This is a comparatively small island; you can fly across it in 20minutes, and you can fly from end to end of it in a couple of hours, and none of us can assume that a place will be safe simply because it lies in a particular direction from London. I was only indicating, however, that as distinct from other areas, where we are making use of the mosaic of the existing local government units for organisation purposes, in the case of Greater London, a different kind of organisation is necessary, because the mosaic of the local government units of London is inappropriate to the kind of problem which we are considering. I am anxious to make it clear to the Committee that in the case of London we are operating on a different plan from that on which we are operating for the rest of the country.
1510 I turn now to the problem of hospital personnel. It has already been explained that the combined medical staff of the groups of affiliated hospitals should be organised on a plan worked out in peace time under the aegis of the group officers—that is, the group officers for all parts of the country, and not merely for London alone. Surgical teams would be assigned to the appropriate hospitals in the group, and mobile surgical teams would also be organised to deal with exceptional pressure at any hospital or elsewhere. If additional personnel is required, this would be supplied from the medical register of 45,000 doctors which has been established by the central emergency committees set up by the British Medical Association at the Government's request. Local sections of this register are being held by local emergency committees so as to make sure that doctors can be easily allocated. We intend to allot individual doctors to particular hospitals or groups of hospitals in advance of an emergency and, in addition, arrangements are being made for the central committee to reserve a number of practitioners who could be called upon to reinforce the staff of any hospital if necessary. The local emergency committees and the central emergency committee are the sole channels through which medical personnel will be drawn upon, for the medical needs of this country. The Secretary of State for Scotland and I recently met a delegate meeting of the medical profession representing the whole Kingdom and they passed the following resolution:This meeting, consisting of representatives of local emergency committees, members of the central emergency committees, and members of the Council of the British Medical Association, assures the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland of the cordial and continuous support of the medical profession in their heavy task of organising the medical services of the country in preparation for a possible emergency.So I am now in a position to answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans on 2nd February, 1939:Whether the general effect is satisfactory to those chief divisional surgeons who will have to carry out these duties."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1939; col. 375, Vol. 343.]I think I may say that the answer is "Yes."
1511 I come now to the question of nurses. Trained nurses, like doctors, are limited in number. There are about 100,000 in the country. A register of these is being compiled by the central emergency committee of the nursing profession. That committee which is operating locally through medical officers of health, supported by local emergency committees, is arranging to augment the trained personnel by the recruitment and training of women as nursing auxiliaries. The training includes giving practical experience in the hospitals and a number of hospitals have already offered to make available facilities for training. These arrangements for the nursing profession are estimated to cost the Exchequer about £50,000 a year covering the regional organisation, clerical staff, maintenance of register and provision for training of auxiliaries. I think it will reply to a question which was put to the Lord Privy Seal yesterday, if I say that similar arrangements have been made for other professions. The Pharmaceutical Society, for example, have set up an emergency committee; there is a similar committee for the dental profession, and I am arranging for the appointment of a committee for opticians.
§ Sir Gifford Fox
Are these new nurses to be paid or are they, like the members of the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance Brigade, to pay for their own training?
§ Mr. Elliot
The committee is about to put out its proposals for training and I had better not anticipate what those proposals will be. As there will be on the committee representatives of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross, I think we may trust it to see that these various arrangements do not get out of step with each other.
I should like now to say a word about first-aid posts. I did not take over responsibility for approving local authorities' schemes for first-aid posts until last December. We sent out a circular in January indicating the lines on which local authorities should proceed. It was 1512 pointed out that it was desirable to use these first-aid posts to intercept the walking wounded who did not require hospital treatment and that for that purpose the attendance of a doctor at each first-aid post would be necessary. Moreover, any patients affected by gas would be treated at these posts. We want a great number of aid posts which will be capable of functioning at short notice and that will be most easily effected by utilising buildings which are already in use for medical purposes. We would not use the very small hospitals for the treatment of casualties, but they would make admirable first-aid posts. We want fixed-aid posts to be reinforced by mobile units consisting of a motor vehicle which would carry first-aid equipment, a doctor, and a nurse.
A great many schemes have been submitted by local authorities for first-aid posts on these lines. Medical officers of health have welcomed the proposal to use medical premises, and I think we may say that we are working in harmony with the profession. I am sending out a circular within the next fortnight giving certain instructions as to what the mobile unit will contain and other things. The circular will also contain a complete list of the medical and surgical supplies which are considered to be necessary at aid posts, including mobile units. The cost of reserves of these supplies will be borne wholly by the Exchequer. It is reckoned at £100 per post, of which £34 is in respect of drugs and dressings. We at present contemplate 2,000 of these first-aid posts, at £100 apiece.
Local authorities are being asked to allocate doctors to first-aid posts, with the assistance of the local emergency committees, and these doctors may be paid in peace-time a retaining fee. That is being settled in consultation with the British Medical Association. We want them to give collective training to the auxiliary personnel attached to each post. We want if possible to make a crew which really knows its premises and will be assembled there in case of war, and I attach great importance to medical training as a unit as well as to first-aid training such as is given in classes and so on. The local authorities are making good progress with the recruitment and even with the preliminary training of this auxiliary personnel.
§ Captain Alan Graham
Can my right hon. Friend say whether these first-aid posts are all to be above ground, or are they in fact to be relatively bombproof underground posts, similar to those which some of us have seen in Paris?
§ Mr. Elliot
I shall come to the question of protection very shortly. As a matter of fact, I sent over to Paris in January my chief hospital officer and the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry to see what was being done there, but the Paris proposals are quite different. The physical structure of the two cities is quite different, and their organisation also is quite different.
Just a word about ambulances. There are two types, the large ambulances, which will be used for transferring cases from one hospital to another, and the smaller ambulances, which will be used for picking up casualties in the streets. Arrangements have been made in every region for the conversion of a very large number of buses and vans at a few hours' notice, and the hospital officers are working out operation orders with the bus companies so that ambulance transport will be available at all hospitals from which patients have to be transferred as soon as an emergency has developed. Time presses, and I cannot go very far into the question of the organisation of ambulances. The smaller ambulances are the responsibility of local authorities.
The Committee may be interested in the question of supplies. We have now bought 50,000 bedsteads and mattresses, and ordered another 50,000. We have ordered 350,000 blankets for use in hospitals and first-aid posts, and another 200,000 are being ordered. We have bought 125,000 stretchers, and distributed them, and another 100,000 are being ordered. Arrangements are being made to buy centrally the surgical equipment, drugs, and dressings for the hospitals, first-aid parties, and first-aid posts, and in this connection we have decided to seek the assistance of the biggest hospital authority in the world, the London County Council, who are, of course, very large actual purchasers of these goods. I should like to take this opportunity of recording our great indebtedness to the Council for the ready way in which, when they were approached, they undertook to allow their chief officer of supplies, Mr. Wilson, with the assistance of their 1514 Supplies Department, to act as agent on behalf of the A.R.P. Department, the Department of Health for Scotland, and the Ministry of Health. The orders for dressings have already been placed, and they include nearly 12,000,000 bandages, over 5,000,000 dressings, some 13,000,000 yards of gauze, 204 tons of lint, 425 tons of cotton wool, and 1,500,000 yards of adhesive plaster. Practically all of these are to be delivered by the end of June, and the total cost, including that of the beds and bedding, is estimated at over £1,000,000.
In regard to structural precautions, we have, as I say, issued a Memorandum of Advice. Circumstances differ in every case, and it has to be remembered that many of our most valuable hospitals were built long before air raids were ever thought of. That is why we are concentrating on the provision of additional hospital accommodation in the outer areas. But we propose to protect windows and doors on the ground floors against splinters, to reinforce the structure, where practicable, against collapse, to protect roofs against incendiary bombs and shrapnel, to protect operating theatres by bricking-up and sandbagging windows and, if necessary, moving the theatres to the ground floor, where protection is easier, and to reinforce basement ceilings, so that these will provide a safe shelter. We shall in addition have to envisage the provision of a certain number of what I would call armoured wards.
As for providing a great number of deep dug-out hospitals in which operations are to go on during an air raid, I think that idea is based upon a wrong conception of what any of us would do ourselves if a very heavy air raid were actually in progress. Those of my fellow Members who remember the Pyres salient during a heavy strafe will recall that you did not go out into the street during a heavy strafe. You could not do it. You did not send out picked men to add to your casualties, but as soon as the strafe was over you cleared the dead from the street and hurried the patients out of the area as fast as you could. Therefore, I think we ought to be careful of reversing the policy of dispersal and concentrating patients instead of dispersing them. The safest thing is to get the patients away from the danger area as quickly as possible. It must also be remembered 1515 that any large number of deep dug-outs for the treatment of casualties is subject to very difficult, limiting, engineering and other factors. For instance, you would need a ramp of one in seven at the end of each building and that it would be very difficult to deal with more than 30 patients an hour. I do not wish to go into the question at length, but I wish the Committee to keep in mind the great dangers that would arise if we relied on deep dug-outs for tackling the enormous problem of dealing with the large number of casualties that you would expect to arise from an air raid. On the question of accommodation in Paris, I asked my officers—and I think I have offered the Air-Raid Committee of the House conferences with my officers—to go over and see in greater detail the actual conditions in Paris.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
Has the right hon. Gentleman any information at his disposal as to the experiments made in this matter at Zurich in Switzerland?
§ Mr. Elliot
I have not at the moment, but I think the officers of my Department have been in touch with all the main sources of knowledge on this subject. As I say, the difficulties in connection with deep underground dug-outs, the long inclined access down which people would have to be carried by hand and up which they would afterwards have to be removed by hand, are almost insuperable. As for shelters above ground, it may well be that considerable use might be made of them.
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not know that there is an Air-Raid Committee of the House as such. There are, I understand, groups of Members in various parties who are specially interested in these problems, and I am always very willing to address them, whether they are groups of Members on one side or on the other. If any hon. Members opposite are specially interested, I shall be most happy to meet them, if they will get into touch with me.
I was asked about first-aid posts. The first-aid posts that I have in mind would be sandbagged and otherwise strengthened against damage from bombs or shrapnel. A very important point is that the major 1516 proportion of the cost of protecting hospitals and first-aid posts is to be borne by the Government and is expected to involve Exchequer expenditure of about £1,500,000 in the coming financial year. I am glad to say that we have agreed both with the local authorities and with the voluntary hospitals as to the proportions which they should bear. In no case will a voluntary hospital bear more than 30 per cent. of the cost, and this is subject to an overriding limit of £1 per bed, which is a very moderate figure. In the case of local authority hospitals, the cost to local authorities will be nothing more than the produce of a rate of one-tenth of a penny. I have here a sketch of the actual working of these arrangements, with which, however, I think it is undesirable to delay the Committee, because I am anxious to discuss other problems, such as that of evacuation, but I think it is desirable to say that so far I have only been speaking of the work in England and Wales.
In Scotland the same tasks have been entrusted to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he authorises me to say that the work in Scotland has proceeded generally on the same lines as in England. As the House knows, Scotland is a separate region under the regional organisation, and this region has been sub-divided into five districts. A hospital officer of the Department of Health for Scotland has been at work in each of the districts, and plans for the organisation of the emergency hospital service corresponding to those made in England have been worked out. Under these plans some 16,000 beds would be set free for casualties within a few days from the beginning of an emergency, and a further 2,500 beds would be provided by using three of the large mental institutions. There; is room in ancillary hospital buildings for another 2,000 beds.
With regard to the medical personnel, the Department for Scotland are working in close contact with the Scottish Emergency Committee of the British Medical Association in dealing with the allocation of the services of the 5,000 doctors on the Scottish register. There are separate Scottish emergency committees dealing with nurses, dentists and pharmacists, and these are already at work. The responsibility for first-aid posts was taken over last December. The fittings for 1517 the conversion of 75 buses into improvised ambulances for transport between hospitals have been made and stored, and the supply of hospital equipment which has been purchased contains an appropriate allocation for Scotland. I mentioned 100,000 beds and mattresses bought or ordered. Of these, Scotland's share is 12,500, of which 3,000 have already been distributed, and arrangements will be completed shortly for distributing a further 3,000. With regard to the 37,500 blankets, which is Scotland's quota of the order, delivery is about to begin. The Department for Scotland joined with the Ministry in publishing the memorandum on structural precautions in hospitals to which I have referred, and the agreements with the local authorities and the voluntary hospitals which I mentioned as regards the cost of these precautions also cover Scotland.
§ Mr. Ammon
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for coming in late and not having heard all that he has said, but may I ask him whether he has anything to say about a resolution passed on the 14th of this month by the medical officers of health of the Various Metropolitan boroughs condemning the arrangements made as insufficient?
§ Mr. Elliot
I am afraid I have not. I have gone over a considerable amount of detail of plans which we have worked out with the London County Council and the great voluntary hospitals. It would be a pity if I went back to that subject now.
§ Mr. Elliot
If the hon. Gentleman had heard the whole of my speech he would have realised that many of the details I have given were worked out only in the last few days, and it may well be that on surveying the whole of these arrangements the medical officers would not wish to pass that resolution again. This organisation is rapidly advancing and are solution passed on the 14th may be inappropriate on the 2nd of the next month. A great deal of water has passed under the bridges since the 14th.
1518 We have been asked to undertake the task of the detailed plans for evacuation in co-ordination with the Lord Privy Seal and under his leadership. A policy of planned evacuation from the large crowded targets is one means of minimising the most serious effects of air attack and reducing the number of casualties, against which the Ministry of Health are making provision. Our policy is based on the general principles laid down in the report made by the committee which sat under the chairmanship of the Lord Privy Seal. The committee contained representatives of all three parties. It is well to remind ourselves of that fact. In addition to the Lord Privy Seal, it contained the hon. Member for Balham and Tooting (Mr. Doland), the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest), and the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris).
§ Mr. Elliot
I was speaking of the rather interesting fact that it was found possible, first, to get representatives of the three parties to serve on this committee, and, second, for them to issue a unanimous report. It is not often we can get three parties to be unanimous in a report. It is true that on this committee there were no representatives from the rural areas, but extensive conferences have been held with the rural districts since that time.
§ Mr. Elliot
There have been the most extensive conferences. At the Ministry of Health I have held conferences with representatives of the great cities, and I have toured the country and had conferences upon the spot. I am going to Newcastle in a week or two to hold a further conference. It is the business of my Ministry to keep in touch with the local authorities, and I do not think that in this case we have been remiss in that task. I will quote a paragraph from the report of the committee which is of great importance because it sets out the point we must always keep in mind, the point of density: 1519So far as concerns actual physical danger people will be much safer in rural districts or in small country towns than in the heart of London. Even if a country district is bombed, the risks to life and limb will obviously be much less in a rural district where the houses are so dispersed that the density of population is 200 to the square mile, than in a Metropolitan borough where the density is 80,000 to the square mile.That is really the key sentence of the report. It is the key to all our consideration of the plans which we have made. Although people may say that such and such a place is on the line of the bombers going home, or is close to an aerodrome, or next door to some important feature which might afford a guiding line to aeroplanes, nothing can get away from the fact that a population of 200 to the square mile will always be safer than a population of 80,000. The objective of securing a greater measure of dispersal is, therefore, a primary objective of an evacuation plan, and it is to secure that objective that the Government plans are being directed. Last September emergency plans to this end were prepared, and when, after the crisis, the position was reviewed, directions were given that plans should be worked out in greater detail. The Anderson Committee itself said that these plans needed to be worked out in great detail. That is the answer to the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green who said he had met a number of headmasters who were critical because several months had elapsed since the drawing up of the plans and yet they were no further on. I am now dealing particularly with the problem of the reception areas. Their difficulty is very great. I have had conferences with Sheffield, Cardiff, Bristol, Leeds, and other cities, and without them it would have been impossible to proceed with the survey of the reception areas which is now completed, and about which I shall have a word to say before I sit down.
The conclusion of the all-party Committee was that occupied houses would need to be used, that we could not deal with the problem merely by the use of unoccupied houses and camps, and that it would be necessary to have a system of billeting. That was one of the principles with which the Government expressed their willingness when they adopted the report. The Government are seeking to supplement by camps the amount of accommodation which can be 1520 made available. This will require legislation and there will be another opportunity for discussing these proposals. Quite apart from any question of the adequacy of supply which could physically be made available in this way, camps alone would not, in the judgment of many competent to give an opinion, be the most suitable form of all-weather provision for all the groups, for example, young children, who come within the Government plans for evacuation. Whatever may be the possible development of camps—and it is our intention to press on with them—they can for this purpose form only a supplementary provision. It will be necessary to rely for the main provision on accommodation in houses where people already are.
It is the scale of the problem which goes to the root of the difficulty. When I came to look at the problem, first we tried to see how we could apply in practice the tripartite division of the country into evacuable, neutral and reception areas. To take the example of the London area, one does not move directly from the crowded Metropolitan boroughs to the open conditions of the countryside. There are intermediate areas which, though not having the same need for evacuation, would not be suitable for reception areas. We have to leave the crowded areas and run the evacuees right through the neutral areas into the areas in the countryside where they can be dispersed. This is a small and crowded island, and the ideal division is not possible. No one will deny that there will be great risks for the civilian population which it will be impossible to obviate. While the division into evacuable, neutral and reception areas is easy enough in theory, it is not so easy to apply in practice; the boundary between one area and another must be drawn somewhere, and I am aware that not every district thinks it has been drawn at the right point. Every district thinks that there are special features with regard to it which makes it clear that the Ministry was not considering its particular problems when it drew that line. I shall give careful consideration to the representations which have been made by individual districts, but I must, like all of us, be bounded by the laws of arithmetic.
§ Mr. Elliot
I know the hon. Lady is not bounded by the laws of arithmetic, but Ministers cannot get over them. I have to review the reception areas as a whole to find the number of persons who can be accommodated, and the evacuable areas to find the number of persons they desire to send away. This brings out the importance of a careful survey. The object of it has been to ascertain the accommodation available and the number of school children who can be accommodated under voluntary arrangements. When the survey is complete I shall review the whole position and see how far and by what methods it may be practicable to attain the ideal, which is that all who have work to do should remain in vulnerable areas and others should go to less vulnerable areas.
§ Mr. Elliot
Although they may not have been clear to some people, they have been to the average man and woman. The Anderson Committee estimated the proportion of the population for whom evacuation might be required at one-third. They added, however:We believe that accommodation will, in fact, prove to be the limiting factor in the sense that there will not be room in the relatively safe areas for all who could theoretically be spared from the vulnerable industrial areas.The indications at present available from the report of the survey go to support that opinion. On the provisional allocation which has been made, the total population of the evacuable areas is about 11,000,000, spread over the London area and 18 other large congested industrial cities and towns. The total population of the neutral areas is about 13,000,000 and of the reception areas about 16,000,000. Within the evacuable areas the population of what may be called the priority classes, for whose evacuation plans are being prepared, represents something between 20 and 25 per cent. Their evacuation would, therefore, result in an average addition of something like 15 to 20 per cent. to the population of the reception areas. It will be seen that 1522 the rate of increase in mind is substantial, but not unmanageable. I was asked yesterday to take note of the dangers of the overloading of water supplies, and so on. It will be agreed that the expansion of 15 to 20 per cent. is not by any means an unmanageable expansion. I can go into this question in greater detail if it is desired, but I am anxious not to do more than to say that this problem has not been neglected by us. We shall do our best to avoid billeting in areas where a strain of this kind will occur. A great many rural authorities have water supplies adequate for the not unmanageable increase in numbers which is suggested.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Heneage
Has the Minister thought of the case of the Lincoldshire Wolds, where, on the whole of one side, there is a good water supply and on the other side there is not, and will he consider giving a grant to improve the supplies on the side where it is necessary?
§ Mr. Elliot
A good many authorities in various places have indicated that this is an admirable opportunity for carrying through schemes which have long been dear to their hearts; but taking the places by and large, it is true to say that water supply is not an insoluble problem. The difficulties have been taken into account and they can be overcome. I should like to make it clear that when we speak of evacuation we do not mean an indiscriminate movement of all sorts of adults, but the orderly evacuation of groups selected in advance, and in the van of the groups are, of course, the children. The evacuation movement in the first place is predominantly to be a movement of children, and the priority classes of which I spoke are school children, young children and the mothers of young children. The Anderson Committee recommended that plans should be prepared for the transfer of children of school age school by school, and we adopted that suggestion also. It has been a basic feature of the plans now being worked out, and a fundamental object of the inquiry, and we had to ask the rather difficult question whether households would be willing to take children unaccompanied by their parents and to give them board and lodging. While in some cases, no doubt, that 1523 would make things easier, in other cases probably it would create a difficult problem.
About two years ago the housing authorities made surveys to find out the measure of overcrowding in working-class houses, and on that we were working last September, when estimates were made, necessarily hasty estimates, of the amount of surplus accommodation available. The standard adopted was one person per habitable room. We were told, and quite rightly so, by the committee and by others, that mere generalisations were not enough, and that we must have a careful house-to-house survey throughout the receiving areas; and so, after a number of conferences with local authorities and with persons competent to advise us, a Circular was drawn up and was issued on 5th January asking local authorities to carry out a house-to-house survey and to submit a report to the Ministry by 28th February. I should like to pay a high tribute to the response of the local authorities to that request and to the competent way in which they carried out their work. It has been one of the biggest feats of national service, one of the big feats of democracy carried through in this country, done at very short notice. It was carried out by 100,000 people who were not mere amateurs, but people responsible to local authorities, in many cases highly trained people, sanitary officers and others. Those people have knocked at the doors of 5,000,000 houses, have made inquiries affecting the lives of 16,000,000 people, the inhabitants of those houses. By 28th February they had concluded their work, and the returns are beginning to flow into us very rapidly.
For the convenience of the House I took out rather carefully the first 20 surveys which we received, and it so happens that they are a very representative cross-section of the country. Mostly they are the smaller towns, because it is the smaller places that would be used as reception areas. The first 20 included Lydd, New Romney, Marlow and Newbury from the Home Counties; Dorchester, Taunton, Dawlish, Salcombe and Liskeard, from the West Country; Aberdare Mountain Ash, Caerleon and Knighton, from Wales; Alderley Edge, from Cheshire; Higham Ferrers, from 1524 Northamptonshire; Leiston-cum-Sizewell, from Suffolk; Darwen and Rawtenstall, from Lancashire; Appleby and Kendal, from the North Country. I will give the results shortly. To provide accommodation for the schoolchildren in the whole country we wanted offers of board and lodging for a number equivalent to about 10 per cent, of the present population of the receiving areas. The present population of the 20 districts I have mentioned is about 250,000, and the offers required would therefore be about 25,000. We have got voluntary offers from the people of those districts for 33,000.
The scheme may not be clear to many onlookers, but it is clear enough in Mountain Ash and Aberdare. The difficulties may appear insuperable to many correspondents, both public and private, but in Darwen and Rawtenstall they thought they could get over them all right—the strain on the good will of our people, of allowing for the extra pots and pans, the disciplining of Johnny and Jenny, new feet on the stairs, the racket, the worry, the wear and tear may seem heavy, but Marlow, Newbury, Dorchester, Higham Ferrers and Leiston-cum-Sizewell say, "Stand it, of course we'll stand it." That is the spirit of the country. These are not scrofulous and verminous children, as some people have suggested. These are the bud of the nation, the children of the men who are working in the food ships or charging the metal into the blast furnaces. The people know that, and they have come forward, from the Royal Family to cottagers, with offers of accommodation.
I give only one example of the spirit in which the work has been carried out. The report sent by the borough of Higham Ferrers includes a letter signed by all the voluntary visitors who carried out this survey under the leadership of the Mayoress stating:Every house in the borough has been visited, and in only two cases has the required information been withheld. Everyone has been very anxious to be helpful and to do all that is in their power.We are entitled to regard that as a practical example of National Service of which the districts concerned and the whole country can be proud.
These surveys enable us to form a picture of the accommodation available for the other groups. The returns from 1525 the first 20 show that private arrangements have been made by individual householders to reserve accommodation for 21,000 persons, and there is, in addition, accommodation for another 12,000. The latter figure by itself, if it represented an average cross-section of the country, would not be fully adequate to provide for the whole of the younger children with their mothers, in the whole of the evacuable areas, but I think we are entitled to assume that a substantial proportion of the private arrangements which have been made will, in fact, be in respect of mothers and young children from the evacuable areas. If only half of these private arrangements are in respect of these mother-and-children groups the figures will admit the maximum estimated.
The Anderson Committee expressed the view that compulsory powers would have to be taken for the purposes of billeting, and when the Government approved the recommendations of the committee the Government expressed their concurrence in this view. In the event of an emergency the Government would require to have at their disposal general compulsory powers in relation to available shelter and accommodation. The survey which has been carried out and the response which has been made to it give us reason to hope that there will be little, if any, need for the exercise of such powers in order to secure safer homes for those who have to be moved from the dangers of the crowded cities. I have no doubt that the example set by the country as a whole will move others whose imaginations have not so speedily grasped the difference to us as a nation and to us individually between the conditions of peace and war—the fact that we shall none of us be as comfortable in war time as in peace time—to follow that example and volunteer their readiness to take their part. Urgent considerations of National Defence would make it necessary for the Government to be equipped with the requisite powers in the event of war. If these powers have to be invoked all proper consideration will be given to the circumstances of individual cases, but unwillingness alone could not be taken as an adequate reason for exempting an individual householder from his share in a task which had been so readily shouldered by so many others.
§ Mr. Ede
Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify the figures which he has given to 1526 us? I understood him to say that in those 20 areas he had 33,000 vacant places for people under the scheme. Then I understood that there were 21,000 additional places, in respect of which voluntary arrangements have been made, and there was a figure of 12,000. Are they additional, or do the 21,000 and the 12,000 represent the original 33,000?
§ Mr. Elliot
We have had 33,000 firm offers for unaccompanied school children. The people said, "We have arranged ourselves for 21,000 places," for, as far as I can understand, relations and old and infirm people whom they would quite legitimately be taking in. In some Welsh valleys, where a big proportion of their people had left, there would be returning relatives. In addition, there were 12,000 more places. I am allowing for the moment a certain proportion of that 21,000 being people who would quite legitimately be evacuated, and if I allow for them I can then accommodate within the figures given the whole of the priority classes, the children and the mothers with young children.
§ Mr. Elliot
Thirty-three thousand, not all of which places we shall need, 21,000 people have made arrangements themselves, and there is a possible 12,000 places over and above those.
§ Mr. Elliot
The total available capacity is 66,000. It will be remembered that I said that the reception areas cover 16,000,000 persons and the 20 surveys which I have mentioned cover, of course, only a small proportion of the people, some 250,000. The returns are, however, now coming in pretty rapidly. By the end of last week we had received returns covering 1,000,000 people. By Monday we had returns bringing the figure up to 2,000,000. Last night we had returns running up to 7,000,000 and to-day we are up to practically 8,000,000. That is a great feat of voluntary organisation, of which the House and the country may very well be proud. In that 8,000,000 we wanted 10 per cent., that is, 800,000 places, for unaccompanied school children, and the country has voluntarily offered 1,110,000 places for these children. In addition there are 565,000 places which the people in the reception areas have privately 1527 arranged to fill themselves. There is also a considerable number of places—722,000—estimated to be available for other priority classes than school children, and 150,000 places where, it is estimated, they would receive teachers and helpers. If that same proportion is borne out throughout the whole of our survey, it seems that the people themselves, by their own arrangements, have organised the evacuation of something like 1,000,000 people. In addition, we shall receive places for all, and more than all, the school children we want, and we shall have a handsome slice of accommodation available to take in the teachers and helpers, and I hope the mothers and the young children as well.
The same may be said to hold good for Scotland where 190 authorities were asked to carry out the survey and 150 sent in results up to yesterday. We have not had time to analyse the figures, but they show that the offers to take school children provide for 230,000 children, that 23,000 rooms are available for teachers and other helpers and that there are 114,000 rooms available for others. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is confident that the response from the local authorities, voluntary workers and general public, has been such as to secure the success of the plan. On that, we may say that in two months the householders of the country have, without compulsion, enabled us to say that the most difficult part of the problem, the housing of unaccompanied school children, is solved. That is a piece of National Service work which we all recognise, and I intend to have a little window card printed for those who have undertaken this work with the words "National Service" printed on the top. I do not know any higher or nobler form of National Service that could be undertaken. We recognise what these people have done, and they should have some tangible proof of it which they can display, and proudly display, in trying to be of real service to the nation.
§ Mr. Charles Williams
Is my right hon. Friend making a further survey of the considerable number of big houses scattered about the country so that we may know which are most suitable for hospitals and for other purposes?
§ Mr. Elliot
We are making a further survey and taking careful notes of the 1528 larger premises which can be used for the accommodation of schools as units or in certain cases as hospitals. These are being included in the general survey of housing accommodation upon which we are now entering. It is important to keep all the facts that I have given Sully objective; it is not time yet either for self-congratulation or rhetorical statement, because there are many other tasks before us. We may say that the nation is entering upon its task in a resolute mood and the figures which I have given speak for themselves. They show that we are doing our best by increasing the purview of our administration, and they show more than anything else that we are capable of tackling any of the tasks that this curious and stormy new century may have in store for us.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
Let me say from this side of the House that we share the right hon. Gentleman's pleasure at the great response that the people of this country have made for those who may, unfortunately, become the victims of war circumstances. I have always believed that the people of this country could be relied upon to take into their hearts and bosoms the people who were placed in more difficult circumstances than themselves. That is a matter for general congratulation from all sides of the House. No one can say that we have not been supplied in the course of these two days' Debates with a good deal of information; in fact, I feel weighted down under a wealth of detail which I am afraid it will take us some time fully to assimilate. There has been a tendency for the Committee to get lost in a maze of words and rather to forget some of the more important principles with which we ought to deal to-day. I move this reduction in order to bring the Debate back to a consideration of the principle on which this expenditure ought to be based.
No one who has given consideration to this matter will deny the difficulties of dealing effectively with the problems of Civil Defence under modern war conditions, more especially in an industrialised country. My first criticism is that Supplementary Estimates of this kind have been delayed so long and declares the dilatoriness of the Government in this 1529 matter for three years or more. The Government have murmured the mystic letters "A.R.P." as though this were some form of incantation, but the Government did next to nothing. The Lord Privy Seal is one of the victims of this waste of time. Notwithstanding that for a long time the nation has recognised the existence of this problem, the Government did not face the issue, and hardly even scratched the surface of the problem. That was a very grave dereliction of duty. In this matter I am saying nothing about the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, who was a pioneer in this direction and might well have been supported more strongly by Members of the Government.
My second criticism is that, although the Government have embarked upon a vital piece of national work, they have not yet given to the House of Commons answers to the fundamental questions on which policy and action really ought to be based. The Lord Privy Seal has devoted himself with great energy to the matter, egged on with unseemly haste now by the Government, which has a very bad conscience on the matter but, in all the explanations he has given us, he has not yet proved that he has a coherent and comprehensive plan. He started with one little hutment, and he has gone on from hutment to hutment until his scheme now looks rather like a village on a mountain side, without coherence or unity of design. So little did the right hon. Gentleman comprehend his task that three months ago he did not visualise the necessity for any legislation. He was astonished at the suggestion that legislation would be needed. Everything was to be done by administration and gentleman's agreements.
§ Sir J. Anderson indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Then the right hon. Gentleman did not make himself very clear, because in the first Debate on this subject I expressed my surprise. The right hon. Gentleman then did not make it clear that he contemplated any kind of legislation. Yesterday we were given three references in his speech to contemplated legislation. The first was in the 1530 early part of his speech and was a very cryptic utterance which I will read to the Committee. Within the first minute of his speech—which occupied a good many many minutes, although the Committee is not complaining of that—he said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1939; col. 1288, Vol. 344.]I do not know what that Bill is about, although I may make a reference to a possible subject matter of it a little later. He admitted that there would be legislation to deal with camps in England and Wales, and, later, legislation to deal with Scotland; not merely subsidiary legislation, but because he was dealing with the problem in Scotland upon an entirely different principle from that on which he was dealing with it in England. I mention this because if the right hon. Gentleman had contemplated legislation of any kind, whether confined to National Service or not—it is not clear that he might not have to do it in regard to National Service—he ought to have informed the House. It was within recollection that at the time when he made his first statement and in the course of the Debates on the 6th and 20th December, I think it was, he had not then realised the magnitude, scope and necessities of the problem. It is not at all certain that the proposed legislation which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned yesterday will see the end of legislative action in this matter.
To prove how woolly the Government's mind has been on this subject I would recall the occasions when they have wavered upon a number of issues. After the crisis last autumn, when gas masks were found in dustbins and were being used by ladies as shopping baskets, the Government hesitated what to do about it. Gas masks became a joke in London. They were made into playthings and were put to better use by ladies going about their shopping. The Government did not know what to do about it. For weeks they dawdled over the question of those half-dug and hastily-constructed trenches which had been allowed to become neglected, waterlogged and derelict. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman informed the Committee that the Government had not yet made 1531 up their mind on the question of deep shelters. He asked for time, and he boldly said to the Committee that he was not going to be rushed into a premature decision. His words were:I certainly am not going to be stampeded into a premature decision on this matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1939; col. 1312, Vol. 344.]This question has been before the Government for three years and ought to have been before the Government for more than three years. It must have been under the very active consideration of the Lord Privy Seal and of the Government for some months, but all that we got yesterday was a long list of reasons why it appeared that deep shelters were not practicable, and a statement that the Government have not yet made up their mind on the matter. Certain local authorities have made up their minds upon it. I am not committed to the Finsbury scheme. I am not in a position to be able to judge of its adequacy; but Finsbury, at least, has made up its mind. Finsbury has done something. I saw in the Press this morning that the largest local authority in this country, after the London County Council, has already decided to spend £1,000,000 on deep shelters. It is clear that there is now impatience on the part of many local authorities and among a number of public-spirited people at the delay of the Government in making up their mind upon this question of first-rate importance.
The Lord Privy Seal may be right or may be wrong, but, after the inordinate delay which put the people of the country into a panic last September because nothing had been done, we are entitled, six months afterwards, to ask the Government to make up their minds speedily on an important matter of principle. It seems to me that the Government have not yet settled major principles, but have muddled into decisions which have implied the acceptance of principles without having thought the matter out. I am the more confident that that is so after having heard the Minister of Health this afternoon. One of the only statements of real policy that we have had is the Memorandum of the Home Secretary covering the report of the Committee on Evacuation of which the Lord Privy Seal was the chairman. The Home Secretary said, 1532 in approving the recommendations of the Committee:The Government in particular express their concurrence in the following principles.The first is the matter of evacuation on a voluntary basis, and as to the second he says:For the purpose of supporting the national war effort and supplying essential civilian needs, production in the large industrial towns must be maintained, but it is desirable to provide organised facilities for the evacuation of substantial numbers of people from certain industrial areas.How far exactly are the Government standing by this view? It may be that in certain vulnerable areas, subject probably, or at any rate possibly, to repeated air attack, industrial production might be interfered with to a dangerous extent, and the Government have to face the question whether they are prepared to take this risk. In the last 2½ years there have been concentrated attacks on certain ports and towns in Spain, not merely day by day, but hour by hour. Supposing that that kind of thing were to happen in this capital city, or in some of our great centres where all kinds of products for use in war and in peace were being made, would it be possible in such circumstances to carry on production on the scale essential for fulfilling the national needs? I do not know, but the Government are assuming that it is. I was shocked this afternoon when I heard the figures that were given by the Minister of Health. He is not thinking of the scale of evacuation in the same terms as I am. I will, however, come to that point presently. Whether the Government have done this after consideration of the principles involved, I do not know; I doubt it; but, according to the implication of the right hon. Gentleman's figures, they are still going to permit industrial production to be concentrated, as it is now, in these big areas, many of which are peculiarly vulnerable to attack.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that it is possible to fly across Britain in 20 minutes, so that in that case all areas are equally vulnerable, apart from the possibility of anti-aircraft and similar defence. In point of time, in this small country, distance has now become almost negligible. The question is—and one has seen it becoming intensified in certain towns—are the Government prepared to 1533 permit new industrial developments haphazard, anywhere, without regard to defence as well as without regard to social considerations? Ought not steps to be taken now to avoid this? The larger our big towns become, the greater the danger to which the civilian population is exposed, and this problem of the newer industries spreading to the outskirts of London and big towns in the Midlands is going to make their difficulties greater should war break out. I am aware that in certain areas, which are more immune from air attack than others, there have been very substantial industrial developments for war-time purposes within the last year or so, and I would ask the Government whether they have accepted it as a principle that the future distribution of industrial work essential for war production should be so arranged as to give the maximum immunity against air attack and against interference with continuity of production. That seems to me to be a question of considerable importance.
A further question, on which we have had no real guidance from the Government, but which is one of substantial importance—and it is no use waiting till the time comes to settle it—is, what is to be done with industries and enterprises which are not essential in time of war? Are they to be closed down, or are they to be converted to war purposes? That is an important question from the point of view of the scale of evacuation. If such industries are to be closed down, you do not want the people there, and must arrange for their going elsewhere; and to that extent your evacuation problem is larger. If, on the other hand, the works in question are to be converted for other purposes, to that extent the problem of maintaining the safety of the people who remain behind is all the greater.
There is still another question that I should like to put. I am not wanting to make trouble in the Committee, but am only asking for enlightenment. Do the Government still regard these areas for evacuation—the reception areas, the so-called neutral districts—as final? For example, would the South and South-West of England, which according to the right hon. Gentleman have nobly responded to the requests made to them in regard to the billeting of people, be safe in the event of war should there be air attacks 1534 from Franco Spain? Are we to regard all these attacks as necessarily coming from the East? May they not come from allies to the South of this country? In that case, the South of England and South Wales cannot be regarded as any more safe than London or big centres on the East coast. I am not certain that the country can be divided into areas which are vulnerable and areas which are relatively safe, and if the Government are not satisfied that they can maintain the safety of these regions—and I think the facts are against it—some change of policy is called for.
Doubts have already been expressed as to the wisdom of the classification which the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers have made. I was looking at a map this morning and I find densely populated areas as good as in a war zone, which are outside the area that is regarded as the evacuation area. I do not believe that the problem can be dealt with in that particular way. The right hon. Gentleman is correct when he says that there is a population density of 80,000 per square mile in one part and 200 in an other, so that bombing the latter could not do as much damage as bombing the former. That seems to be an outstanding example of the right hon. Gentleman's common sense and knowledge of the fundamentals of this problem. I should have thought it was an obvious and self-evident truth. But there are areas in the London region which fall below the average density because they happen to include, say, a large park like Richmond Park, but where there are also town ships the population density of which is far greater than that of many other districts, perhaps, in certain parts of the West End of London. That principle, therefore, seems to me to require looking into again. Until all these questions are settled, it is impossible to determine the scale on which evacuation will be necessary, and therefore it is also impossible to settle the scale and even the kind of protection that will be needed for the population remaining in the towns. The right hon. Gentleman, on my calculation of his figures, is assuming the evacuation of about 2¾ million people——
§ Mr. Elliot
In these classes. We are assuming a certain number of classes, which I gave to the House—young children, mothers and pre-school children. 1535 The Anderson Committee said, and I agree with them, that the limiting factor would probably be that of accommodation, but we are, in fact, envisaging the evacuation of all these classes.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I should have thought that these figures for evacuation are probably under-stated, but, however that may be, a considerable proportion of the population must be in centres subject to attack. The glorified salmon-tins which are being supplied—I have not yet seen one of these new structures myself—though they may serve some useful purpose, will be of no value for tenement and flat-dwellers or people who live in houses without gardens, and, although they may be some contribution, they are not adequate, nor are they satisfactory. The trenches which have been dug in certain places may serve a useful purpose, but obviously they cannot be made adequate in extent or accommodation for the people who might need them. The reinforcement of basements, where that is practicable, may provide some measure of protection. But, with all these devices, there still remains, in my view, the necessity for the provision of deep shelters.
Yesterday the Lord Privy Seal put forward a number of doubts and objections on this matter, and it must have been exercising the minds of the Government. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman had two major arguments against it. The first was that new bombs might be devised which would penetrate deeper into the ground, and that the deep shelters provided might not be deep enough. Before the Great War, armament manufacturers made fortunes by inventing armour plate which could not be pierced by shells, and then inventing shells which could pierce the new armour plate. That was called scientific progress. It happens to-day, with regard to the air, that attack is much stronger than defence. That is undeniable; indeed, Lord Baldwin put it even more strongly, when he said that there was no effective defence against aircraft. Attack is still ahead of defence in the matter of the air service, and I think we are driven to consider the possibility of deep shelters. I do not discount to the same extent as the right hon. Gentleman the experience of deep shelters abroad. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not want 1536 to embark on these, because of the cost. If they are an appropriate method of preserving the spirit of our people and saving them from terror, there can be no question of the cost. Expenditure on civilian defence is as essential as expenditure on the instruments of destruction. Therefore, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not close his mind to the possibility of deep shelters. I hate to think of people being driven underground, and I hate particularly to think of that as being a normal mode of life, but, in the circumstances, I think deep shelters are worth more sympathetic consideration than they have received from the right hon. Gentleman up till now.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to evacuation. He looks at this problem on a scale smaller than that which I personally—it may be wrongly—have visualised. I do not believe that evacuation will be confined to women and children, and so on. I think we shall have to visualise the possibility of evacuation on a scale from this city alone which would account for nearly all the number which the right hon. Gentleman has thought of. There may be difficulties about forcing people to evacuate. That problem was met in Madrid, and has been for two and a half years. On the other hand, whatever may be the true figure—and that, in the last resort, depends on broad national policy—itis going to be on a pretty considerable scale. The right hon. Gentleman gave us very comforting, very encouraging, very gratifying figures as to the response there has been in certain areas. I can understand places like Dawlish, which live on visitors, having plenty of accommodation, but there are many places in this country which cannot face this problem. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman has obtained a fair sample; on the other hand, it may be that he has not. The large country houses may be used for other purposes, as schools, hospitals and convalescent homes, but I imagine that not many of them are to be available for ordinary billeting purposes. I doubt whether, without reducing many of our country villages to more disgraceful overcrowding than we have there now, we can, without some sort of new accommodation, house more people in them. Therefore, I think we shall have to fall back on the provision of camps. But however this problem of evacuation may be tackled, there 1537 are certain other questions which come in the train of the problem of evacuation. The right hon. Gentleman said airly, "An increase of 15 or 20 per cent. in a rural area is a manageable population." How many rural areas to-day have enough water supply for their present population?
§ Mr. Greenwood
But I am saying that it is not adequate. And if you add 15 or 20 per cent. to their populations—which I regard as the very minimum—it will confront them with a difficult problem. It is not a problem merely of water, but of all the apparatus of social life, and it will present them with many difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the problem of reconstructing houses. He assured us that there may be many difficulties, but that roofing felt would be all right. It would be better if he had looked at the problem from the point of view of the people who are going to be evacuated, not after they have been bombed, but before. The Lord Privy Seal referred yesterday to the work of the President of the Board of Trade. I understand that considerable progress has been made, but it is perfectly clear that the dispersal of the population would create considerable difficulties in regard to the distribution of food and other essentials of life, which involve transport as well as other things. I would like to know whether the Government are satisfied with the situation in this respect. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman might have referred to it yesterday. What have the Government done in regard to arrangements for the protection of workers at work during an air raid? That presents problems rather different from the problem of the ordinary civilian population in their homes. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to answer this at the moment, but it is a problem with which the trade unions are concerned. How far have the Government gone regarding terms and allowances and compensation for death or injury for those engaged on National Service? I am not pressing the right hon. Gentleman unduly. I wondered whether he was in a position at this stage to say anything about any conclusions that have been reached.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health referred to cement, and he 1538 seemed to think we had profiteering very much in mind. We have profiteering very much in mind. Past experience has led us to a position where we can never neglect the possibility of profiteering, and I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will face the question of the elimination of profiteering out of the necessary preparations for war. I think everybody in the Committee will agree that everything should be done, not merely in the dread circumstances of war but in times of peace, to strengthen the morale, the spirit, of the people. I do not expect all hon. Members opposite to accept my implication, but in my view that implies a steady improvement of social and economic conditions at home and, above all, some attempt on the problem of the 2,000,000 unemployed, whose services are rejected now, in peace time, but who would be called upon to make sacrifices in the event of war. Should the worst come to the worst, any war will be settled as much by the spirit of the people at home as by the bravery of the people in the armed forces, and, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman's view, the primary object of the collective defence of the civilian population is to maintain its morale. I hope the various right hon. Gentlemen who are grappling with various sides of this problem will bear that in mind, and remember that preparation for that is possible in peace time when it may not be in time of war. I would express the hope that, for once, at any rate—I am not really a person who likes to ask unnecessary questions, but I find myself never receiving answers from that side—when I put simple questions the Government will give answers to those questions, which to-day are honestly put in the national interest.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans
This Debate has ranged over such wide issues that even a humble Member like myself might be tempted to follow the example of the Members of the Government and make a long speech, but I know there are other Members anxious to take part in the Debate, and, therefore, I shall try to compress my remarks into a short space of time. It is a question affecting general policy. The Lord Privy Seal has persuaded the Government to adopt a voluntary scheme as the basis of Civil Defence in this country. I think it is 1539 wise, but it must have required all his force of character and persuasive powers to have got them to agree to it. But having done so he must at least give it a fair chance. I suggest that something more should be done in order to enable the people of this country to do what, I think, they want to do, namely, to play their part in this great scheme which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. The right hon. Gentleman sits for a University constituency, and probably is not used to the ordinary play of political forces in this country, but even he cannot be ignorant of the fact that when an election takes place the political parties take part in canvassing. If you can take part in canvassing in order to win an election, you can take part in canvassing in order to win a war or in order to win a peace. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman can do much more than he is doing at the present time in order to persuade the people of this country that there is a part which they can play, and to tell them what part they can play in Civil Defence at the present time. Wherever I go—and I go about the country a good deal—I hear constant complaints from people who are anxious to help, and who say, "We would offer our services, but we do not know exactly what it is we are called upon to do."
Apart from the question of the larger principle there are one or two matters of detail to which I wish to refer. There is a good deal of uneasiness in the country based upon a fear, which may be quite unjustified, that the Government themselves are not quite clear as to their policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Labour very properly said last night, that one of the great things which impressed itself upon the attention of the Government during the crisis in September was the need for making latent enthusiasm effective. That was a very excellent idea, but I do not think they are doing that now. There is plenty of latent enthusiasm in the country. Why do not the Government make the best use of it? Why are they lacking in giving the opportunity to the country of making what, in another part of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman called a very big drive in the direction of Civil Defence? One of the reasons is that the people are not quite sure that the Government know what they want. I use as an illustration the question of 1540 shelters. Frankly, I do not know anything about it to be able to decide one way or another. There are many people who are not sure whether the Government know which policy to adopt with regard to shelters. Are the Government satisfied with the shelters which they are introducing in my neighbourhood in South Kensington, and in Islington, and which are being used apparently, or will be, for all sorts of purposes from bicycle shelters to baths? I would like to ask the Lord Privy Seal how many orders were given for the provision of these shelters before they had been tested?
§ Mr. Evans
Were tests made with high explosives, and were they efficient tests? There is a great deal of anxiety in the country, and I am only putting what is in the minds of a very large number of people. There is a widespread suspicion that these shelters were not put to an effective test before they were ordered. I am not saying this in a reckless spirit at all.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am very reluctant to interrupt the hon. and learned Member, but I did say in the course of my speech yesterday that the shelters had been subjected to rigorous tests, and had answered those tests. It was merely a matter of common prudence, before ordering anything of this kind on a very large scale, that really rigorous tests should have been applied. As a matter of fact, I had intended, had there been time, to give particulars to the Committee of the sequence of events in regard to the decision to order these shelters and the subsequent action. The tests in question were arranged at Woolwich. They were most exhaustive. They covered tests at varying distances and under varying conditions. They were carried out by the appropriate authorities of the Government in conjunction with my own technical advisers. All that was done before the final specification was accepted. The specification was altered in some respects as a result of the tests. The actual specification was finally settled with the authority of three engineers specially nominated by the 1541 president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, who had before them all the data that were considered relevant to the final decision. It was not until the advisers of my Department were entirely satisfied that the shelters would serve the purpose in view that the first order was placed. What happened at Shoeburyness was not a test designed to inform the Government as to whether the shelters were satisfactory, but a demonstration for the purpose of reassuring the public.
§ Mr. Evans
I think that perhaps I have made the most valuable contribution in this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman has made a most valuable statement which will be welcomed throughout the country when it is read to-morrow. Perhaps I may trespass on the right hon. Gentleman's kindness for another statement. One of the things which is oppressing the minds of the people, particularly in London, is the question of gas attacks. I understand it is not pretended that these shelters are gas-proof at all. I also understand that the first 11 in the series of public lectures which are being delivered under the auspices of the Government in different parts of the country in regard to what should be done in the event of a war are confined to questions of gas attacks; that there are two other lectures also concerned with gas attacks, and four of the lectures directed to first-aid services, whereas there is only one lecture out of the whole series of 24 concerned with the effect of high explosive bombing.
§ Mr. Evans
It is the last syllabus I have seen, and it is not very old. It is within the last few weeks, anyhow. I mention this fact because it is impressing itself on the minds of the people in the country, and especially in London and other big cities. There seems to be a lack of proportion in this matter.
I am sorry that the Minister of Transport is not present, because another question is that of evacuation. It was referred to yesterday by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), who called attention to the great stress which would be put upon the railways of this country in the event of the evacuation of London being necessary. I feel very strongly about this matter. The railways cannot 1542 evacuate London alone. We have also to depend upon the roads. During the crisis in September, as a matter of interest, I went to Paddington Station to see what was happening. I found the trains absolutely packed with passengers; many people, including small children, had to wait as many as three hours and then were only able to obtain standing room. It may be that things have improved since then, but we shall never evacuate even the children of London if we are to be dependent merely upon the railways. What has happened in regard to the roads round London? Millions of pounds have been spent in building circular roads or by-pass roads, or roads definitely meant for motor traffic, and then we have allowed speculative builders to build on both sides of them. It is entirely due to the fact that the Government are afraid of landlords and of speculative builders, and of putting into operation the very simple system of the taxation or the rating of site values. The result is that roads which were built originally in order to relieve the traffic through the suburbs of London and to protect the lives of the people, are even greater death-traps than the roads which they were meant to supplement. If, therefore, we have to depend on the roads we shall, unless there is a very good scheme in hand, meet with further difficulties.
The Lord Privy Seal has based his whole idea on the voluntary system. I have, however, heard complaints from people who are anxious to help that they have made application, either direct to the Government Department or to voluntary organisations, saying that they are willing to serve in certain categories, and they have heard nothing since sending in their applications. The right hon. Gentleman said that there must be a gap between the application and the acceptance, but the gap must not be too long. Even if a reply cannot be sent saying that the application has been accepted or rejected, at least it ought to be acknowledged. There is nothing that could be more damning to the enthusiasm of a volunteer than to feel that his or her application has been overlooked by those to whom it has been addressed.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Sir Paul Latham
I came prepared to criticise the Government, but we have had a comprehensive statement from the 1543 Minister of Health, which I and other hon. Members must appreciate. I should, however, like to say that the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him in the Government seem to me to make this problem far more difficult and complicated than it really is. We talk about evacuation and reception areas and we use long words, although we are really dealing with a very old problem, the problem of flight and of refuge, two of the oldest problems known to every country in the world. What we should do, therefore, is to look for a simple plan. Is there a simple plan? I believe there is. In the old days if one wanted refuge one went to the church or to the lord of the manor. To-day, we ought to do exactly and precisely the same thing.
We have in all our villages what is known as the big house. The big house is far the best place to be used for the school and the central kitchen. We should then use the smaller houses and the cottages in the vicinity of the big house in order to accommodate the children. We should ask the villagers in the houses nearest to the big house to take the smaller children, so that they would have the least distance to walk to the school and the kitchen. In the other houses we could put the slightly older children. We should then simply ask the villagers to provide rooms for the children, to see that they get up in the morning and go to school and to their meal. Most of us have been brought up to have a walk first thing in the morning before breakfast, and it would not do the children any harm to walk to the big house for their breakfast. When they got there they would stay for the whole day. The big house would have an area suitable for games. After the children had been provided with their supper, they would go to the cottages, and the cottagers would then see that they went to bed. They would also be asked to dry the clothes of the children if they happened to have got wet. This is a simple plan for the evacuation of school children and could be carried out with a minimum of upset in the villages.
Exactly the same principles could be applied in the towns. Most of the places to which children are to be evacuated are either holiday resorts at the seaside or holiday resorts inland. At those places there are a great number of hotels. Use the hotel in exactly the same way that 1544 you would use the big house in the village as the school and central kitchen. At the hotel there would be accommodation for a school and there would be kitchen accommodation and staff available. Then we could ask the townspeople living in the vicinity of the hotel to take in the children, and their responsibilities would be exactly the same as the villagers, namely, to see that the children get up in the morning, go to the hotel school and kitchen, and when they come back at night to see that they go to bed and that their clothes are dried if they have got wet.
The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) seemed to think that the most unwilling people to receive children are those who live in the big houses. I believe that to be contrary to the real truth. Most owners of large houses understand only too well that once a war has broken out, if it continues for some little time, there will be no hope of their living in those large houses again in the same conditions as in the past. They understand that if they live there at all again it will be because the house is a place of national interest and they are there partly as caretakers and partly as museum pieces. I have only come across two cases of refusal. One was that of a Noble Lord, whose action has been much noticed in the Press; but the Noble Lord only asked to be satisfied on several important questions. He did not refuse the use of his house, and he has not caused much trouble in the village by his action. Another case was that of a young married woman who, in reply to the A.R.P. officer who asked whether she would accommodate children replied: "Not likely. I come from the East End, and I know what they are saying. They are saying: 'We will get rid of our children, who will be more comfortable than ever before, and we will go into munition factories and make lots of money.'" That was a much more difficult case to deal with than that of the Noble Lord. Another case was caused by the action of the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan). The following letter has come to my notice:As Mrs. X has promised to support the hon. Member for Stourbridge, Mr. R. Morgan, M.P., in upholding the giving of equal pay for men and women of the A.R.P., she regrets that until this question is settled, she wishes her name to be removed from the list of local A.R.P. workers.
§ Sir P. Latham
The hon. Lady seems pleased. If she thinks that that point, however important it may be to her, is more important than National Service, I am sorry for her.
§ Sir P. Latham
I am afraid that it has been brought to my notice fairly often. It seems to me that this problem of evacuation is not very difficult in regard to the schoolchildren. The next problem is to provide accommodation for mothers, with young children. On the whole the lodging houses and boarding houses in the towns, and in the villages, the cottages and houses furthest from the big house, can provide suitable accommodation. As soon as that accommodation has been found we should know exactly what number could be evacuated to the villages and the towns and what accommodation would be available for other refugees.
I should like to put a question to the Minister of Health in regard to hospitals. He gave details of the various categories with which he was dealing, but I should like to know what accommodation he is arranging in the villages and towns for small children if there should be an epidemic.
§ Mr. Elliot
It is because of the children coming into the reception areas that we are making special arrangements not to take over any infectious diseases hospitals in those areas. If there should be an epidemic we should need to reserve all that accommodation for possible use by the population.
§ Sir P. Latham
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. That answer disposes of my point, and I am sure the House and the country will be glad to hear it. One further point seems to have escaped the Minister, and that is that in providing a central place to which the children can go for dispersal in the villages it would be well to consider using the churches. The churches are not cold buildings; they have hot water boilers and are well lit, and they would make extremely good central places from which the children could be distributed throughout the 1546 villages. The purpose of the Christian church has long been to help those who are in distress.
My next point is in regard to camps. I hope the Government will remember that there are many existing camps which are in a very poor financial way, and here is an opportunity to help them. I have one camp near my home, a boys' camp at Pevensey, which has been carried on for 18 years and has dealt with the poorest boys and young men from the East End. The site on which that camp has been placed has come into the market and a very large sum is asked for it, not an enormous sum but large compared with the rent paid in former years. I hope the Government will consider helping a camp of that sort, and by that means help these boys. There is plenty of raw material available and the boys could be assisted in building a type of camp which would be more suitable for winter. I also hope that the Government will look to some of the camps under canvas at the present time, providing for boys and girls, which would be the raw materials from which very suitable camps could be made, and that they will provide instructors to teach the boys and girls to make the camps more comfortable for the winter. That would relieve unemployment to some extent and it would teach the boys a trade, benefit their health, and provide camps in the cheapest possible way.
§ Sir P. Latham
No, I would not. I would pay them and I would give them training free, which would cost a lot of money, but they would get training. It would be a jolly good life for them and they would be much better off than they are at the present time. [An HON. Member: "Would you like it?"] I would not mind. Perhaps it would be better than sitting here. I do hope that in regard to the villages the Government will try to provide some simple plan from headquarters instead of sending down to the local areas so many alternative plans until everybody is bewildered at the things they have to do. Let them take the big house as the school and kitchen, put a 1547 staff there, billet the children near by, and they will solve most of the problems of evacuation.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Major Milner
I am afraid that the problem of evacuation is hardly as simple as that envisaged by my hon. Friend. I can conceive a great number of difficulties which would arise under his so-called simple plan. He has, however, raised a rather important point and one which I have not heard before. Those who have acted as billeting officers know that it is the duty of such an officer to make the best arrangements possible in the area allotted to his charge, either for the soldiers or, in this case, the evacuees for whom accommodation is required. We have not heard anything from the right hon. Gentleman as to who would, in fact, have the allocation of accommodation in the villages referred to by the hon. Member. Will there be billeting officers? Will it be a matter for the clerk of the local authority or the schoolmaster in charge of the children to have the responsibility?
§ Major Milner
If that be so, then the end desired by the hon. Member would be achieved, in that the best accommodation would be allotted according to the circumstances, so as to make the best use of the accommodation, bearing in mind the number for whom, accommodation has to be found.
The more one listens to the Debate the more one recognises the great difficulties that have to be faced in A.R.P., evacuation trenches, shelters and the rest of it. For the first time I have felt that a start is being made now in the right direction. I am sure that the man-in-the-street has considered that in a number of these matters the Government have been very lacking up to date. He has felt that hitherto the Government have had to be forced step by step, first, as to the necessity for doing anything at all in the direction of A.R.P.; secondly, as to the necessity for getting a move on; and, thirdly, as to the necessity for making appropriate financial arrangements. For many months the Government have been haggling with local authorities over the 1548 financial arrangements, and essential decisions have been delayed, for which the ordinary individual can see no reason. I am sure the man-in-the-street has felt that up to the present the Government have seemed to take the cheapest and frequently, therefore, the least effective way, and that it is only under pressure they have adopted other and more effective methods.
I have also felt that in some of these matters, particularly in the question of National Service, the psychological aspect has not been considered at all. It seems to me to be quite wrong to put the question of National Service under the Minister of Labour, who has to deal with the unemployed and the means test. In fact, the impression has been given that the Government are complacent, easy-going, and have not meant business in these matters until quite recently. I do not desire to refer to personal questions and I will only mention one—the appointment of a food controller living in Brussels. It is that kind of incident which gives a wrong impression, an almost fatal impression when you are asking thinking people to give voluntary service. I do not for a moment think that war is necessarily inevitable, but I think that if war is even a possibility that with the dreadful consequences which would follow, expenditure on Civil Defence is just as necessary as expenditure on battleships and submarines, or the Army or any of the normal methods of defence. It is nearly two years ago that I tried to impress on the Government the necessity for some of the measures which are only being taken to-day. If the job has to be done at all, then we on this side want it to be done efficiently. If time does not unfortunately permit the completion of the programme, let us do as much as we can in the time available.
There are one or two detailed criticisms which I should like to ventilate. In the first place, I emphatically disagree with the hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) that the people are oppressed by a fear of gas. It is the Government who for two years have been oppressed by the fear of gas. In the public mind now the question of gas is relegated almost to the background, and the Government almost seem to have forgotten about it. On the question of evacuation I am strongly of the opinion 1549 that the possibility of many people wanting to be evacuated is very much exaggerated. I believe that the majority of those who are working in our cities and towns will prefer their wives and children to stay with them or near at hand, and that there will not be that rush, at any rate from the provincial towns, which the Government appear to expect. If the figures quoted by the right hon. Gentleman are followed up throughout the whole country it does appear that the problem is very largely solved.
But there are one or two things in the matter of evacuation I do not regard as satisfactory. In my view, it is absurd to evacuate, as is proposed, the population from Leeds 100 miles away to Horncastle in Lincolnshire. It is a perfectly absurd arrangement when there are hundreds and thousands of acres of vacant land in the East, the West and the North Ridings of Yorkshire, suitable accommodation much nearer at hand. It seems to me that no consideration at all has been given in the case of London or in the case of Leeds to the accommodation which is available in the suburbs. In the suburbs of all large provincial towns there are better-class houses which have ample accommodation, large gardens, and are reasonably handy so that evacuation to them could take place quickly. The people will be just as safe in these suburbs with cellars as shelters as if they were evacuated 100 miles away. I see the Minister of Transport smiling.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Burgin)
I do not want to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member in his argument, but what occurred to me was that if it is the aggregation of population in a given urban area which makes the target, I do not see why he should think that an evacuation from the centre to the suburbs is any more safe than from the suburbs to the centre.
§ Major Milner
Surely it will be much safer at Wimbledon in the houses along the Common than in the East End of London. That must be obvious. The houses on the side of the Common have large gardens, many of them have cellars, and they would be safer there than in houses in the East End of London bolstered up by some form of steel framework. Surely the accommodation is better and the chances of injury far less 1550 than they are in a crowded congested area such as the East End of London. I suggest that consideration should be given not merely to villages in outlying districts but to the suburban districts where there are large houses with large gardens, and frequently ample cellar accommodation. However, I am of the opinion that the numbers who will be willing to be evacuated will not be as large as is supposed, and that the real essential thing is to have protection at the home, or near at hand.
In that matter there has really been gross delay. It was not until the crisis arose that any consideration at all seems to have been given to the problem, and the suggestion then—probably a natural suggestion—was that they should dig trenches. The trenches were dug, the emergency passed, and nothing has been done with them. Even to-day local authorities have not been instructed or given authority to have the trenches properly concreted in order to make them permanent. In my own city tenders were accepted over a month ago, but so far no authority has been forthcoming from the Government Department. Surely a matter of that sort could have been dealt with by return of post. If a responsible local authority accepts a tender, presumably the lowest tender, then the Government Department should be able to approve that expenditure by return of post.
The Government then evolved their shelter policy. My information is that they ordered thousands of them without any inquiry or survey, and that it was only when the shelters were on the point of being delivered that local authorities were asked to make a survey. They had to return their survey at very short notice, sometimes a matter of three days. The Government were certainly much to blame for not having considered the question of a survey and given local authorities a reasonable time to make a return. Is it intended that the people who receive one of these shelters shall be responsible for their erection? I understand that they are not altogether easy for the ordinary individual to erect, and that the Government have informed local authorities that they may erect them. Who is to pay? In Leeds there will probably be 50,000 of these shelters, and it will cost £150,000. Are the Government prepared to allow 1551 this sum to rank for grant under their present arrangements? It is a very important matter which will have to be settled with the local authorities.
The Lord Privy Seal did say something to reassure us to-day, but I am still doubtful whether the best pattern of shelter has been accepted. I have seen pictures in the newspapers of these shelters full of water. I took it upon myself a long time ago to give the Lord Privy Seal the pattern of a shelter which had a steel base which could be made watertight and a steel side which could be made watertight. It is not possible to do that with the Government type because it has no base, and I can see great difficulty indeed in regard to water. I think the only safeguard is the deep shelter. For some reason which I cannot understand the Lord Privy Seal fights shy of the deep shelter. For some time, I understand, his objection was the great cost; but deep shelters would provide adequate protection. Some of my friends and I have been to Spain and experienced an air raid. The people in the factories, or in the area, would hear the sirens, come out and crowd round the entrances to the shelter. They would hear the planes and probably some bombs being dropped in another part of the city, and the moment they got near everybody would bolt into the shelter. The moment the planes pass away everyone comes out. It is only a matter of a quarter or half an hour at the most. There appears to me no question of these shelters being death traps, and I do not see why they should be so in this country.
The ordinary man cannot understand why the Government cannot approve schemes which have been submitted to them for underground roads or garages, or any other form of underground construction which could be made remunerative and worth while in ordinary times. In Leeds over a month ago proposals were submitted for a system whereby an underground tube would be driven from North to South and from East to West. As far as I know, no agreement or disagreement has been forthcoming from the Government. In the opinion of many people such a project would be self-supporting, and the garages would be equally self-supporting. Whether the Government carry out the whole policy 1552 of deep shelters or not, there seems no reason why they should not give authority for schemes such as that. In congested areas, such as the East End of London, and in industrial areas such as I represent, it is essential that the Government should build some of these deep shelters. I do not think they should be large. They should hold 200, 300 or 400 people and be within reasonable distance of houses. I do not think that the people, certainly in areas like that, will be satisfied unless something of that sort is done.
May I say one word on the matter of National Service? The figures that the Minister of Labour quoted last night were impressive, but I wonder how many of the people represented in them were really fit for National Service. I am told of one case where no fewer than25 deaf and dumb individuals were put forward for registration, and I am told that hundreds of people over 75 are being registered, and they are presumably included in the figures that were quoted. The usual thing is, If in doubt put him on the reserve, and those reserve figures have been used to bolster up the various returns that we read about. I hope that may not be the case but I am afraid, at any rate in my experience, that the National Service campaign has not been anything like as successful as it ought to have been. In some districts I believe it is a flop, and it is due to the way in which it has been approached by the Government. The handbook, for example, was far too full and detailed, and the list of reserved occupations almost killed the scheme to begin with. I am sure that a mistake was made in issuing it in that form.
At the same time, there has been a substantial response. I did not quite appreciate why the Lord Privy Seal should say that no real drive had yet been made and that it was not intended, in the first instance, that it should be made. I should have thought that, if the emergency is as urgent as is represented in some quarters, the essential thing was to get the drive moving as soon as possible and not adopt it in the complacent way that the Lord Privy Seal seemed to indicate has been done. The success of all these schemes, in my judgment, depends entirely on the Government indicating that they mean business. They must have regard to the psychological factor. There is no fear amongst the people, I believe, of the 1553 result of any war, but there is a great fear as to whether the Government have the courage and the resolution to carry forward these and all other matters submitted to their charge in the way that I believe the people want them to be carried forward. There is a direct responsibility on the Government to make it clear that nothing shall be lacking to make these schemes complete and, above all, efficient.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Major Sir George Davies
I could not help comparing the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) with the well-informed, critically constructive speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) which we heard with such concentrated interest yesterday. I could not help feeling that many of the half criticisms, and in some cases full criticisms, that the former was making had failed to appreciate—and I think that, has run through a great many speeches yesterday and to-day—the central policy which has obviously been decided upon in connection with this whole approach to dealing with possible air raid attacks, and that is the policy of dispersal. It is clear that that runs through everything. There are two criticisms that I should like to make of the Lord Privy Seal and the approach to this matter for which he is responsible. The first is that there are a very large number of people up and down the country who have felt that this policy of National Service, as it has been launched, savours too much of a funk-hole policy, too much of the business of all rushing to cover like a lot of frightened rabbits. We may not go so far as to say that attack in the air is infinitely superior to defence, but if anything like that is true, we are giving the impression that we are not going to give full protection to our people by preaching the doctrine that everyone must scuttle to ground. There is a much more virile form of air-raid precaution, and there are hundreds of thousands of people who would like a more definite appreciation of that and a greater appeal to the country to come out and do their bit in that connection, instead of what I call the funk-hole business.
The other criticism is this. It was voiced first, I believe, in a maiden 1554 speech by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), who said that if this appeal for National Service was to be launched, it had to be launched with something that gripped and appealed to the imagination of the country. The Lord Privy Seal said that he did not want to do that, and that that appeal to the reserves of the country would be made after the terrible zero hour, which we all hope may never come, and meanwhile the appeal was only for what was needed to carry on in peace time. But the risk in that kind of appeal is the possibility of watering down the enthusiasm of the people which is ready to be roused, and it seems to me that it would have been better to launch such a movement with all the fireworks, the elephants and the circuses—an appeal which would have aroused imagination and got people to say, "After all, I am needed." There are a good many people who say, "I am not quite sure whether I am needed or not and, if I am, I shall get a definite lead and a definite instruction in connection with it."
Reverting to the question of dispersal, I am quite satisfied that it is the right policy. It runs through so many things which are part of the whole question of air-raid precautions. Take the vexed question of deep bomb-proof shelters. Thinking back over my own experience in the Great War, when on occasions I had the privilege of going down into some of these deep shelters, which had been carefully arranged for us by the enemy—we did not have to construct them ourselves—I found, for myself, and largely for the men, that it was not a very good thing for morale to get right down underground. I always found that I was in a bigger funk than ever when I came up to the surface and I much preferred to be under a single sheet of corrugated iron with one sandbag on top, knowing that if I got a direct hit I was out of luck, but otherwise I was ready to pop out, look round and see what was going on and get on with my job. That is increased 100 per cent, when it is a question of getting hundreds of people down through what must, after all, be narrow entrances and exits, with the possibility of panic and the other objections that have been mentioned. I am sure that the decision is sound to concentrate on dispersal rather than congregation, and it is because of that that I think these shelters 1555 which are being put up where it is possible to put them are a much sounder thing than deep bomb-proof—if they can be made so—funk-holes. I believe that dispersal is the right policy to follow. There is a great deal of misapprehension on the part of those who say, "How foolish to evacuate people from area A into area B when area B is quite as vulnerable a place and is likely to be bombed by any aircraft," the answer obviously being that by the very fact of dispersal we are lessening the danger from bombing.
I remember that during the War we felt that a narrow, easily accessible shell slit for just a few people gave a sense of security, except from a direct hit, which was much more satisfactory than any of these large, concentrated underground shelters for large masses of people. One thing that struck me very much in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney was his warning against the idea of trying to use air-raid precautions for killing two birds with one stone. The first thing to bear in mind is that what we want is air-raid precautions and not building new roads or making underground garages or providing camps, useful though they may be for wives and children in the summer time. The thing to concentrate on is the policy of air-raid precautions, and we should be very careful about letting our minds be diverted too much to ancillary conditions which may be important but at the moment are quite secondary.
There is a question in connection with this which causes some of us a certain amount of apprehension. The response that has already been made shows that under our free and democratic system we can get in peace time a response which shows the keenness of our people to do their share without compulsion. There was a hint in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney that we were going to find that even in peace time mere freedom of selection would possibly not be enough but some form—he used the word "coercion," but some form of enthusiastic persuasion, shall I say, would have to be used. I have found in all strata of society high, low, rich and poor, the feeling that if only a lead was given to tell them definitely in case of evacuation, "You will take in one, two, three or 1556 four children or adults," it would set their minds very much at rest. They would be able to make provision knowing that this had been decided upon as being the most useful thing they could do.
I believe that the idea of building camps is wrong, for it would be concentration, instead of dispersal. I know that it is more difficult to take a number of children or adults and put them in a large number of houses and cottages scattered about the countryside than it is to build camps and say, "We have got over our responsibility there." But it would be much more efficacious to follow the principle of dispersal. All of us hope that these precautions, which are costing huge sums of money, will never have to be put into operation. We have all over the country plenty of bricks and mortar, and it does not seem to be common sense to build a great deal more bricks and mortar accommodation for an emergency which may never come, when we could, in the event of an emergency coming, use what we have.
However, I understand to a certain extent the feeling which some people have about a lot of strangers, whether adults or children, suddenly being wished on to them in their households. I am the father of a good many children, and I am the grandfather of a good many grandchildren, and knowing them as I do, if I were not their father or grandfather I should be appalled at the thought of having to take them in and look after them, because I know exactly what they would be up to. Many people have that sort of feeling, and it is quite a reasonable feeling; and I do not think that, except in a case here and there, it is any reflection upon our people's determination, whether they be in palaces or cottages, to do their share. I believe it would help if, in addition to the register of people who would take in those who are evacuated, there could be a form of semi-compulsion such as was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney yesterday, by which people were told, "We are not going to conscript you now, but when zero hour comes, you will be expected to do such and such a thing."
I want to apply my argument to another thing which is also connected directly with the question of dispersal or concentration, and it is the question of food 1557 storage in private houses. We have a great many depots for food, at our ports and harbours and in other places, where great concentration of essential foodstuffs can be made and, as we have been told, is being made; but what a potential reserve there is up and down the country in the larders of the housewives! In 1914, after the outbreak of War, it was, quite properly, an offence to hoard food, and it would be so again if there were a war, but in peace time a policy of that sort could be followed without upsetting the markets or preventing others from getting necessary foodstuffs, as is not the case when the country is at war. It seems to me that in the case of food supplies, as in the case of the evacuation of children or adults in two's and three's to cottages scattered about the countryside, the policy of dispersal should be followed, and that gradually—I agree, according to financial circumstances—housewives could quite properly lay in extra stocks of food.
It may be asked why should those who are better off in this world's goods be allowed to line their stomachs in time of war better than the rest of the community. I would not have that for a moment. I think that the ration officers should be able to control this matter. But it would be a great advantage if, in some houses, instead of having half a sack of flour, they had two or three sacks, which had gradually been built up as a reserve stock, so that they would not need to come on to the rations of the country for a considerable time, because of the hump which they had to live on. As soon as they had finished that stock, they could come under the rationing provisions of the State. I think that this would be a development of the policy of dispersal which runs through the whole policy on which the Government have decided. I am sure it is a right policy, and I am sure that the policy of concentration, either of human beings or foodstuffs is wrong. I believe that if the Government find that their policy is in any way hindered and that they would like to have a limited power of compulsion in this matter, the country would welcome the exercise of such a power.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil (Sir G. Davies) has referred to the question of food supplies in war-time, because that is a matter to which I wanted to draw 1558 the urgent attention of the Committee. I am very much inclined to agree with the hon. and gallant Member that, subject to certain conditions, it would be a good thing if, in addition to proper provision by the Government, people would lay in, gradually and quietly, in peace-time, some non-perishable food stores. I believe this could be done in such a way as not to increase prices or in any way upset the economy of the country, and such storage would represent a supplementary reserve to stocks laid in by the Government. In fact, subject to conditions to which I will refer, I would like to see a slogan to the effect, "To buy more than you need in war-time is hoarding and a civic crime; but to buy more than you need in peace-time is storing and a civic virtue." I say that subject not only to the condition which the hon. and gallant Member mentioned, that those stores, in case of need, should be available if there is a shortage elsewhere, but subject also to the vital condition that provision of that kind does not encourage the Government to continue their present policy of complete inaction with regard to food reserves for a shortage in the event of a long conflict.
I may be told that, after all, the Government did make some purchases of foodstuffs last year and that they have made a small provision this year. In other circumstances, I should have felt it necessary to argue that expenditure reckoned in terms of an annual cost in the neighbourhood of £500,000, compared with our imports of food and feeding-stuffs alone of £1,000,000 a day, was an utterly insufficient contribution to this problem which has been pressed upon the Government for several years by practically everybody who is really qualified to speak. But after the statement made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on Monday last, I need not argue that, because he told us quite explicitly that the stores that are now being accumulated aremerely for the purpose of enabling any temporary dislocation in the early period of a war to occur without causing suffering."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1939; col. 1033, Vol. 344.]That is to say, the stocks are being provided—and this alone is sufficient to explain what would otherwise be the utter inadequacy of the quantities—only 1559 with a view to the first period of dislocation. That is not at all the problem which has been, for some years past, the subject of representations to the Government.
That problem arises from the fact that even though we retain, as I presume we shall, command of the seas—and it can certainly not be more complete than it was in the last War—and even though we increase our home production, we must expect that in along conflict there will be a shortage of supplies unless we supplement them. The Government have done literally nothing up to now to help in that direction, since the stocks which are being accumulated are for another purpose. Indeed a question by the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) a few days ago brought out the fact, that we are actually discouraging the importation of frozen meat at the present time. We have done nothing whatever with regard to this historic weakness of our island position. As has been so frequently urged, a provision of £5,000,000 a year, including in that sum interest upon the initial capital cost of the first purchases, would be enough to give us reasonable security in the event of even a long war.
Why has this not been done? My view is that the reason is not that the Government or any Minister, after deliberately weighing one need against the other, has decided that it is not worth while, that it is not necessary to make provision of this sort. The reason is simpler. There never has been a Minister in control of an executive department who has felt a direct and primary responsibility for dealing with this problem. We have had a series of answers from the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade—and we had from the Lord Privy Seal yesterday an answer that was not very different—to the effect that—I quote the Prime Minister's answer given in December, 1937:Since food storage is really a part of the larger subject of National Defence, any questions upon the policy of food storage should be addressed to the Minister for the Coordination of Defence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1937; col. 1158, Vol. 330.]Are not battleships, aeroplanes, and Army corps part of the larger subject of National Defence? Of course they are, 1560 but in each case there is a Minister in charge of an executive department whose job it is to see that in these matters we have what the nation requires. That is what the Government always do when they really want a job carried through. By all means, co-ordinate when the demands of different executive departments compete or conflict, but there must be primary responsibility, there must be an executive department whose demands have to be co-ordinated. We have never had that in respect of this vital problem of food reserves. I do not know now where the responsibility lies. Is it with Lord Chatfield, inheriting from the late Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence? I gathered from the Lord Privy Seal's speech yesterday that the responsibility is rather more with him than anybody else. Is it with the Board of Trade? The speech of the Lord Privy Seal gave a shade more responsibility to that Department than previous answers by the President of the Board of Trade and the Prime Minister had done—but only a shade more. I thought for a moment that perhaps the responsibility was with the third of the co-ordinators, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Supply; but I think the last answer eliminates him. I should like myself the responsibilities to be with the Lord Privy Seal, because he knows what the problem is from his experience in the last War, but on one essential condition, that he has direct control of an Executive Department dealing with this question, as he has in the matter of Air Raid Precautions. For I am quite convinced that unless there is some department whose definite responsibility it is to consider whether or not we have enough food reserves, and to carry through the policy, the problem will never be dealt with. Up to the present, it has been left practically untouched. I do not think I overstate the case when I say that the Food (Defence Plans) Department has never dealt with anything more than the problem of the distribution of food in this country—and possibly, with the provision of extra reserves for the first weeks of dislocation. It has never faced the much more serious and difficult problem, it has certainly never done anything to solve the problem, of meeting a deficiency, due to the reduction of imports which we must anticipate and 1561 which will be, I fear, on a more serious scale in a future war than it was in the last War.
Before passing from this subject I wish to put certain points to the appropriate Minister—I do not know whether it is the Lord Privy Seal or some other Minister who is not now present. First, would he inform himself as to the period for which the wheat supply now in Germany would suffice and compare that period with the period for which the wheat supply now in this country would suffice? I will not give the proportion but I ask the Minister to inform himself on that point and to consider the consequences. Secondly, I ask the appropriate Minister to consider whether it is not possible to arrange for a greater storage of flour of the more durable quality. Flour can be stored dispersedly all over the country, through bakers and by other methods. In that case it would be where it is wanted and we should be relieved of one great danger by the fact that the wheat would not have to be taken to the mills which are nearly all concentrated in vulnerable dock areas but would be ready for immediate consumption. Thirdly, I ask the appropriate Minister to consider the great opportunity that is now offered to him, an opportunity that was offered in 1933 and was not then taken but has now recurred, of a wheat surplus and low prices of wheat. We have made changes in personnel and in function and I seriously urge the Government to see that there is unambiguous and definite personal responsibility allotted to a Minister with executive control of a department, for dealing with this matter.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I think it has already been stated by the Lord Privy Seal that this matter does not come under his control. We must confine the Debate to what is in the Supplementary Vote.
§ Mr. Johnston
May I suggest with great respect that it is of vital importance to other speakers who may follow to know the exact scope of the Debate and that as the Lord Privy Seal has announced a policy of camps, for which food supplies will be required, it is appropriate on this occasion to discuss food reserves in that connection.
§ Sir A. Salter
I do not wish to pursue the point any further. I only remark, 1562 in passing, that I did follow with great care what was said by the Lord Privy Seal and although it is true that he said that a greater responsibility in this matter rested upon Lord Chatfield than upon himself, he certainly included in his own sphere some responsibility in relation to the maintenance of food supplies. However, Colonel Clifton Brown, I accept your Ruling, and I now pass on from that subject to a completely different one, namely, air-raid precautions.
I am going to suggest that in certain respects the policy outlined by the Lord Privy Seal yesterday and by the Minister of Health to-day is not entirely adequate. At the same time I say quite genuinely that the progress described in those two speeches is, in some ways, remarkable. During the last four months the Lord Privy Seal has done a great deal more than his predecessors did in as many years. If the same rate of progress had been visible during the tenure of office of his predecessor, and still more in the term of office of his predecessor's predecessor, I think we should have solved this problem.
Nevertheless there are certain matters on which I would like to press my right hon. Friend. I am not one of those who believe that we want deep shelters for everyone in this country. I think the Lord Privy Seal's policy of steel shelters with the strengthening of basements, if—but it is rather a big "if"—the basements can be adequately strengthened quickly enough, will (when we add to the people who are to be so protected, the considerable number whose danger in any case will not be very great) reduce the risk to tolerable dimensions for the majority of people in this country. But there is a considerable minority for whom additional protection is required and I will suggest shortly the class of cases in which deep shelter protection is wanted. We have to consider first the position in evacuable areas and in the most dangerous zones within those areas. Incidentally, one of the things which is most urgently wanted—perhaps it falls within the scope of the Minister of Health—is that, starting with the present classification which is on wide lines, he should proceed to a detailed zoning classification within the different areas of the most dangerous parts. For example, I was rather disturbed by an interjection made by the Minister of Transport in answer 1563 to a point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner). The right hon. Gentleman suggested that when dealing with an area like London one part was as dangerous as another. It seems reasonable to say that the Lord Privy Seal's protection will reduce the risk to tolerable dimensions in a suburb like Wimbledon.
§ Sir A. Salter
Perhaps not, but Wimbledon is in fact in a very different position from that of, let us say, the East End of London, from the docks and along both sides of the river to perhaps Victoria. I suggest that in such a zone as this the proportion of people to be evacuated would be much higher than in other parts of London. I think it is altogether inadequate to contemplate the evacuation from such specially dangerous zones only of the children and mothers, invalids or elderly people, or even people who are now engaged in ordinary useful activities which need not necessarily be carried on there, I do not think that the Anderson Committee's estimate of one-third is an adequate proportion for a zone like that. For such zones what you want to do is to see what industries in them must go on there, because they are essential and because their plant is situated there. You must see what number of people will be compelled to remain there, either as workers in those industries, or as engaged in attendant services such as transport, the provision of food and so on. Then I think all the other people should be encouraged to arrange to go out from a zone so dangerous. For that purpose, the Government ought not to leave the initiative to the different businesses—many of whom are already making their own arrangements—but they ought to communicate definitely with the people who own those businesses and ask them to arrange to go elsewhere. And for those who remain, we want additional protection which, in large measure, I believe would have to be deep shelter protection.
There was one argument used by the Lord Privy Seal in deprecating the extension of deep shelters which rather alarmed me. He said, with truth, that people might be bombed on the way to the shelter and that panic rushes might 1564 ensue. That is a consideration which must be taken into account in any calculations. But, he added the further consideration that it was not only the number of casualties that mattered but the manner in which they were caused. He said it would have a worse effect on the public mind if a given number of people were killed in one place, particularly in a place recommended by the Government, than if the same number were killed dispersedly. I agree that there is some truth in that. But I think it is a very dangerous idea for an administrator to allow to enter into his mind as a determining consideration. The duty of the Government is to adopt whatever practicable system will reduce casualties to the minimum. May I recall an analogy which I hope will appeal to my right hon. Friend because of the experience which he and I shared during the last War? It will be remembered that the convoy system saved us from the submarine peril. It will also be remembered that there was a very long and very costly delay before the Admiralty agreed to the convoy system. Now the convoy system may be compared to the communal shelter system and the system which it replaced may be compared to the dispersal system. I do not press the analogy in relation to the two forms of protection. My point is that one of the reasons why the Admiralty delayed so long about adopting the convoy system was that they felt that while they had a general responsibility for protecting vessels everywhere on the high seas and while it was unfortunate that ships were being destroyed one after another here and there, it would be much more serious if the ships were destroyed all at once, bunched together in a convoy arranged by the Admiralty themselves.
I earnestly hope that the Government will keep steadily in mind the single criterion of what is the most practicable method of reducing casualties to the minimum. In that connection there was one other remark by the Lord Privy Seal which rather alarmed me. He said that it was a tremendous decision to take whether to have deep shelters or not, because if you adopted that system it would have to be made universal and practically simultaneous for all people sharing more or less similar risks. I suggest that in view of varying local conditions as to soil and so on, this is 1565 a matter in which we ought to experiment here and there. The Lord Privy Seal said it was not a matter in which we could experiment but I think it would be better to make a few experiments in different localities than to wait a long time before making any start at all. I think that, roughly, deep shelters are wanted in very dangerous zones such as those to which I have referred, in the neighbourhood of docks, in streets which remain very busy, even when there has been a measure of evacuation, in munitions areas and for certain medical and other vital public services. For all those cases some deep shelters will be required. I would make one further comment in regard to busy streets. Whether the shelters are deep or not, it is of the utmost importance that they should be numerous enough to take all the people who are likely to be in a given region at any moment. They should be so arranged that it will be possible to have permanent notices in the streets telling people, if caught in an air raid in that street, to go to such-and-such a shelter. Otherwise there is grave danger of panic rushes to any shelter which may occur to the mind of the individual who first starts to run and I do not think that police measures by themselves will be adequate in those circumstances.
May I say something now about air-raid wardens and workers? We have all been impressed by the extent to which there has been volunteering for A.R.P. work as indicated yesterday by the Minister of Labour. There is still, however, a great deal to be done. I believe that the Lord Privy Seal will get all the people he wants, if the public feel that his scheme is a really good scheme. I believe that he needs not to change his scheme fundamentally but to supplement it. I hope he will not give a blank refusal to those who urge the deep shelter policy. If he supplemented his present policy by having deep shelters in certain cases, I believe he would get a greater response to his appeal. And he will be able to ensure a better response to his appeal if he makes the fullest possible use of what is one of the greatest sources of strength of this country, and that is the capacity of our people to form and to make alive and vital, local voluntary organisations of all kinds, such as friendly societies, rotary clubs, and so on. It often seems difficult, from the point of view of a 1566 Government office, to work through such societies. Their variety is so great, their methods seem so strange, and they overlap so much. The approach needs to be skilful and varied. But it can be done as the right hon. Gentleman will remember from his experience of National Health Insurance. I am sure that if these societies were appealed to properly to recruit from their own membership they would constitute an invaluable help to him. I would also refer to the new Air-Raid Defence League. It is a completely non-political body, and it really is intended, as far as it can, to help the Government in carrying out its policy, where we agree that it is a good policy, while at the same time remaining independent and pressing such further suggestions on the Government as have been made to-day.
I will conclude by saying that I think the Lord Privy Seal, as all of us, may find inspiration and incentive for pressing on with the task in which he is engaged in this reflection. If he will accelerate and extend his plans, we may not only eliminate the possibility that we might be defeated in war by a knock-out blow, but, what is almost equally necessary, we may eliminate from the mind of any possible aggressor the belief, even if it be a delusion, that such a thing would be possible. If that were done, the danger of war would be immensely less. Secondly, it is not beyond practicable hope, with a combination of combatant defence measures and passive civilian defence as an essential counterpart, that we can make the loss inflicted less than the loss to the attacking force, so that civilian bombardment will no longer be worth the cost. We may then return, by a longer and more painful route, to the goal, to which there seemed some years ago a shorter and pleasanter route, no longer open, of eliminating from the world this great menace to modern civilisation.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Duncan
With the concluding words of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) I think we can all agree. My object in rising is to applaud the recent action of the Lord Privy Seal; and if I appear critical of certain omissions which have so far been observed, it is due to my own anxiety as a London Member of Parliament to see that all possible 1567 precautions are taken, and that they are taken at the earliest possible moment. The first one that I want to mention—and these are all small but practical points—is the question of district nursing. The Minister of Health this afternoon talked about nursing, but I think in that connection he has thought in terms of hospital nursing. What will happen to district nurses in an emergency? Are they to carry on with their normal work, or are they to be drafted off to assist in casualty hospitals or first-aid posts? My right hon. Friend knows that there are district nurses scattered up and down the country. I am chairman of the Kensington District Nursing Association, which employs 17 nurses at the present time, and we who are interested in this matter want to know what we are to do.
In that connection, are the district nurses going to have protective clothing, and, if so, why not straight away? In the last emergency, if there had been a war in September, the district nurses would have had to go out nursing their ordinary cases and any casualties that occurred, without any protection whatever. This protective clothing is surely essential, because I presume that they will be continuing to carry on their normal work, even if they have to take on additional work as well at a first-aid post. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health whether he will see that this protective clothing is issued to them straight away. I did make inquiries at my local town hall, to see whether this was possible, and I was told by the medical officer of health for Kensington that the local authority had no power to issue the articles in question, but he offered to store them himself, through the borough organisation, if we were not in a position to do so. However, in our case we could do so, but I think it would be of great value to know what the position of district nurses will be in an emergency.
With regard to shelters, I have every confidence in the steel shelters that are being distributed now, and I am not going to be critical of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, because I am convinced that he has thoroughly tested these shelters and that they will effectually do what they are supposed to do, namely, protect the people who are in the shelters from splinters, blast and falling debris. But, of course, there are many houses, 1568 particularly in London, where these shelters will not be suitable, and another way of dealing with houses of this sort would be to strengthen and strut the basements. I have been asking questions on this point for some time, and I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say something about it, but I am most anxious that this basement question should be got on with, because although I was promised a circular to local authorities this month, the local authorities, so far as I know, have not yet got it. We want to get on with this work. I do not think any particular survey that would be required would take long. We want to see effective protection provided against splinters, blast and debris wherever a basement can be made fit, protection that provides not only for the roof of the basement, but for the side of the basement as well.
There is another class of house or building where perhaps there is no basement and where, if there is a basement, it is not suitable. I refer to large blocks of flats. The London County Council, for instance, own a very large number of large blocks of flats without basements. I have large blocks of flats in my constituency, not under the London County Council, but under a housing association, and the people living in these flats want to know how they are to be dealt with. I think these are practical points. There is no basement, and the buildings are not constructed strongly enough for the ground floor to be able to withstand falling debris without a very considerable amount of strutting. If a bomb falls fairly near them, it will blow in, or rather blow out, the sides through the vacuum created, and, therefore, I do not see that there is any way of protecting these five and six-storey blocks of flats from blast or splinters. What is to be done in those cases? I should like my right hon. Friend to give some answer to that question if he can, and if he cannot do it to-night, I hope that he will do it as soon as he can, because, in my submission, this is one of the exceptional cases, where you have to go underground fairly deep to protect these great collections of 6,000 and 7,000 people living together in great blocks of flats.
There is one other point with regard to shelter protection, and that is in reference to domestic servants living in the richer parts of the country or the town. Let me give my own case as an illustration of 1569 what I mean. Before Christmas, in response to questions by me in the House, the Lord Privy Seal said that it was the duty of every householder and employer to protect his staff. I asked him specifically whether that meant that every householder with a domestic servant would be responsible for that servant's protection, and he said, "Yes." I wrote to the town hall in the City of Westminster, and I was informed that I could have two booklets on the subject, but that there was no possibility of getting any advice other than that contained in those two booklets. The town clerk suggested that I should employ an architect. I consulted my architect, and I found that he had never erected a shelter. He does not know anything about it. Therefore, I am in this position—and thousands of others are in the same position as myself—that we are advised to consult architects who do not know anything about it, and that we shall not get any official help or advice beyond that contained in the booklets circulated by the Lord Privy Seal's Department.
I think the architects will soon learn, because they are professional people, who know all about strains and stresses, and they need only a short period of training or booklets of advice on technical lines in order to be able to do the work. But I want to make this suggestion, in the interests of domestic servants who might be bombed, that employers should not be allowed to put up structural protection in their own houses except on lines approved by the local authority. It may well be that some householders may go in for cheap, inefficient methods of protection, which would be very dangerous in an emergency, and I suggest that the only way to meet that contingency at the present time, when people know so little about these problems, is that the local authorities' approval of the plans should be required in every case.
Now one or two words about evacuation. I am very glad to hear that it has been arranged that evacuation shall be voluntary in every case, but I think that a problem will arise with the mothers. In the last emergency a very large proportion, over 90 per cent., of the mothers in London allowed their children to go away from their homes to the country with their teachers. I think it was a very fine thing for the mothers to risk their children with strangers in 1570 a strange land in a time of emergency, and stay in the danger zone themselves. It may be an interesting problem in the future, whether a mother will stay with her husband, cook his food, look after him, and share the risk of staying, rather than go away with the children somewhere in safety. I am, however, delighted that evacuation is to remain voluntary, because I think that anything of compulsion in that connection would be a very bad thing. I hope that the teachers will be among the priority classes that were referred to on more than one occasion by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health this afternoon. He talked about young children, older children, and their mothers, but he left out the teachers. In my opinion, in the vast majority of cases the teachers ought to be on the priority list and, wherever possible, go with the children.
I am glad to hear that the billeting arrangements have been successful as far as they have gone, but I think that there may be some error in the figures which the right hon. Gentleman read this afternoon. One reason may be that which was given by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), that in some cases the figures were obtained by volunteers and not by officials of local authorities. Another is that in some areas the calculations were made on the basis of one person per habitable room. In working it out in practice I am sure that this is not the right standard. I raised this matter by means of Question and Answer a fortnight ago. What is far more important than the question whether there is bedroom accommodation, is whether there is cooking and washing accommodation. I hope that now the preliminary survey is over, a further survey will be made to ensure that houses which have been earmarked have sufficient domestic arrangements so that the children will be adequately looked after. Another practical point is how we are to get the sand into the sand bags and the filled bags into position.
§ Mr. Duncan
The Minister of Health has ordered thousands of millions of sandbags. I do not know where they are or whether they are to be, as I expect, sent to the distributing centres of the local authorities. Will it be the obligation of the local authority to deliver the sand- 1571 bags ready filled in an emergency? If so, it should be clearly laid down that the local authorities should make arrangements for storing the bags with the sand nearby, and that considerable transport arrangements will have to be made for distributing the sandbags. That is a considerable business, which many of us who were in the last War will remember. Added to that, the local authorities should know the number of sand bags and their destinations house by house. A particular case which I would like to bring to the notice of the Committee is that of my nursing association's nurses' home. We have an elaborate plan, which has the unofficial approval of my borough council, and it envisages the use of sandbags, We have no storage accommodation and do not know when or from where we are going to get them. If it could be clearly laid down that the local authority is responsible for the distribution in their own area, and, if possible, for erecting them, and clearly understood by all concerned what is to be done, it will be a great advantage.
On the question of profiteering, the Minister of Health mentioned the price of cement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) made a great point of it. I am a member of the Select Committee on Estimates and am interested in this question of profiteering, as, indeed, is the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who is also on the Committee. I hope that we shall have an opportunity later in the Committee to consider the price of cement and other materials. I understand that the Building Materials Committee reported before Christmas to the Minister of Health, and that the Minister is now negotiating with the manufacturers of cement to see whether the rise of 10 per cent. in price since 1935 is justifiable. I hope that when the question comes to us in the Select Committee we shall have the result of the Minister's conversations with the associations concerned. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will, at the same time, take note of the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates with regard to fire hose. A position which was far from satisfactory was disclosed, but since then it may have been put right. There are many things that I could say on the question of civil defence, but as other hon. Gentlemen 1572 want to speak I will say no more than this. As a London Member I am deeply interested in this subject. I believe that we are making real progress now, and if I have been critical to-night it is because of my earnest desire to see my constituents and my Capital, the Capital of the greatest Empire in the world, made as safe as possible.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
This Debate has shown that a hard-and-fast policy in dealing with the defence of the civil population is impossible, and that we must take each case as we find it, each area as we find it, and deal with the specific problems in different ways. For instance, in some districts dispersal is necessary, in other districts cover or deep shelters are necessary, and in others both are necessary. Many of these problems are due to the fact that industry has been allowed to congregate in a few centres on too large a scale. The question of the dispersal of industry will have to be dealt with. A Commission on the Location of Industry is now sitting, and we ought to get an interim report so that something could be done as early as possible, although I am afraid it will be many years before a complete reversal of this trend will be possible. In the West of England we are still somewhat in the dark as to why certain districts which are regarded as neutral areas and others which are regarded as receiving areas should not be arranged as we think they should be. There are districts round Gloucester Docks and a canal leading from Berkeley and Sharpness to Gloucester, which I think are very vulnerable areas, and yet they will still be receiving areas. The City of Gloucester is supposed to be receiving children and persons who are to be evacuated from the Midlands. I think that the diagrams which have been issued should be revised and that there should not as yet be any hard-and-fast line drawn.
In the rural parts of my constituency progress in regard to the evacuation census is going on very well and is almost finished, but I would like to call attention to the fact that we shall be dependent to a large extent upon the work of local care committees as to how smoothly the evacuated children get to their places and are looked after when they get there. Are we to rely entirely upon these committees? A circular issued by the Minister 1573 of Health some time ago seemed to indicate that the local care committees would play a large role in looking after the children, seeing to the supply of mattresses and blankets, the mending of clothes, and so on. An hon. Member opposite spoke of the necessity for using the big country houses. I do not think that is an adequate policy. They should be used whenever possible, of course, but in a great many villages there are no big country houses, and it is a question of dispersing into small cottages where there are very few rooms. I know many cottages where there is not enough room for the existing family, and in many places it is a question of only one or two at the outside being taken in.
Dispersal in the rural areas will not meet the position altogether, and the question of camps will have to be considered. One hon. Member seemed to think that camps would be a considerable danger and a target for the enemy. I agree that in certain districts they would be. If camps were in the Midlands or the home counties, or anywhere near big industrial centres, they would be targets. There are in the West of England, and particularly in my constituency, the Forest of Dean, very excellent places, concealed in wooded valleys, to which large numbers of evacuated people could be sent. Incidentally, the Forest of Dean is shortly to become a national forest park. I understand that the Forestry Commission, are looking out for suitable sites for holiday camps for the public in time of peace, with the object of attracting holiday-makers, and it would be desirable to use such camps for the civil population dispersed from the denser areas in time of war. I have recently been in communication privately with the Lord Privy Seal upon this matter, and I will hope he will give it consideration in due course, because I am convinced that it is one of the means by which the problem may be dealt with.
One other point, I wish to raise a point concerning air-raid wardens in rural areas. In the area where I am an air-raid warden we were asked, six months ago, to recruit 127 persons. In a short time we had secured 84 and were on the way to getting the remainder. Classes were held, and certificates were issued to those who passed the examination. All of a sudden we have been informed that equipment 1574 will be provided for only 42 persons and there has been, in consequence, a considerable "flop" in enthusiasm. All the time we were working on this most of us had the feeling that lectures and instructions on how to deal with mustard gas were not a very practical course for a remote rural area, and that the number of workers we were asked to get was a high one. However, we did what we were told. I am not surprised that remote rural areas are now asked rather to stand down in favour of more vulnerable areas, but my complaint is that this ought to have been decided upon before. The Department concerned should have realised that to ask for a very large number of workers and then suddenly cut them down was scarcely the way to keep up the enthusiasm in the rural areas, and although I think the right thing is now being done I hope that similar happenings will not take place in the future because it would have a serious effect upon the desire to render service which I know prevails among the people in order that this country may be ready to meet any danger which may threaten it.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
I think the whole Committee and the whole country will be impressed by the figures which the Minister gave showing the response he has had to the requests to billet children in the rural areas, but I should like to endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for North Kensington (Mr. Duncan) and say that, magnificent though the response has been, and impressive as the figures are, I doubt whether they do in every instance give a quite accurate picture and whether we ought really to rely in every case upon finding accommodation for the number of children we shall expect to billet when we hear the number of rooms which are supposed to be available for them. In the West Country people have been going round making exhaustive surveys of the houses, the numbers of rooms and the number of children who could be taken. In villages such as Pease down and Mells, which can be regarded as fairly safe from air attack, and may be valuable centres for children, the water shortage was so acute last year that the children already living there had to be taken away in order to be washed, and there was an inadequate supply of drinking water. If we are 1575 counting rooms in those villages as available for extra children it is not a practical calculation. I realise that the Minister of Health must at this time receive many requests from local authorities who, as he said, put forward schemes which are very dear to their hearts and it is true that in Somerset there are many villages which have felt for a long time that the water supply question has been disgracefully neglected. Naturally, they put forward that question now, but it is not a case of putting forward a scheme which is dear to the heart of a local authority, but a question of supplying a need, and unless it is met we have no right to put one extra child into those villages. Therefore, I say, the water supply question is one to be gravely considered.
There is one other question. There are in the West Country a large number of medium-sized houses whose occupants have volunteered to take a certain number of children. I would ask the Minister whether arrangements have been made as to who is to do the housework, the cooking and the washing for these children, because a great many houses are, of necessity, staffed by foreign labour at the present time, British labour not being available. Will that foreign labour be there in the event of war? Will even the British labour which is there at present be there in the event of war? Will not some of those who are at present engaged in domestic labour be volunteering for some other form of National Service which will be quite as valuable? We should make quite certain that in any village where a large number of children are to be billeted there will be an adequate number of people to undertake those essential services. We are recruiting a Women's Land Army, and I am certain that it would be easy to recruit a household army, or whatever it might be called, for this purpose. These are practical problems to be faced when considering the billeting of children in the country.
Something has been said with regard to camps. A very extraordinary case has been brought to my notice, possibly it is not an isolated case, which I think shows a spirit of unreality on the part of the Ministry of Health. A certain woman in Hertfordshire had the job of going round a village to find out what accommodation there was for the billeting of children. 1576 She found that very little accommodation was available because, as an hon. Member opposite said, the houses were already quite full. This woman owned 15 cottages which had been put into a Demolition Order under the slum clearance scheme. She consulted an exceedingly capable architect, who said that those cottages could be made perfectly sound, and she wrote to the Ministry and offered to have that work done at her own expense, and to billet children in them free of any charge whatsoever. The number of people who could have been placed in those 15 cottages was between 70 and 80, but she has been told that unless she destroys the cottages within a month the council will do it and that she will be charged for the destruction of them. It was in the crisis that she wrote offering these cottages. The moment the crisis was over the Ministry wrote to her, "The crisis is over, and we shall now have no need of your cottages." When we are trying to find accommodation in the country for children from the towns the refusal of an offer like that makes people feel that there is in some Government Departments a lack of appreciation of the real problem.
§ Mrs. Tate
Things would be a great deal worse if the hon. Member's side had anything to do with it. If they had been in charge we should have been at war long ago. I should like to continue my speech without interruptions from Russia, and would say a word or two about the women's work under Air-Raid Precautions services. I am well aware that a great deal of that work will be of a very heavy nature such as is not suitable for women. I, therefore, do not ask for equal scales of pay or allowance for men and women throughout their service. The Minister very rightly said yesterday that the scale which is to be paid is to be regarded not as pay but as an allowance.
I am certain that not one Member of this House or one thinking member of the public would approve that where men and women are being given an allowance in war-time for absolutely identical work the women should receive only two-thirds of the allowance paid to the men. There is the work at first-aid posts by the first-aid nurses provided for those posts, drivers of ambulances and those who give 1577 professional services such as radiologists and dispensers. I disapprove of the unequal rates of pay between men and women in the Civil Service, but in no case is there a difference of more than one-fifth. Under the scale which the Government are going to allow, a man is to be paid a flat rate of 60s. a week and a women a flat rate of 40s. a week. I ask the Minister for some explanation of that difference. It is impossible to pretend that a woman driving an ambulance from morning till night will be doing less work than a man who is giving exactly the same service. She certainly will not need less food. She will not find the driving of that ambulance less of a strain, and she certainly will have to pay quite as much for lodgings. Probably she will find it more difficult to get suitable lodgings. I ask why this difference is proposed?
When I said, "Hear, hear" because one woman had said that she withdrew her name as a person who would take children for billeting, because of the inequality of the pay, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir P. Latham) said that I was unpatriotic. The whole House and the country knows that whether you treat women justly or not they will give their service freely and unstintingly in time of war when the nation calls for it, and that they will think not of themselves or of their sex but only of their country; but it does not do the country or the Government credit that there should be this wholly indefensible difference in the allowances paid to men and women.
I would say a word upon a subject touched upon by the last speaker, that of air-raid wardens in the country districts. In the little town of Frome in my constituency a very capable organisation of air-raid wardens has been built up. They have had the same sort of irritation that has been the experience of the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) and I would ask that in cases where the chief air-raid warden has been put to considerable expense for clerical staff, an allowance should be made for the initial building up of the service. I hope that if the Minister cannot put forward any defence he will at least attempt to tell me on what grounds the extraordinary discrimination is proposed between the allowances for men and women in time of war.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Woods
These Debates have brought out very clearly that, whatever war may have been in the past, it will be, if it should unfortunately occur, something totally different in the future. In the past most of the preparations for war were a matter for the armies concerned, but now every Department will have responsibility and, what will be a very novel feature, local authorities will have more responsible and exacting duties than they have ever had before. Many of the problems may be foreseen and anticipated, and I expect that the Minister, when he listened to the hon. Member for Scarborough (Sir P. Latham) wished that the problems were as simple as the hon. Member seemed to indicate. One thing which was profoundly true in his speech was that in a democratic country like this we should rely much more than we have done in the past upon the local authorities, who know the problems of their localities, the local people and the local resources, and have had years of administrative experience in their localities.
I am afraid that the desirability of co-operation between the central organisation and the local authorities of this country has not been fully appreciated and acted upon. The experience that we have had in Finsbury has brought out this point very clearly. Finsbury is in the heart of London, and it suffered very heavily in the last War, being located between two of the largest London railway termini and near other important centres. Finsbury attempted to go into the matter in order to make its preparations, and I am delighted that the borough has done its job well. It has not taken a great length of time to do it. I was in Spain 12 months ago, and when I came back I found to my amazement that the present Government, although not with the same personnel in the Departments responsible, was talking in terms of buckets of sand and spades. To those who had come straight back from devastated Barcelona this talk seemed worse than lunacy; it was criminal insanity. To try to persuade the population of this country, especially of large towns, that any hope of safety lay in such measures, was fantastic in the extreme.
Fortunately for the Government, the public have short memories. Buckets of 1579 sand and spades have receded into the background. In Finsbury we discussed what were likely to be the results in modern warfare. From what I and others have seen in Barcelona it was obvious that something drastic was necessary if there were to be any degree of security guaranteed to the civilian population. In a very thorough way we looked at the problem from every angle. We considered the problem was one of evacuation, but, unfortunately, there were only limited possibilities in the borough, because many of the population are occupied in necessary work in the vicinity. The day-time population is several times the number of the actual inhabiting population of the borough. Whatever happens, therefore, with regard to evacuation, it would leave us with a considerable population for whom to provide shelter.
As regards the question of trenches, a survey of the borough was made to ascertain the possibilities, but, unfortunately, there is very little open space for trenches, so there is no possibility, even if trenches prove satisfactory, of making adequate provision in that way. I noticed that the Lord Privy Seal stressed particularly the question of strengthening basements. A complete survey was made of the cellars and basements in the borough, but there again we had to face the problem that much of the property in the borough is over 100 years old, and that the really modern buildings with basements which could be made secure in the event of air raids are very restricted in number. We were, therefore, driven back upon the provision of deep bombproof shelters. We obtained the best advice we could, and produced the best scheme we could.
We got very little help from the Government or Government Departments. If there had been a spirit of willing cooperation, probably our scheme would have been a better one, but we have been driven to use our own resources and consult the best people we could. We made applications to Government Departments for information as to the strengths of concrete and so forth necessary to withstand the possible explosive power of the bombs that might be used, but we got no information at all. The only reply we have had is, "Prepare your scheme and submit it, and we will tell you whether we approve of it or not." I 1580 think, therefore, that it is highly commendable that, in spite of the smallness of the encouragement, a scheme has been produced which at any rate we hope will be improved upon by the Government. We do not stand, and I do not think that any local authority in this matter, in which we are all so much novices, can stand, on any pinacle. Our scheme is not offered as a challenge; it is just our humble attempt to present a scheme might offer security to the population of whom we have to take charge.
I do not want to go into the criticisms that have been made. One hon. Member opposite referred to the policy of "funk holes," which he repudiated as being unworthy of the great British population. He advocated dispersal, which, after all, might be described as flight. To those who have been in modern air raids, and have seen the aeroplanes overhead, it is appalling to feel how utterly impotent one is, and if a flight of aeroplanes breaks up, then it is a question of where one is to go. We do not presume to know how far the experience in Spain is likely to be reproduced here. Heaven save us from it. But the idea of dispersal does not meet the situation to any extent. When I was in Spain last year and at the beginning of this year—I came back just before Barcelona fell—whole villages had been completely blotted out. In a previous discussion one hon. Member asked why these refugees fled. The obvious reason was that their village had been blown to pieces, they themselves had been machine-gunned, and they were just terror-stricken and fled.
The position in the rural parts is quite different from that of the towns. I have seen villages in Spain where the actual objectives—factories and so forth—have been hit with amazing precision. It is impossible, practically speaking, in a country district, to make provision for anti-aircraft defence. Where a town has adequate provision for anti-aircraft defence, the tendency is for the invading airman to give it a wide miss, but where he knows that there is very little in the way of effective anti-aircraft defence, he can come down with impunity to a fairly low level and aim with amazing precision, with the result that a whole village is speedily destroyed. I am not going into the question of dispersal or funk holes, but I suggest that it does not help to say, when there seems to be no way of 1581 securing adequate protection except by deep bomb-proof shelters, that that is unpatriotic. It seems to me to be the most sensible thing under the sun. The remarks of the Lord Privy Seal yesterday were rather vaguely phrased, but they seemed to indicate that he thought that to propose deep bomb-proof shelters created in some way a defeatist mentality. I hope he did not mean that, because I do not see how it can be maintained.
The Minister of Health gave to-day a long list of the orders that have already been placed for miles of bandages, millions of yards of adhesive tape, tons of cotton wool, and so forth, and, as I listened, I felt that at least we were making provision for the casualties. I am convinced, however, that the whole country is behind those who say in regard to this matter, "Prevention is better than cure." It is far better to have a small percentage hit than a large expenditure on bandages and adhesive tape. The whole of the objections raised seem to take it for granted that, in regard to the provision of deep bomb-proof shelters, science has somehow or other suddenly become dumb—that we have no real capacity for building such shelters as will be immune from high explosive bombs. We do not take that attitude when we are building warships; we assess the danger and make provision against it. Whatever provision may have been made in the scheme submitted by my borough, I can say that, if the protection it affords should prove to be inadequate, arrangements have been made so that it can be augmented to meet an even greater danger.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
Would the hon. Member tell us the depth of the shelters provided in the Finsbury scheme?
§ Mr. Woods
They are of various depths; they can be made of almost any depth on this system of construction. If any hon. Members are interested in the matter, and would like information about it, I am sure that the borough surveyor and engineer will be pleased to let them have it. I do not, however, put this scheme forward as a solution applicable to the country as a whole. We do not say that it is a universal panacea. But we do say that we have surveyed our problem as a community in the heart of 1582 London, we have looked at the possibilities, and we feel that here at least is the only thing that we, as a responsible administrative body, can recommend as promising any degree of security for the population for whom we are responsible. It seems to me that that is quite legitimate and commendable.
I am doubtful whether the Government have the information which the local authorities need. Out in Spain I made inquiries as to whether the British Government had inspected their deep shelters, and a very fantastic story was told me—I do not know whether it was true—to the effect that the British Government sent out one engineer, who did not speak (Spanish, who stayed three days, who did not make any official contacts, but went and saw one shelter and came back. If that is anywhere near the truth, it is no use making references, as the Minister did, to Barcelona. I would like to say, in connection with Barcelona and the experience of the war in Spain, that, while I personally feel that the small metal shelters will be useful as against blast, falling debris and shrapnel from anti-aircraft guns, they will be quite useless in proximity to a large building, for the people will be suffocated by the vast volume of material that will fall upon them. I think the Minister appreciates that. But they are quite useless against anything like direct hits. What impressed me in the parts of Spain to which I went was that there were many refugios, as they call them, above ground level, with vast piles of sand or sandbags around them; they had been so dangerous to the people who flocked into them that they had been all removed, and the people were frantically going on with the task of providing deep shelters.
The question of time has been mentioned. Very careful estimates have been made, as far as it is possible to make estimates, and we consider that within eight months the whole scheme will be completed. It would occupy, apart from skilled engineers and others, about 5,000 unskilled workers for that eight months. We shall never get decisions if we wait for the perfect thing. Finsbury is anxious to profit by the experience of other boroughs, but we want the work to be got on with at the earliest moment. We are definitely held up, and every borough is held up, by the fact that there is no power to requisition sites, and special 1583 powers will be needed by many boroughs, especially in London, to go down to the depth required. So while we are putting our scheme to the Government for their help in elaborating a better scheme, we suggest that the urgency must be considered, and that we must go forward immediately. That was the point on which the officials who visited us placed their whole emphasis. We are quite prepared to go ahead with the scheme as it is or to receive the benefit of Government advice, but we are anxious that people should go on living whole and not have to have recourse to the tons of cotton wool and bandages which have been mentioned.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Bull
There are, I know, still several hon. Members who wish to speak and I shall be very brief—although I think that when a Member says that he intends to be brief and then lapses into a 35 or 40 minutes speech there should be some collective action on non-party lines taken against him for raising false hopes. We have all admired the thorough manner in which the Lord Privy Seal and the Minister of Health dealt with this subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) and the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) were concerned for a short time in their speeches in apportioning blame. Apart from that, no blame has been apportioned in this Debate, either yesterday or to-day. I think they will still need all their time and eloquence to persuade the country that our defences in general or air-raid precautions in particular would be in a more advanced stage if their party had been in power. I am glad the right hon. Member for South Hackney recognised what an able and painstaking Minister we have in the Lord Privy Seal, but I would like to ask for some further information about the evacuation scheme for London. I fully realise the difficulty of extending this scheme until the Lord Privy Seal knows more from his survey about the numbers which can be taken into the receiving areas, but it seems to me that there are very crowded areas in Greater London which are also definite target areas and are yet classified as neutral zones, whereas some of the areas included in the London evacuation scheme are not targets.
1584 The hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) said yesterday that some people were amazed—or words to that effect—at North Tottenham being classified as an evacuation area. The people in the division I represent are most dissatisfied that Eastern Enfield has been classified as a neutral area, and I wonder what the Lord Privy Seal would think if I suggest an exchange by which he could take North Tottenham out of the list of evacuation areas and put Eastern Enfield in. Further, the Minister of Health said that he must be bound by the laws of arithmetic; but that will not interfere with the laws of arithmetic. It seems to me that enemy bombers will always go for target areas, as they did in the last War, rather than for London in general, especially as these target areas in Greater London are also very crowded. I do not wish to particularise unduly, but in the division I represent there are over 100 factories, including the Royal Small Arms factory, and close by, in the division represented by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter), are the Royal Powder Mills, which, if they were hit, would blow up half of North London. Therefore, I cannot see why this area should not be included in the evacuation scheme. The right hon. Gentleman probably knows that there is already one German Zeppelin burial ground in my division, and the people there naturally do not want another. They are, therefore, rightly apprehensive about this area not being classified as an evacuation one. I would ask the Minister of Transport whether he can say anything further about the re-classification of these crowded target areas in Greater London as evacuation areas.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett
All who listened to the Lord Privy Seal yesterday and to the Minister of Health to-day must have been very impressed by the magnitude of the task they have undertaken, and the progress they have made. It was perhaps not surprising that the Lord Privy Seal's speech was approaching in length, although fortunately not in manner of delivery, to those of Herr Hitler. I do not want to encourage him, but there was once a dictator, Kemal Ataturk, who made a speech lasting four days. The point of these speeches is to indicate that if we cannot protect the whole population 1585 we should keep our casualties down, but, above all, keep our moral up, or, better still, show the world that we are so united that there will not be casualties, because there will not be a war. It seems to me that we should approach the problem by saying, "Let us get as much good out of evil as we possibly can." Many of the old fetishes about the Gold Standard, for example, have been swept out of existence in the last few weeks by the immense expenditure on armaments. I believe that it is a good thing. We shall learn, as a result of this tremendous difficulty of Civil Defence and the expenditure involved, the great truth that the strength of a nation depends not on the amount of gold in the vaults of its banks, but on the brains and muscles of its people.
I am sorry that there has been so little reference in this Debate to the question of the unemployed. The best way of approaching this problem, if we admit that we cannot avoid casualties altogether, is to see that we get as much good out of the evil as possible. If we say that, as part of this problem of destroying unemployment we are as far as is possible diminishing the risks in the event of war, we are doing something to unite the nation. If we put it the other way round and say that, in the processes of building dug-outs, we may bring some men back into work, we shall encourage that defeatist, that funk-hole attitude, to which various speakers have referred. The same consideration should apply to this question of deep dug-outs. It seems to me obvious that, sooner or later, we must have underground roads in some places and underground garages, and while I have been very impressed by many of the arguments put forward in favour of or against deep dug-outs, we should keep also in mind, as part of the strategic question, the fact that sooner or later we shall need these garages and underground roads and we should go ahead and build them as far as possible now. In that way we would be strengthening the nation and should wipe out the feeling, which to my mind is one of the causes of this defeatist attitude, that people are merely being called upon to make a stupendous sacrifice in the slight hope that they will stand some chance of coming through an inevitable war as a nominal victor. It is that feeling—that it is not worth doing all this if war is inevitable in the long 1586 run—which has a very serious deterrent effect on our Civil Defence programme.
There is one last and very brief point I wish to make. The Lord Privy Seal quite rightly insisted that this principle of Civil Defence should not be looked upon in any way form a party or political point of view. I sincerely agree, but I have also the feeling that there is still a considerable distrust on that point in the country. Believing as I do that the efficacy of our civil defence arrangements should be one of the principal safeguards against war, I want to see the distrust of these arrangements removed. I have here two documents. One is a memorandum from the daughter of a village parson, not in my constituency, who is very strongly against any question of compulsory billeting. She quotes in the memorandum that she has drawn up various remarks made by people in the village, and one of these remarks is, "It cannot be done. It would be a revolution." The other document I have is a letter from the area representative—I will not give the name—of the Women's Voluntary Service for Civilian Defence. That lady states that this memorandum against compulsory billeting has been passed on by her to the Ministry of Health, which deals with the evacuation scheme. She goes on to say:Unfortunately it could not stop there, as any signed paper which mentions violence and revolution must be shown to the Home Office.The letter goes on:I am sure that you did not realise the seriousness of signing such a paper,and it continues by saying that it is a pity that this lady who protests against compulsory billetingshould embark upon inciting a small portion of her village to sign such a paper, which shows a great lack of faith in Mr. Chamberlain and his Government.I should not have mentioned this incident if it were not for this reason. I certainly do not uphold in the least the views of the lady who is opposed to compulsory billeting. I deplore these views and I have no doubt that the other lady, this fairly prominent official who writes this rather menacing and intimidating letter—and it certainly was intimidating because the lady who came to see me was almost in a state of nervous breakdown—was filled with good intentions. But I have a feeling that there are quite a 1587 number of cases like that in the country and I really believe that it would be useful if a responsible Minister would consider whether it could not be possible to issue some warning likely to diminish the number of cases of this sort of case. Otherwise I rather fear that we shall not get that whole-hearted co-operation from this side of the Committee, which I for one would very much like to see established.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Roland Robinson
I like the point which was made by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) with regard to underground roads and garages. I feel that it is a matter in particular for the Ministry of Transport. In these days, when we are embarking on vast expenditure, most of which will be unproductive in the event of war, it is only wise to see that wherever expenditure can be made productive it should be. I do not, therefore, propose to follow the point further as it has already been made, but I wish to deal with a few questions on evacuation and billeting. I represent a most important town in one of the reception areas. It is a large holiday resort, which has a great knowledge of the problems of reception. We have suggestions which we should like to make from time to time, and I feel sure that the Minister will realise that the suggestions and points we make are intended definitely to be constructive. I would like a little guidance on one particular point. The holiday resorts in Great Britain may be faced with the position that war may break out at the height of the holiday season, as happened in 1914. When War started on 4th August, 1914, it was the week of the Bank Holiday, and at that time we had to cope not only with our normal civilian population, but with hundreds of thousands of visitors as well. In such circumstances we might find a great deal of dislocation and disorganisation in transport facilities, in billeting and in our general problems.
I hope that the Minister will give some special attention to this matter, because it is an unusual problem which does not occur very much in other places. Can the Minister say what is to be done with regard to billeting in the case of empty houses? There are a large number of empty houses which could well be taken over and used as dormitories for children. 1588 Will he tell us whether it is proposed to take over such houses immediately on the outbreak of war? Has he also considered the use of Sunday schools? Such schools are generally well warmed, properly ventilated, with water and sanitary arrangements, and in many cases they are not used during weekdays but only on Sundays. These schools could well be used, and the normal Sunday school service could be held in the churches in the event of war. From the point of view of holiday resorts, the case of boarding-houses occurs to one. There has been a lot of extraordinary talk during the last few weeks about the intimidation of the Government by the boarding-house keepers, and many ill-informed speeches have been made in another place on the subject. I want to say here and now that, so far as boarding-house keepers are concerned, intimidation does not and cannot arise.
This is the industry of the little man, and it would be absurd to think that he was in a position to threaten the Government in this matter. He is only trying to put his views and to be helpful. Certainly, the very people who criticise the boarding house people for speaking are those representatives of big industries who if complaints were made about their own industries would regard the matter very differently. If it was a case if the iron and steel industry we should be told that the interests of the nation were at stake; if it were road transport, it would be a great fight for justice, and if it were the railways, it would be a demand for a square deal. When our people, the small men, ask for something, their case ought to be considered in a fair and friendly spirit. I suggest that the Government should take them more into their confidence in their billeting plans and say what is wanted, in the same way that they do when they are dealing with industry.
It would have been most helpful if the Minister of Heatlh could have met the representatives of our residential hotels, boarding house and apartment house keepers, told them what was wanted, agreed with them on an economic price and arranged for the filling of their houses in the event of war. The price of billeting must play some part, because the people who rent boarding houses are not in the same position as the ordinary householder. The boarding house is rented and rated as a business. If these people had their 1589 houses filled with children at the rates that are being offered they would inevitably lose money and be forced into bankruptcy. I am sure that would not be the wish of the Government. These houses were used a great deal in the last War for billeting soldiers. The rate paid at the beginning of the War was 15s. 9d., when prices were low, and 19s. 3d. when they were high. Those figures compare with 10s. and 8s. 6d. offered to-day. If only the Minister of Health would talk over these problems with these people he would find a body of people who would help him. If he would agree with them on an economic price he would find that their local associations would go out to canvass for him, and provide him with schedules of accommodation which would be most helpful to him in the work he is doing. We have all this accommodation and the Government ought to use it on proper terms.
I am a little disturbed that instead of these consultations there has been the proposal to erect camps all over the country. In such a case you get concentration rather than dispersal. Like the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), I take the view that in time of war the enemy will not be too squeamish, and whenever he sees an object he will be liable to go for it, whatever it is. Therefore, I feel that these camps are not a good thing, because they are tending to the dangers of concentration. The proposal itself is an expensive one. It is estimated that it would cost a million pounds to deal with 17,500 in camps, or £57 per child, plus upkeep. On the ground of expense the scheme is bad. In September it was deemed necessary to evacuate 500,000 children from London alone. When the whole country is taken into account the problem will be proportionally larger. The "Economist" made a conservative estimate that 2,000,000 would have to be removed, and other estimates put it two or three times as high. The Anderson Committee thought that the number would be between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000. If camps were to be regarded as a solution of this problem the cost would be phenomenal. If we were to house, say, only 2,000,000 people in camps, the Government would have to pay £100,000,000, plus upkeep. To accommodate one million we should have a bill of £50,000,000 to meet before we 1590 began to pay for upkeep. It is far more sensible for the Government to be prepared to pay a little higher rate for billeting and to use all the available accommodation that we have in the country at the present time.
The Minister of Health this afternoon gave a most encouraging statement of the progress that was being made with the billeting scheme. If the results for the whole country come up to the sample result we can say that the people have shown a most wonderful response when the call was made to them. I was particularly interested in one point that he made, and I took down his words. He said: "The housing of unaccompanied school children is solved." If it is solved, why the proposal to bring in camps as well? It may well be that if the billeting is going to prove sufficient, as was promised by the Minister of Health, then the expensive programme of camps, which is a dangerous project in some ways, might easily be abandoned.
I make one last appeal to the Minister of Health. I ask him to beware of the people who are urging these camps upon him for some completely different reasons, such as camps for holidays-with-pay workers, or for some other pet scheme of their own. If it is considered to be vital to have these camps as a supplement to billeting because there is not enough billeting accommodation, I would ask my right hon. Friend to state clearly that their purpose is for evacuation and that in any event they will not be competitive with the ordinary holiday industry in time of peace. We should most strenously—I am quite frank about it—resist any scheme to introduce State camps in connection with the holidays-with-pay movement. It is entirely ill-informed to suggest that this is necessary, because with a proper spread-over of holidays and with normal expansion we can cater for everybody. It has been stated in reply to questions that these camps will not be near the resorts. I do hope that if we are to have them their peace-time use will be confined entirely to education purposes for school children who are removed en masse to continue their schooling under more congenial surroundings. They might also be used as training centres for the unemployed.
From the point of view of a representative of a reception area I appeal to 1591 the Minister of Health to use all the available accommodation there is at first, find out what it is, in close co-operation with those who are concerned, and I can assure him that he will find a loyal and patriotic people who are anxious to render every possible service to their country.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
I congratulate the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) on the way in which he has put his case. If he had gone a little further he might have convinced the Lord Privy Seal that there must not be a war at any time, because it will not suit Blackpool.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I only hope that Hitler and Mussolini will read the speech of the hon. Member for Blackpool, and then they will take care not to have the war on August Bank Holiday, because Blackpool will be crowded out.
§ Mr. Robinson
The hon. Member sometimes comes to Blackpool for his holidays. We are not concerned about ourselves but for the 500,000 or more people who will be there for a short time. We have a responsibility to look after them, and to look after the hon. Member when he visits us.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I know the hon. Member was speaking very sympathetically about me. I have been for my holidays once to Blackpool. I should like to go a little further. We must not have the war when Blackpool has its illuminations. If there was a war during the illuminations, the bombs would not drop anywhere else but on Blackpool, because the illuminations would show where Blackpool was. Then the war must not come at Christmas, because at Christmas time Blackpool is almost as full as at any other season. [An HON. Member: "What about the Tower?"] One of my hon. Friends says, "What about the Tower?" The Tower is a very good target for the enemy. However, the hon. Member has spoken up very well for Blackpool.
I want to put the point of view of other black areas—not Blackpool. Anyone sitting during these Debates for the last two days would think that there was no other place in the world but London. There are some industrial centres almost 1592 as important as London, and I want to say to the Lord Privy Seal that I do not think he has given a square deal to the urban councils of this country. I put a question to him last night while he was speaking. The urban councils are one of the most important bodies in the country, as important as the county councils or the municipal authorities. They cover a tremendous number of people and are playing an important part in carrying on the business of the country. I will leave it at that.
What are the Government doing with regard to burning pit-heaps? They are as bad as Blackpool, though perhaps not quite so black. Hon. Members on these benches, without any assistance from anybody else, have been putting the point of view for the last five years that something should be done with these burning pit-heaps. One reason is that in the event of war a burning pit-heap is a better and bigger target for the enemy than even Blackpool. Around the burning pit-heap is the industry. In the last War the Germans came over the pit where I was working and dropped a bomb about a quarter of a mile from the pit-shaft. There were 1,500 men working down that pit-shaft. If a bomb is dropped on a pit-shaft it is a very bad lookout for the men. I hope the Lord Privy Seal will give some consideration to this question and have these burning pit-heaps put out. Some time ago I made a statement that some of them could be seen for a distance of 200 miles. Some hon. Members laughed, but you have burning pit-heaps in Yorkshire almost as big as this building. There is one big pit-heap near my home which has been burning for 25 years and is burning to-night. If any foreign aircraft come over they will easily find it.
There has been a lot of talk about underground shelters. I believe in them. I have not much faith in these salmontin shelters. I do not think they are going to be of much value. I am expressing my opinion—I may not be right, but I am not always wrong. We can supply all the men that are necessary to make these underground shelters by taking the unemployed and letting them do the work. The latest figures are that there are 129,340 mineworkers out of work; and they know this job. If you set them to build your underground shelters they 1593 will build them in the right way. They know how to dig them and how to timber them, and they will be delighted to do the job. In addition, they do not need any training. They have been trained to do this work for a quarter of a century. I asked the Minister of Labour a question to-day as to how many men there were at the employment exchanges at Royston and Cudworth over 45 years of age who were unemployed, and he gave me the numbers of one exchange but not of the other. These are able-bodied men, fit for the work. They are practical and experienced men, yet the Government are paying 10s. a week unemployment pay to a single man, and 27s. or 24s. a week to a married man with a wife and no children. He gets 24s. from the Unemployment Assistance Board or 27s. if he is on statutory benefit. They are losing their self-respect, losing their very soul. They could do the work of building these underground shelters.
The Clerk to the County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire made a very damning statement against the Government yesterday. He said that they were preparing underground shelters and the Ministry had said "No, we do not agree." But, he says they are going on with them; and if there is any body of men who understand how to build underground shelters it is the men who sit on the West Riding County Council. I hope they will get on with their underground shelters, and never mind these salmontin shelters at the side of a house. Then I want to say a word about profits. I believe in repeating a thing. If you repeat it often enough there is the possibility of it getting into the mind even of a Cabinet Minister. The profiteering in the crisis last September was abominable. The price of sandbags in the West Riding of Yorkshire in one day rose from 1½d. at 9 o'clock in the morning to 11d. at 9 o'clock at night. That will not stand looking at, and I am hoping that the Government will put a stiff hand on anything like this and bring these people to book. I do not intend going on because there are other colleagues of mine who want to bat. I will go into the pavilion.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Sir M. Sueter
The more one listens to this Debate the more one realises the many problems with which the Lord Privy Seal is faced. I think he has done 1594 wonderfully well during the short time he has been in his office. I share the anxiety of the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Bull) about the evacuation of women and children into his constituency. He has a small arms factory in his division, and in my division there is the Waltham Cross Cordite Factory. These are targets which are open to aerial bombardment, and many of my constituents living in the Cheshunt area are anxious about their position. They think that it should be an evacuation area—not a reception area. I would ask the Lord Privy Seal to look into this point carefully when he is making a survey of the accommodation which is required.
I put a question to the Lord Privy Seal the other day about the provision of small shelters to a man with over £250 a year. I asked him if he could not raise that to £400 in the interest of the black-coated worker. Since I put my question I have had dozens of letters from all parts of the country asking me to press it again. The black-coated worker who has a salary of from £260 to £400 has a very hard deal indeed. Could not the right hon. Gentleman look into the question again and raise the limit so that these men can get cheap shelters? I believe these shelters are good. I have been connected with explosives for a large part of my life. I know the effect of explosive charges on land, under water and in the air, and I can assure the hon. Member who spoke last that these shelters will provide protection against glass splinters, debris, and so on, and may be the means of saving thousands of lives if a bombardment occurs. I do not think it is a good thing even to talk about tin-can shelters, because it undermines confidence, and we want to get confidence in the people.
The Lord Privy Seal yesterday said that the railways were the backbone of internal transport, and he also said that the dispersal policy holds the field. The Minister of Health said to-day that the Government were looking into the evacuation plans in great detail. My hon. Friend the Member for Balham and Tooting (Mr. Doland) has very kindly given me these figures. He is a very reliable Member, and I think they can be taken as right. He says that in an emergency 1,250,000 children and mothers would have to be evacuated. This would mean fully-loaded trains at the rate of 100 per hour leaving London for 17 consecutive hours. The 1595 hon. Member for the Welsh University (Mr. E. Evans) told us that during the crisis he was at Paddington Station and all the trains were crowded and certain difficulties arose in getting them off. I was there when we were going away for the Christmas Recess. I had to go only 42 miles, but my train was two hours late. Every quarter of an hour the loud speaker uttered the apologies of the company for the disorganisation of the service, which they said was due to fog and to a fire that they had had. If they were so disorganised by a fire in a signal box, what would it be if they had a bomb dropped on the station? You have all these railway heads represented by our chief stations—Paddington, Victoria, Waterloo, Liverpool Street, King's Cross, St. Pancras and so on. If anything happens to our chief stations, have we any secondary railway heads where the whole of the traffic can concentrate and be sent away? I do not believe this has been gone into. I have not heard very much about it, and I do not think Paddington has. We ought to have secondary railway heads in case the chief railway heads are knocked out, and they should be connected with them by good road and tunnel services. The hon. Member who spoke last told us there was a tremendous amount of mining labour available. It would be very much better if they used some of it to construct tunnels for a secondary service than that miners should be singing outside Selfridge's shop, as I saw half a dozen to-day. You have the labour, and it ought to be used.
I am very pleased to hear that the Lord Privy Seal is soft pedalling on these deep shelters, because I do not think it is worth expending money on them merely for the sake of being deep shelters. You ought to put it into tunnels to relieve the traffic in peace time and also to afford shelter in war time, and if anything happened to the large railway stations you could get the people away by these tunnels. It seems to me a waste of money to build deep shelters simply to house people. You ought to make use of your workers, and it could be done by building these traffic relief tunnels. The only tunnel recommended in the Bressey Report that I can see was one from Paddington to Kensington, and the reason was that they did not want to cut up Kensington Gardens by a road. 1596 If you can advocate a tunnel to preserve the amenities of Kensington Gardens, surely you can build tunnels in order to relieve traffic and to provide shelter in time of emergency. I think the Bressey Report recommended that £120,000,000 should be expended in order to facilitate traffic. You can build a good many tunnels for £120,000,000. A tunnel 40 feet in diameter, lined with iron sheeting, properly concreted, might work out at £250,000 a mile, so you could have a good mileage of tunnels to relieve traffic in London and also help to shelter people in time of emergency for £120,000,000.
I understand that a portion of Liverpool Street Station is being re-designed. Has any Defence Department been asked how the station should be re-designed? All the Service Departments are interested in the efficiency of our great railway stations, because in war time they have to send drafts and so on, and I want to ask if anything is done to consult the Committee of Imperial Defence, or any of the Service Departments. In Germany, all the great roads are designed to have a strategic value, and I think the whole question of our railway stations, their construction and the road and tunnel services to them, ought to be considered carefully from the point of view of their position in war time. I hope that the Minister of Transport will deal with this question and the other points I have made.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I wish to make a few observations on my own behalf and on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), who would have liked to take part in this Debate, but has been called away to the Continent. This afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health said that the interest taken in the Debates yesterday and to-day is an indication of the determination of Parliament to deal with the subject we are considering. I hope that is true, but unless the Government are prepared to consider the subject in a more comprehensive way than they have done so far, and to embark on amore comprehensive scheme, I do not think we shall be able adequately to safeguard the people of this country if we should be involved in a war. The key to an understanding of this situation is, in my opinion, to be found in the Home Office booklet that 1597 was distributed to every household in the country. In a preface to that booklet, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said:If this country were ever at war, the target of the enemy bombers would be the staunchness of the people at home.If that be correct—and I consider that it is—it indicates the seriousness of the situation with which we may be faced. When one remembers the ruthless people who are now handling certain countries and when one considers the whole background of these people, one is forced to be concerned about the situation as it is. I have taken an interest in the development of the Air Force, and I have no hesitation in saying that the Air Force as a whole is probably as efficient as the air forces of most other countries. The same thing applies to the Navy and the mechanised Army. I have some knowledge of mechanical apparatus and the perfecting of mechanical appliances, and I have no hesitation in saying that the mechanised Army is as perfect and as efficient as it is possible to make it. Whether the Forces at the disposal of the country are sufficient is another matter. All that I am saying is that these three Forces are very efficient.
What we have to do now is to see that Civil Defence is made as perfect and as efficient as the armed Forces. What has taken place in Spain and in China provides us with some evidence of the need for adequate Civil Defence. I hope that the Minister of Transport would be good enough to note my words when I say that the local authorities, the municipalities and public opinion in this country are far in advance of the Government on this subject. More and more, public opinion is demanding that adequate Civil Defence should be provided. I suggest that the time has arrived when the Government should embark upon a deep-shelter policy. Throughout the country the municipalities and the county councils are crying out for this. As my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Woods) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) have indicated, the municipalities are embarking on Civil Defence on their own. I submit that it is most unfair that this should be left to the local authorities, for the provision of adequate Civil Defence is a national responsibility. In the district which I represent, the people are as good 1598 as any other people in the country, but a penny rate in that district produces only £4,000; let hon. Members compare that position with the position in Bournemouth, East Bourne and the South Coast resorts. I maintain that this question should be dealt with nationally. The financial responsibility ought to be a national one, and it ought not to be left to the local authorities.
The President of the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade workers speaking at the union's annual conference, made a statement of such a serious character, in which he analysed the development of the international situation so clearly, that all the branches of that union have been very much concerned, and the result is that the policy of the union now is that adequate safeguards should be provided. The National Federation of Building Trades Operatives are prepared to co-operate with the local authorities and the Government in the provision of these deep shelters. The members of that union are so concerned about the position that one letter after another is reaching the general office of the union urging the executive and members of Parliament to bring pressure to bear on the Government with a view to getting something done to provide efficient Civil Defence. I have in my hand a copy of a trade journal, in which it is stated that there is agreement in the building industry, both on the employers' and the employés' side, that the time has arrived when the Government ought to embark on a policy of this description.
We have had evidence of the modern technique of warfare in Spain and in China, and the flames of Guernica and towns in China are throwing a horrible light on what happens to open towns and villages that are not adequately protected. Some of us remember also what happened in the East End of London and at Bolton and a number of towns on the North-east Coast, during the last War. From what has happened in Spain and China, we know that generally it is the poorer section of the population which suffers from an aerial bombardment. It is the industrial centres which suffer most. Consequently, one can understand the anxiety of the organised trade union movement of this country, representing the industrial population, and one can understand that anxiety expressing itself 1599 in resolutions forwarded to the executive of the union.
I know that huge supplies of efficient anti-aircraft guns are coming in, but it will not be possible to cover the whole country with them. We know that with the modern technique of warfare, particularly when it is directed by the ruthless and unscrupulous people whom we know will be directing certain countries, orders would be given, in the event of adequate anti-aircraft guns protecting certain parts of the country, for the airmen to do as they have done in Spain in China, that is, to shoot and bomb thousands of women and children leaving the industrial areas. We say that the only adequate method of dealing with the problem is that of deep shelters constructed on the lines on which the building industry has now agreed. It is for that I am pleading tonight. I remember coming to this House one Friday morning in September last. I have never seen Waterloo Station busier than it was on that occasion. I saw more women with fur coats, more people getting out of huge cars, attended by chauffeurs and footmen, than I had ever seen before in my life. The well-placed people were hurriedly getting away, from anything that might happen in London. That is an indication of what will take place on another occasion should we be faced with a serious emergency.
We would not be doing our duty to the people whom we represent if we did not demand here that the Government should, as soon as possible, embark on a policy of providing adequate safeguards for our people, particularly in the industrial and in the poor areas. We demand that deep bomb-proof shelters should be proceeded with as quickly as possible. The other day I came across a document headed "Take Cover" in which certain companies offer to provide well-off people with adequate safeguards in their own homes and gardens. There are pictures showing what can be done in this way for people who can afford to pay. I find from reading papers and books that a large number of people who can afford to pay for deep shelters and other forms of protection, are already doing so. But, generally speaking, those whom we represent cannot afford to pay for these precautions. If the Government wish to 1600 carry out the desire of the country they will, without delay, embark on a policy such as I have indicated.
The appeal of the building trade operatives which I voice to-night in this Debate is that deep shelters should be provided. These need not be used only for protection from air raids. They can be constructed in such a way as to be available for many other purposes, in accordance with the needs of the locality in which they are situated. For example, they could be used to provide underground passages. They could be used as underground baths such as are seen in some seaside resorts. They could be used as underground roads in places where there are serious traffic problems. They could be used as underground car-parks and garages where there is a local demand for such things. They could be used as underground offices and canteens. They could be used as underground cinemas, as underground stores and warehouses, according to the localities in which they are constructed. If we look at the problem scientifically we are bound to come to the conclusion that, with modern methods of building construction and having regard to the needs of various areas of the country, there is no reason why adequate deep shelters should not be provided for our people on those lines.
We have heard a great deal from certain hon. Members about the efficiency of the totalitarian States. It is no greater than the efficiency of this country. Indeed, it is largely a fiction. Certainly the efficiency of industry in this country is as high as that of any other country in the capitalist world. It is all a question of policy. When the Government decide upon a policy and give instructions to local authorities and to industries in this country, those local authorities and industries will carry out that policy as efficiently as it could be carried out in any other country in the world. We have just had concrete evidence of this fact. There has recently been built at Chorley one of the largest buildings of its kind in the world and that building was constructed as efficiently as, and more quickly than, a similar building could have been constructed anywhere else in the world. The same remark applies to our mechanised Army and to our aircraft production. What I ask is that the same drive which has taken place in other 1601 directions should take place also in the provision of shelters for the people. I appeal to the Government to treat this matter as one of urgency. My hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich in his journal uses these words:The A.R.P. measures hitherto adopted by the Government are, in the light of the known facts, pitifully inadequate and farcical.Members of the Government know that my hon. Friend would not use those words unless he had evidence of the need for doing so. He goes on to say:More and more it is being recognised that our highly complex, crowded industrial communities call for the construction of deep bomb-proof shelters and systems of underground tunnelling to provide safety for our people. The excellent plan prepared for the Finsbury Borough Council is indicative of what is required in regard to the protection of our industries, transport and other vital services and ensuring the unceasing repair of the damage that would be wrought by aircraft to factories, workshops, waterworks, etc., upon all of which the continued existence of human life, as we understand it depends. It can justly be said that hardly a beginning has been made. There must be much more hard thinking and greater decisive action in respect of A.R.P.If we are involved in a struggle, it will be a life and death struggle and the standard of conduct and morality we may assume will be similar to that which has been displayed in Abyssinia, Spain and China. We in this country place a higher value on human life than the people responsible for the ruthless policy pursued in those countries. Therefore, we appeal to the Government to-night on behalf of the people who are the cream of this nation. They have been prepared to co-operate in the provision of the necessary armed forces and in other respects and it is now the responsibility of the Government to provide them with protection should we be faced with an emergency such as we all hope may be avoided. I know the Government are examining the problem, but I ask them to treat it as a matter of urgency; to decide upon a policy as soon as possible and to send out their instructions accordingly. I ask them to remember that public opinion is ready to back a policy such as I have indicated and that the whole of the building industry is ready to co-operate in it.
As for the suggestion about the provision of camps for unemployed, let me say this to every Member in this Committee whether he is on this side or on the other, whether he is on our Front Bench or on the Front Bench opposite. As far 1602 as the organised workpeople of this country are concerned, in no circumstances will they stand for the sending of our sons and daughters into camps of the kind that have been seen on the Continent—the kind of camps which many hon. Members have in mind when they talk about the unemployed. There is no need to deal with the unemployed in that way. Already there are 125,000 unemployed miners who would be ready to co-operate with the Government in constructing these air-raid shelters, once the Government have decided upon that policy. As an indication of that I recall what happened last September, when 150 miners were brought from Wigan into Manchester and dug the trenches in one day that the people of that district thought would take three days to dig, and as they were finishing that bit of work, hundreds of men surrounded them, including many men who were responsible for managerial and administrative work in a number of factories in that district, lost in admiration of their work. That is the spirit of the people of this country. If only the Government would decide upon a policy based upon a scientific analysis of the international situation and of the needs arising out of that situation, I am convinced that, as a result, having armed ourselves efficiently, if only we would embark upon a policy of the kind that the building trade operatives are appealing for, we could bring about that greater degree of confidence in the country which is so much required at the present time.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Johnston
The longer I live and the more I listen to A.R.P. Debates, the more certain I am that there is only one final and effective air-raid precaution, and that is an international tribunal of equity, an international police force, and disarmament in the air. We have not got such a tribunal of equity, and the temper of the world at the moment is, alas, not conducive to our securing one. We live in bleak and dismal international relationships. There is a sense of hush before a storm, broken only, sometimes, by the shrieks and yells of the cave men; and those who think as I do have to ask ourselves a few searching questions. We may regard the present international situation as sheer lunacy, with nations spending their last shilling, and indeed shillings they have not got, in piling up debts which will never be repaid to the lenders 1603 and in preparing feverishly for mutual murder. But in the midst of it all, we must ask ourselves first, whatever our views may be, however determinedly pacifist we may be. Shall we refuse to give harbourage and comfort to children from our danger zones? Do we object to taking measures in advance to prevent glass falling from roofs of workshops on workmen engaged in their ordinary occupations when a bomb may burst a quarter of a mile away and the concussion shatters a factory roof? Are we in favour of siren warnings? Do we object to water and food supplies being safeguarded? Are we in favour of adequate ambulances? What shall we do with the sick, the aged, with our hospitals and our infirmaries? I take it that there is general concurrence that, so far as it is humanly possible, we should all share in the social effort necessary to make human life secure, to enable its continuance to preserve whatever Christian virtues still remain in our land.
If that is so, we are entitled, in all parts of the House, to ask that air-raid precautions should be taken speedily and efficiently. There have been "years that the locust hath eaten," years that have gone beyond recall, heritages left to the present Lord Privy Seal by previous Home Secretaries and Foreign Secretaries, the heroes of Manchuquo and the Hoare-Laval Treaties. But the heritage is here. When I first met the Lord Privy Seal, I was sitting in his chair, and he was a very distinguished civil servant. I remember pressing upon him to secure a speedy report upon the question of the extraction of oil from coal. The right hon. Gentleman struck me as being a man of great executive ability, but who had been rather spoiled by a long training in the Civil Service, which teaches a man, fundamentally, to say "No." The civil servant is trained to say "No." He is taught to examine documents and find reasons against any and every positive proposal in those documents. But I will say this for the Lord Privy Seal, that since he has taken over his present command, so far as we on these benches can see, air-raid precautions have moved at a very much more rapid rate than they did before he took office.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport is to wind up this Debate, and I want to put one or two aspects of the problem before him with which he 1604 is particularly concerned. In the first place, will he tell us what precautions he is taking to ensure that our electric lighting system does not disappear in a night by bomb or by sabotage? Those who have read Captain Basil Hall's account of the exploits of his band of saboteurs in Russia at the time when Bruce-Lockhart was still our British Agent in Moscow will remember that sabotage attempts were well organised and were repeatedly made against the Russian Government. The methods taken there were to destroy the Soviet gas works and their railway system, to paralyse in every way their transport and their lighting. What a chance the Minister of Transport has, in the present temper of this country, to secure a unification, a linking-up, of the multifarious and indefensible groups of electrical supply corporations that we have in our midst. In my country, in Scotland, we have areas where the unit price charged for lighting is 1s., and we have other areas where the unit price charged is ¾d. How can you ever have a dispersal of industry from the home counties to more rural parts of the country if you have your power and your lighting run on a system such as that? With the present temper of the people of this country, as evidenced by the Minister of Health in his statistics to-day, now is the Minister's chance to get rid of dozens, of hundreds, of little local jealousies, and to unite these electrical systems into regional, if not national, systems at uniform prices.
I should also like to ask the Minister of Transport, although it comes more within the competence of the President of the Board of Trade, what arrangements he has made to ensure our food supplies against air raiders? We have 2,000 fewer merchant ships to-day under the British flag than we had prior to the outbreak of War in 1914. We have 5,000,000 more mouths to feed. Compared with 1913 our Mercantile fleet is 1,500,000 tons short. The late Food Controller, my right hon. Friend the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes), told me that the most dangerous period in the last War was the period in 1917 when our food supplies were down to six weeks. When our ships were being sunk as fast as the German submarines could get at them, when 700 trawlers and drifters and 2,479 merchant vessels had been sunk, we were six weeks away from famine. 1605 While we might not have been defeated as a nation in Flanders, we might well have gone under from hunger and famine. The President of the Board of Trade is asked week after week why so many shipowners should be sending abroad to Germany and Holland to have their boats built, and why our ships should be sold as scrap for the benefit of German munition factories. I am told that one of the reasons is that the totalitarian States are subsidising their shipbuilding. I have tried to get the figures and have been promised them. Whether it is because of the subsidy or some other reason. I say that in the present state of the world, in the present dangers with which we are faced, it is sheer and unmitigated treason either for the Government or for the shipowning class to be supplying German armament manufacturers with our merchant vessels and to be building ships in German yards at a time when we are running perilously short of the means of transport of the vital food requirements of this nation. By 1st November, 1916, the retail price of foodstuffs in this country had risen by 78 per cent. A fortnight afterwards a member of the present Government, who was then in the Administration, and an important member at that, stood in this House and used these words:We have been driven bit by bit against our will … to suspend the easy flow of purely voluntary action."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1916; col. 862, Vol. 87.]That was said by the present Lord President of the Council, who was responsible for permitting this increase in the cost of living by 78 per cent. and boasted that they had struggled to do their best to prevent remedial and effective action being taken. This nation will not stand too much of the Sir Reginald Ford or Sir Auckland Geddes business now. I understand the Lord Privy Seal is responsible for his advisers and that one of his advisers is Sir Auckland Geddes.
§ Sir J. Anderson indicated dissent.
§ Sir J. Anderson indicated dissent.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley) indicated dissent.1606
§ Mr. Johnston
Has he no position in the Government at all? Has all the Press been hoaxing the British public when they have published his statements? There is one statement in which Sir Auckland Geddes gives a food warning, and we were informed in the Press that he had something to do with the right hon. Gentleman's Department.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think I might make the position quite clear. As I told the House when I made my first statement on the subject of National Service, Sir Auckland Geddes said he was willing and ready to give any assistance he could in connection with the National Service campaign. He has done so by addressing meetings in various parts of the country as many others have done. He has never at any time had any position as adviser or in any other connection with my Department in matters of Civil Defence.
§ Mr. Johnston
I have never seen the contradictions, but I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement that there have been contradictions. At any rate, this highly-placed gentleman has been reported as saying that he is an adviser to the Minister of Civil Defence, and in his first speech he invited the British public to store foodstuffs against an emergency; and two of the foodstuffs he invited the working classes to store were tinned sardines and tinned pilchards. If the right hon. Gentleman disavows Sir Auckland Geddes I need not pursue that subject any further, but I repeat that the feeling of the people of this country is such that they will not stand too much of the Reginald-Ford-living-in-Belgium stuff or the Auckland Geddes stuff. The matter is much too serious.
The speech of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) was a most impressive one, and in view of his experience, his knowledge and his ability I suggest that the Government should take adequate notice of his challenge that we have not sufficient foodstuffs in this land to-night; that whatever stocks may 1607 be held in Germany, we here have only sufficient to tide us over a very sudden emergency. I do not know whether it would be injudicious on my part to specify any commodities, but I should like the Minister of Transport to tell us whether it is the case that we have only a fortnight's supply of bacon. Will he also tell us—he is responsible for this, I think—whether the refrigerator space in this country during the past two years has been steadily decreasing? Will he tell us whether it is the case that the Great Western Railway Company's refrigerator space at Cardiff has been completely closed? Will he tell us whether it is the case that the Government are unable to guarantee sufficient fats to ensure the people of this country against more than a month's trouble? Those are specific questions, and I hope that we shall be able to get an answer to them.
Next I should like to put some questions about our water supplies. The position is serious. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) raised the same point to-day, and, as I understood, he was told by the Minister of Health that in most districts of the country we could afford to expand our population and had sufficient water supplies in those rural areas. Most certainly that is not the case in Scotland.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am coming to the hon. Lady's statement in a moment. I listened to her with great attention and without any interruption. In a report from a Government Committee upon the position in Scotland we were told that there are many large urban areas working upon a small margin of safety, that there are a number of rural areas in which the supplies are inadequate, that there are many hundreds of separate water undertakings in Scotland and that while many of them co-operate with one another many do not, that there is a wasteful duplication of pipe lines, which often run alongside each other for miles. I know that in my own constituency there are areas which would be incapable of taking children from the evacuated areas in the summer time, because the people living there now get their water out of puddles in the fields.
1608 I suggest in the national interest that immediate steps should be taken to deal with the matter, not an hour to be lost. Let us link up the existing water supplies, running connecting pipes with meters on them. Engineers have given their reports. The facts are all available. I am told that in Scotland the whole job could be done for £2,250,000. That would not be the cost to the Treasury. The amount would be reduced by one-half at once by the savings on unemployment benefit—the difference between the Employment Exchange payments and the normal wage of £3. Then the Chancellor would gain, because the wages would be spent on excisable commodities like tea, tobacco and beer. We should gain in Income Tax, in health and in finding employment for our people. It is absurd at this time of day for the Minister of Labour or anyone else to come dancing here with any amount of statistics and dots and figures to prove that after all there are not 2,000,000 unemployed but only about 300,000, and that everybody is happy. There are colliers unemployed to-night who could do this job. It is urgently necessary to do it, and it is of vital importance to the nation that it should be done. It is necessary in the interests of public health, and there is no use in going on with air-raid precautions if in Scotland, Somerset, Wales and any number of rural areas there is an insufficient water supply for drinking or for taking away the drainage. If this problem has been brought to the attention of the Government by engineers I submit that the time has come to deal with it, and that not another hour should be lost.
I do not want to impinge upon the time of the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply, but I want to say a word about evacuation. I represent a reception area and I share the gratification and pride that were evident in the tones and the words of the Minister of Health when he gave his figures to-day of the response made by the rural areas to the request for billeting space. We ought to be proud of that response. A nation that can do that upon a voluntary basis and without any threat of compulsion or of dog-whipping is not one that will go under. I would ask the Minister who is in charge of these billeting arrangements to consider this matter not merely as one 1609 of floor space. Even apart from questions of water and drainage it is more than a matter of floor space. In certain parts of the country it is, for example, no use sending Catholic children into Protestant homes, and vice versa. You have to take into account a whole lot of psychological factors: Is the mother aged and infirm? Is the mother able to cook and are there cooking facilities in the home? All sorts of little things like that have to be taken into account.
I stress again that if you allow householders in reception areas to pick and choose, where they can, relatives and friends, and children particularly, from the dangerous and vulnerable areas, you will kill two birds, so to speak, with one stone; you will have the children happy that they are going to relatives to be looked after and you will have the housewives in the receiving areas a little more happy that they have got to look after children of whom they know something. The Government should narrow their problem as far as they can. I believe that in evacuation and in dispersal from the vulnerable areas lies our major hope, and you will need the good will of the rural districts. A good deal depends upon what notice we are to have of air raids. I am told that there will be seven minutes' notice in London, and if that is so, there is no use in digging trenches in Hyde Park and other places far away from where the working classes live. Obviously your defences must be within the limits of what can be done in those seven minutes. What are you going to do with the tenements? The right hon. Gentleman said that he proposed to strengthen basements; is he going to evacuate the people from the bottom flats and take them somewhere? I do not know where he will put them, but he is going to take them away. Then, I understand, the people from the upper storeys are to come down into the bottom flats when there is an air raid. That is one policy, and it may be partially successful if the bottom flats can be buttressed, but more than that must be done, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to face up to it. He must go in for deep sheltering in some districts.
I spoke the other day to members of a deputation from the Corporation of Glasgow, who had been going round Europe examining the sheltering systems that they have there against air raids, 1610 and they have come back, I understand, unanimously of the opinion that the most satisfactory system they have seen is the underground sheltering system at Zürich, in Switzerland. I have no technical knowledge on the matter, but I have seen underground car parks, at Hastings, for example. Does the right hon. Gentleman know anything about the cost of these? Is the corporation's underground car park at Hastings a paying proposition? An hon. Member speaking from these benches last night said it was vitally important that we should have underground parking arrangements in London, if for nothing else than for storing records—marriage lines, birth certificates and the rest. Then some provision underground is required for casualty stations in some areas. You cannot have your infirmary and your hospital offering a great target, as is the case in Glasgow to-night. If we cannot get peace and disarmament in the air, we shall need to provide adequate protection beneath the soil.
May I say a word about camps? The camp proposals are inadequate. The proposal that there shall be 50 camps, with 350 human beings to a camp—that is to say, accommodation for 17,500 human beings is not looking at the problem at all. If it is to be an experiment, if it is to be a matter of trial and error, we are all for it, but do not let anyone in the House of Commons or outside believe that the Government's proposals for accommodating 17,500 persons in camps are going to look at the problem at all. Moreover, in connection with these proposals, have the Government taken thought to vest Lord Portal or Viscount Traprain, as the case may be, with powers to take land? They have not done it. The Special Areas Housing Association have about £1,000,000 worth of housing contracts out, but cannot get on because it is nobody's duty to get the land. The local authorities will not buy it, because they do not want to quarrel with the local landowners. It is nobody's duty. These powers need to be in the hands of people who are prepared to face up to the landowning class in this country if these camps are to be built at all.
I am sorry I have taken up so much time, but I would conclude by reminding the Government of what happened during the last War. The other day I 1611 was looking at Lord Riddell's diary, and, under the date 17th February, 1916, I found that he wrote this:L.G. said to me, 'The Government had a bad knock last night in the air-raid defence Debate. Had a Division been taken, they would probably have been defeated'.It is less than 30 years since Bleriot flew the Channel. To-night we are in danger of destruction and death because of the misuse to which the aeroplane has been put, and it is our duty to-night in this Committee, if ever we had a duty, to see that the Government are compelled, as fast as they can, to use their unemployed labour to build deep shelters, and, as fast as they can, to provide the necessary organising skill to secure our food supplies, so that the people of this country shall not go down in terror and despair before the menace of the skies.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) is always interesting; to-night he has been both interesting and eloquent, and, with that first sentence of his, in which he said how much he would have liked to look forward to some measure of disarmament in the air, I and others sitting with me would most cordially agree. We are reaching the closing stages of a Debate which certainly has rivalled in width any which I can remember in this House in recent times. In the two days during which we have discussed Civil Defence there has been hardly an aspect of that problem which has not been canvassed. The subject has been discussed in the best of good temper, suggestions and criticisms have been put forward, information and plans and policies have been revealed, and the end of the Debate must mean that the Committee, and through the Committee the wider public outside, are better informed on all this question of Civil Defence.
To induce 45,000,000 people living in this Island, peace-loving people, none of them having had any experience of invasion at all, to become Civil Defence-conscious naturally took some time, and while, quite naturally, hon. and right hon. Members have from time to time allowed to come into their speeches suggestions that there has, been delay here and slowness there, the Committee and the country know that the interest in air-raid precautions, which is now apparent in the 1612 country would not have been possible 12 months ago. The great addition to national advantage that has been made by the Debate, and by all the study that has gone to the holding of the Debate, has been the realisation that a danger known is a danger lessened. One of the consequences of the outbreak of war is that an element of mystery enters into the people's lives. The initiative passes to the attacker. One does not know where a bomb is going to fall, where an attack is going to be made. There is an element of the mysterious, of the unknown, of uncertainty. The more these matters of Civil Defence are discussed, the more the general public becomes conscious that it is necessary to take precautions, and the more they understand that it is necessary for them to take part in defence, the greater will be the response, and in time of bombardment what a contentment it is to have a job to do. How many of us know that.
A number of questions have been put to me; I am going to endeavour to answer some at once. All the points that have been raised will be taken into close consideration by the Departments concerned, and I hope that no hon. Member will feel that because I am not able at a moment's notice to deal with every question, as I should have liked to do, his questions have been raised in vain. Those questions will all be dealt with.
§ Mr. Burgin
I will give my hon. and gallant Friend his answer here. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling asked a number of questions about electricity, for instance. He told me of the advantage to the country that would come if there were some lessening of the number of separate distribution units. I cordially agree, and I am in great hopes that the different interests may be brought together and that it may be possible to introduce some measure embodying substantial agreement. The right hon. Gentleman asked about shipbuilding abroad. I think that if he will pursue his inquiry, he will find that most of these vessels are not cargo ships at all. A great number of them are tankers, and, while there is no definite information in my possession, I believe it to be the fact that there are only two cargo ships being built to-night in foreign yards for 1613 British owners. Wherever they may be built, they will come on to the register immediately they are constructed.
§ Mr. Johnston
They do not always come on to the British register. Sometimes they go on to the Greek register, and come back to the British register when it pays them to do so.
§ Mr. Burgin
I believe, broadly speaking, that when British interests have vessels built in foreign yards—and I am not for a moment to be taken to approve of that policy—thosevessels as a rule come on to our register. The right hon. Gentleman asked about bacon, and refrigerator space. Bacon is not a suitable article for storage at all. With regard to refrigerator space, while it may be true that there is some diminution in public refrigerator space, it is the custom now, more than it was a few years ago, for individual householders to keep their own perishables, and my information is that the total of refrigerator space is greater than it was before. [Interruption.] No, I think that, in the aggregate, nation-wide, it is an increase of refrigerator space.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) asked what was to happen in non-essential industries, and whether they were to continue producing? I am afraid none of us can forecast the course of a war, and it is quite impossible for anybody to speculate what would happen to what he called non-essential industries. I was also asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield whether arrangements had been made for transport in connection with evacuation, and whether I would say something about A.R.P. in connection with industry, and whether legislation would be necessary? I hope in a few moments to reveal something of the plans which have been made in connection with transport, which will, I think, cover these points. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) also raised a number of questions relating to transport, and I hope to answer them in the general review I am proposing to make of transport facilities in connection 1614 with Civil Defence in a few moments. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) suggested that some of the people who have enrolled are over 75. I do not understand that, because the form in connection with the National Service Handbook has a specific paragraph dealing with the age of the applicant. I think that he must have been misinformed. He asked whether, if a municipal authority incurred expense in helping householders to erect their shelters, such expenditure would rank for grant. The answer is, "Yes."
The Junior Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter)—and I concur with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling that the concluding passages of the hon. Member's speech were most impressive, and I entirely agree with them—asked about food storage and where the responsibility lay? I think that his object was to ascertain how much of that responsibility lay with my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. The answer is that distribution and rationing in connection with Civil Defence must be the responsibility of the Lord Privy Seal. The executive responsibility for food storage in a general sense is the matter of the Board of Trade, and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is, of course, the co-ordinating authority.
§ Sir A. Salter
Is there any Minister who has the direct responsibility for considering what food reserves we should have? Has that Minister an executive department under his control in respect of that subject? Is there any Minister who has similar responsibility in that regard as that which attaches to the Air Minister in respect of aeroplanes, whose work may be co-ordinated, but who nevertheless has a direct personal and primary responsibility?
§ Mr. Burgin
I did understand the hon. Member. It is the President of the Board of Trade, the Food Storage Department, which is an integral part of the Board of Trade, that has the executive responsibility for food storage. He works in association with the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence.
§ Sir A. Salter
As I understand it, that is a change of policy compared with the statement made by the Prime Minister some time ago. I rejoice if that is the case.
§ Mr. Burgin
I have every reason to believe that the answer that I have given is absolutely accurate. The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) raised a question about underground roads and garages. That is much too big a question for me to deal with now. It is a very big problem and I hope there will be an opportunity of dealing with it in debate. It is impossible now in the concluding stage of a two days' Debate to deal with it.
§ Mr. Burgin
I know that it is a most important part of the Debate, and it is because it is so important that I cannot deal with it now. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) raised a question directly relating to my Department. He asked particularly with regard to evacuation, whether it was intended to use the main line railway stations. The answer is, no. Evacuation will not take place from main line terminal stations. Stations on the periphery will be used for that purpose. Whether in the rebuilding of main line stations the particular interests of defence are to be taken into account, is a big question. I certainly should be prepared to allow defence considerations to enter into my purview in dealing with the rebuilding of any one of the London termini.
§ Sir M. Sueter
The right hon. Gentleman was asked about the rebuilding of Liverpool Street Station, which I understand is going on now.
§ Mr. Burgin
Yes; I have been praying for it for years. I would remind the House that the system on which this Debate has been conducted has been that there should be four separate Ministers dealing with four different aspects of the main problem. The Lord Privy Seal surveyed the whole problem, the Minister of Labour dealt with the National Service side, the Minister of Health surveyed the regional organisation, hospitals, ambulances and evacuation, and it was thought that it would be appropriate that, as all these organisations make calls upon transport and the transport facilities of the country, I should give some of the information at my disposal connected with everything that comes under the word "mobility." In time of peace mobility 1616 is important but only relatively important; in time of emergency, in time of war, mobility is absolutely essential. The first thing that happens in an emergency, mobilisation, means that large numbers of men, stores and material must be transported from wherever they are to the naval ports and dockyards. The Army must be served, the Air Force must be served and, in addition, there is all the tremendous organisation of the movement of population by evacuation, the movement of munitions and fuel, the transfer of food, besides the carrying on of the essential business of the country. It will be a tremendous demand that will be made on the transport facilities of the country of all kinds when the emergency occurs.
So much attention has been given to-night, and rightly, to the important question of feeding the people, that perhaps I might begin by giving a short summary of what has been done in transport by referring to what is occurring at the docks. There are 285 separate docks and harbours in this country, but for the purposes of emergency some 45 of them have been treated as the principal docks and harbours, and in every one of these 45 docks there has been working for a long time past a port and harbour transit emergency committee dealing with the great problem that a port, the point of arrival and departure of vessels, is owing to its geographical situation a bottleneck. Anyone who has had any experience of ports at all knows that the difficulty is the possibility of congestion. Congestion is like influenza, once it starts it spreads, and the great thing to do is to prevent a port ever getting congested. That means that you must have cranage, hauling facilities, and that when you have carried your cargo from the vessel to the warehouse along the dockside, you must have other storage in which to put it in order to make room for the next vessel which comes in.
The problem connected with the ports is not merely one of supplies and material, but of storage, and of storage away from the docks. A task of that kind is a difficult one, but it is made all the more difficult when you add to your troubles, not merely the risk of congestion, not merely the pressure of storage, not that you are over-working certain ports and giving them two and four times as much work 1617 as they would do in peace time, but that all the time you may be subject to attacks from the air or the open sea. The reason why I am telling the Committee about the arrangements made in connection with the ports is because it is the first of the public utility services about which I want to tell the Committee.
What has been done is this. Ports, like every other employer of labour, must carry out what is known as good employer obligations. Briefly an employer has a moral obligation to do something for the protection of his workpeople in time of emergency, and it is proposed by the Government that this moral obligation shall be converted into a legal obligation, and measures for that purpose will be introduced to the House shortly. But when you come to a port it is not sufficient merely to deal with the good employer obligation. It may be necessary to take steps not merely to protect the people but to ensure that the essential services of the port remain operative. That may necessitate additional material and construction. A vast amount of work of that kind has been done and financial arrangements made for assistance for this work. I will not weary the Committee by giving details as these will be laid before the House when the necessary legislation is introduced to give them sanction.
At the back of the port organisation is, of course, electricity. Electricity is valuable in many respects. The right hon. Member for West Stirling asked me whether I could assure the Committee that arrangements had been made to prevent the electricity supply being cut off in the night. Yes, but not by linking them up with each other; but by separating them from one another. The best way, in the opinion of experts, to deal with public utilities is to see that wherever there is the possibility of attack on a particular kind of apparatus which it is hard to replace, there should be a pool of that kind of apparatus, whether it be switch-gear or transformers or other apparatus. With the electricity supplies of the country what we have arranged is that there should be a national pool of the essential switch-gear, transformer and other material so that, in the event of a generating station being put out of action, by the introduction of switch-gear from this pool you may link up the affected region with another generating station. That system of the supply of a pool 1618 of what is required to enable a public utility service to be carried on is an arrangement which runs through the negotiations that I have carried on with different public utilities. Canals and inland waterways are not being overlooked and the necessary measures for protecting vulnerable points are being taken.
Obviously the most important public utilities in which the Committee will be interested are railways and roads, and I want to devote the remainder of my time to giving some idea of the steps that have been taken to keep the iron backbone of the country available for the tremendous strain to which it will be subjected immediately there is an outbreak of war. [Interruption.] It is not the time to talk about a square deal. I hope the interests of railways, roads and traders will all have the good sense to reach some agreement of a kind which I can implement by legislation and bring to the House at an early date. I am very glad to know that progress has been made so far. I hope that the Transport Advisory Council will send me their report on the draft agreement before them, and that I may be able to come to the House with something in the nature of an agreed Bill.
But that is not the topic to which I wish to attract attention to-night. I want the Committee to realise that the railways not doing too well, as all the Committee know, are faced, in connection with a national emergency, with the obligation to spend millions of pounds to protect what is recognised by every member of the Committee as an essential part of the defence of the country. I have been conducting negotiations with them with a view, first of all, to arranging for the work to be put in hand and arguing how it is to be paid for afterwards. The work has been put in hand. A tremendous amount of work has been done in connection with a pool of breakdown trains, in connection with the provision of a vast deposit of spares of one kind and another in case vulnerable places are touched. That has been done. The railways have set up a committee. The committee work in with my officials, and the closest liaison occurs, and I am very satisfied with the work that is being done by the railways, including, of course, the London Passenger Transport Board. Similar arrangements have been made by them.
1619 Just as these arrangements have been made for railways so have arrangements been made for goods transport by road. Hon. Members who have studied the road transport industry know that there are something like 500,000 vehicles and 200,000 owners. Imagine the task of trying to co-ordinate that into some workable institution which will stand the strain of an emergency. What we have done is to divide the country into regions, make the Chairmen of the Traffic Commissioners the chairmen of those regions, divide those regions into districts and sub-districts and arrange for groups of different vehicles to be formed in each of these sub-districts.
What is the measure of control? It is all very well to make paper drawings of districts and sub-districts, but what is the measure of control? It is this. Unlike the railways, which have unlimited supplies of coal at their back, unlike the railways, which have the knowledge that nothing can stop them short of a complete breakdown caused by enemy action, the road is completely at the mercy of imported fuel. That imported fuel will, in all probability, be severely rationed. It is quite certain there will not be imported sufficient fuel for it to be available to all and sundry, and a certain method of inducing members of the road transport industry to come into the groups is to make it quite clear that the rationed fuel will go to those in the groups and not to those outside. I have obtained a very satisfactory response to the arrangements that we have desired to make for bringing this great industry into a proper perspective in connection with the nation's requirements. I express my indebtedness to all the members of the different committees, and in particular to the operators, who are showing such a fine sense of responsibility in responding to this call. [Interruption.] It does not do any harm to know a little about business negotiation. Perhaps hon. Members would like me to tell them something else.
§ Mr. Burgin
I ought to express my thanks to the different unions concerned for their part in concurring. I had intended my thanks to be general, and I 1620 was merely driving hard against time. Just as with electricity and the ports one of the essential things is to have a pool, a reserve, of supplies, so in connection with the roads is it necessary to have a supply of bridge material to strengthen essential bridges and to have adequate supplies of all types of what is called "fill" in engineering language to rebuild parapets and roadways damaged by shell or bomb. All arrangements of that kind have been made. The general impression which I desire to leave with hon. Members is that the public utility services of this country will continue, that arrangements have been made to protect these essential services from attack, and that I am confident that all will play their part. Civil Defence is a job in which everyone of us can take a part. The response is general, the interest of the country is aroused, and I subscribe to the view uttered by so many hon. Members—give the country a clear lead and it is quite sure that the country will follow. Let the response to this request for National Service prove once and for all that the advice tendered to certain leaders of foreign States that this country is decadent has no truth in it, and by the measure of our response to this call, let us remove any invitation to attack us.
§ Mr. Johnston
Before the right hon. Gentleman concludes, would he mind saying something about a matter to which about 20 speakers have drawn attention, namely, the water supplies in the rural areas?
§ Mr. Burgin
I should hardly have thought that water supplies fell within my category, except to the extent that water is a public utility service. The question of the supply of water to areas in which there are evacuated persons must naturally be a matter for the Ministry of Health.
§ Mr. Johnston
Is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman was replying, not as Minister of Transport but as representative of the Government? He was replying on behalf of the Government to a challenge. I submit we ought to have a statement from the Government as to what preparations are being made to supply water in districts to which it is proposed to evacuate children from vulnerable areas.
§ Mr. Burgin
The right hon. Gentleman and the Committee shall have it. I hope the Committee will understand that none of these areas have been finally drawn, and if there is a difficulty about water supply in a particular area it is possible that the areas will be altered.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I am sure the protest of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) is one that ought to be made. For the greater part of this Debate to-day the questions directed to the Treasury Bench have been concerned with evacuation, and, speaking on behalf of one of the great industrial areas of the country, I want to say that we are exceedingly dissatisfied with the provisions which have been made up to the present. The Minister of Health said this afternoon that he was bounded in these matters by the rules of arithmetic, and he rather made fun of my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) when she asked him why. My own opinion is that the right hon. Gentleman is bounded by his own un-skilful use of the rules of arithmetic. As I understand it, the basis for evacuation is simply a use of long division. The right hon. Gentleman's Department takes the number of acres in any local government district and divides the population by the acreage. If the quotient is over 50, the area is to be evacuated. If it is under 50 the area is not to be evacuated. That really means that the Local Government Act, 1929, and the action of various county councils in reviewing county districts determine whether an area is to be evacuated or not.
One has only to consider the case of Tyneside to see how it works out. In my own constituency the right hon. Gentleman's Department takes into consideration half the width of the River Tyne, three miles of foreshore, nearly the whole of the area of the Tyne Dock—thegreatest coal exporting dock in the world—and the whole of the railway lines and they divide the whole area into the population. They include in the acreage areas that have been added under various borough extensions. Newcastle-on-Tyne has been trying for years to swallow the urban district of Gosforth and because they have not succeeded, the area of that district is not added to the acreage for Newcastle-on-Tyne. Had they succeeded Newcastle would not be an evacuable 1622 area either. That method of determining whether an area should be evacuated or not is an abuse of the rules of arithmetic. If the right hon. Gentleman considers the crowded parts of my constituency, where 120,000 people are crowded on to a few hundred acres, he will find that that area is not any less susceptible to bombardment because there is a great length of foreshore somewhere near it. The right hon. Gentleman says that where there are 80,000 to the square mile, bombing is more likely to do damage than where there are only 200to the square mile. That is true, but you may have within a square mile a substantial population, and because the whole of the square mile is included in a particular local government area, it will not be included in the evacuable areas.
The hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) mentioned Wimbledon. [Interruption.] The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner), when he was talking about Wimbledon, really meant Putney, which is within the London County Council area and will therefore be evacuated. But take the three or four boroughs that most nearly adjoin London on that side—Barnes, Richmond, Wimbledon, and Mitcham. Each of these boroughs includes very large areas of common or of Richmond Park. More than half Richmond Park is within the borough of Barnes. Mitcham includes a very large acreage of common; I believe that more than half the acreage of Mitcham is common, but on the rest of Mitcham you have congregated about 70,000 people in these days, and they are in fact more crowded than the borough of Wands worth, which is just across a few dots on the map and is within the county of London. No one can say that it is logical to evacuate Roehampton and not Barnes, Wimbledon, or Mitcham. I bring these facts to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman because it is clear that the basis on which this evacuation has been made is one that has no relation to the actualities of the population. I can only hope that in considering the problem he is better informed than the Home Office were last September, when they requested the Surrey County Council to arrange for the billeting of thousands of children in the three rural districts of Epsom, Farnham, and Reigate, each of which had been abolished 1623 by the Surrey County Council Review Order of 1933. The right hon. Gentleman must realise that a very large number of people indeed are seriously concerned about the basis of his evacuation scheme.
I am not sure whether the Minister of Health or the President of the Board of Education is responsible for what I am about to mention. It has been decided that the so-called public schools and the private proprietary schools, where they are to be evacuated, may "marry" with a school in the reception area. That does not mean that a boys' school is to be linked up with a girls' school, but I understand that a certain school that ranks as a public school in the borough of Hammersmith is to be "married" to Marlborough, and that that school already knows that it will be moved to Marlborough in the event of an emergency, but the municipal secondary and the public elementary schools are not to be given that privilege. They do not know, and I understand they will not know until the day when they have to move, where they are going. I suggest that where there is misgiving in the rural districts—and the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave us to-day indicated that an ex-Lord Chancellor and other people who can command large type in the "Times" are by no means representative of the rural population in their attitude towards evacuation—where there is misgiving, and even where there is not, it would be a very good thing if a district knew where the children were coming from who were to be billeted on it in the event of evacuation.
I am sure a good deal of the misgiving would be removed if the householders in
§ the receiving areas could see the children who were likely to be coming to them, and I have no doubt that arrangements could be made during the summer time or at holiday times for visits to be paid. I venture to say to the President of the Board of Trade that from his experience at the Board of Education he will agree that those people who have been writing about the modern elementary school child as if it is bound to be suffering from scabies and is unable to behave with ordinary decency, have no knowledge at all of the kind of children who are likely to be sent to them. If before the emergency arose there could be real contacts between persons to be billeted and those who are to receive them, the transition when the time came could be made with a great deal more ease than it otherwise would be. I suggest to the Minister of Health, if he is responsible, that he should try and see that the same arrangement that has already been made for the public and proprietary schools should be extended to the secondary and public elementary schools. In that way I am sure he would remove a good many of the difficulties that now confront him. I ask him seriously to consider whether the arithmetical rules which at present bind him have been skilfully used. I have respect for arithmetic, but only when it is skilfully used; and I suggest that while his calculations may have been perfect, they have not been made with very great skill.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £5,842, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 107; Noes, 213.
|McGhee, H. G.||Ridley, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|MacLaren, A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Tomlinson, G.|
|Maclean, N.||Sexton, T. M.||Viant, S. P.|
|MacNeill Weir, L.||Shinwell, E.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Marshall, F.||Silkin, L.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Milner, Major J.||Silverman, S. S.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Simpson, F. B.||Westwood, J.|
|Morrison, Bt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Noel-Baker, P. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Paling, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Parker, J.||Sorensen, R. W.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Parkinson, J. A.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Pearson, A.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Price, M. P.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Anderson.|
|Pritt, D. N.||Thurtle, E.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R,|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Ellis, Sir G.||Markham, S. F.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Emery, J. F.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Medlicott, F.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Emrys-Evans P. V.||Mellor, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Se'h Univ's)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Errington, E.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Apsley, Lord||Fildes, Sir K.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Asks, Sir R. W.||Fleming, E. L.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Munro, P.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Furness, S. N.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Bait, Sir A. L.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Gledhill, G.||Peake, O.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Pilkington, R.|
|Bracken, B.||Goldie, N. B.||Porritt, R W.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Brooks, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grimston, R. V.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Newbury)|
|Bull, B. B.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Reid, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hambro, A. V.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cary, R. A.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Channon, H.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Moonmouth)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Higgs, W. F.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Salt, E. W.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Holmes, J. S.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hunter, T.||Scott, Lord William|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Selley, H. R.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Critchley, A.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Joel, D. J. B.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)|
|Cross, R. H.||Kimball, L.||Semerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Cruddas, Col. B||Latham, Sir P.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Storey, S.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Leech, Sir J. W.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|De la Bère, R.||Lewis, O.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lipson, D. L.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Denville, Alfred||Llewellin, Colonel Sir J. J.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lloyd, G. W.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Titchfield, Marques of|
|Dunglass, Lord||Macdonald, Capt. P (Isle of Wight)||Touche, G. C.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||McKie, J. H.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Maitland, Sir Adam||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Williams, C. (Torquay)||York, C.|
|Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Warrender, Sir V.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Waterhouse, Captain C.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Watt, Major G. S. Harvie||Wise, A. R.||Captain Hope and Lieut.-Colonel Kerr.|
|Wedderburn, H. J. S.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)||Wragg, H.|
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ "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."