These regulations are entirely non-controversial. They have been discussed and agreed with the local authority associations and, therefore, unless there is any particular point which any noble Lord wishes to raise, I propose to move them formally. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Civil Defence (Billeting) Regulations, 1952, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Thursday last, be approved.—(Lord Lloyd.)
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, we agree that these Regulations are largely non-controversial, and we shall offer no obstruction to their passage through the House. There are, however, three questions, asked for purposes of information, that I should like to put to the noble Lord, in the hope that he may be able to reply to-day. First, have these regulations been the subject of discussion with the local authorities? Have they been called into consultation or have their respective associations been consulted? Second, will these Regulations, which are largely confined to giving power to local authorities, be followed up by detailed regulations giving them guidance in the hundred and one problems which they will be called upon to settle? Third— a very simple point—am I right in believing that a municipal borough is deemed to be a county district, because, I notice that although London boroughs are especially mentioned in the case of the County of London, municipal boroughs are not mentioned in respect of other counties in the United Kingdom.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, there are one or two minor points that I should like to put to him. I gathered that these Regulations have been discussed with the appropriate associations of local authorities and I am glad to hear it. Paragraph 2 (d) provides for the training of an appropriate number of suitable members of the staffs of local authorities in the work of billeting. May I ask whether it is intended that the people to be trained will be volunteers, and that they will not be conscripted for the work? Also, will any expense to which the local authorities are put in connection with the carrying out of these and any subsequent 442 regulations rank from grant—or will the authorities themselves have to bear the cost of carrying out the duties imposed by these or any subsequent Regulations? Then I would ask: has the noble Lord noticed that one local authority to-day has announced that it proposes to cut its general clerical staff by 5 per cent.? Will be see, in view of the new duties imposed by these Regulations on local authorities, that, if possible, that is not taken as a precedent for other local authorities? Finally, what part is it expected that voluntary organisations like the Citizens' Advice Bureaux or the Women's Voluntary Service will be expected to play in carrying out these duties? I am sure the noble Lord will know that during the last war both the W.V.S. and the Citizens' Advice Bureaux rendered valuable service in carrying out billeting, in conjunction with the local authorities.
I may say that I have had no notice of any of these questions, and therefore the noble Lord is asking a good deal out of my imagination or my memory. I will, however, do my best to supply such answers as I can. Those answers which I cannot supply now—and there will be quite a number—I will, if the noble Lords concerned will forgive me, endeavour to supply to them in writing. I will do my best to see that they get the information which they need. First of all, I did say, and I repeat for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that the local authorities' associations have agreed these Regulations. Secondly, these Regulations are really a preliminary step. They are to enable local authorities in evacuation and neutral areas, as opposed to reception areas, to be directed to make formal preparations for the accommodation of persons rendered homeless and refugees. The Regulations are, as I say, a preliminary step. Obviously, further instruction and guidance will be given at a time nearer to the emergency, should one arise. The purpose of these Regulations is to set the machine in motion.
I am afraid that I cannot now give an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, with regard to his question about municipal boroughs. I will find out what the facts are and let the noble Lord know. With regard to the question of voluntary 443 organisations, again I repeat that the Regulations are to enable local authorities to be directed to prepare a scheme. I think it may be assumed that if the circumstances for which these Regulations are intended were to come about, the co-operation of voluntary organisations of all kinds would be welcome in the future, as it has been in the past. On the question of who is to bear the cost of carrying out the Regulations, I shall have to let the noble Lord know later. As to the local authority which cut their staff, of course the size of the staff of any local authority, as the noble Lord is well aware, is a matter for the local authority; it would be quite improper for the Minister or anyone else to tell them what size of staff they should have. No doubt, as soon as they see the Regulations, all local authorities will reconsider what staff will be appropriate, in view of this new commitment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I thank the noble Lord for the information which he has given, and may I also compliment him on the readiness of his replies?
§ LORD BURDEN
May I also thank the noble Lord and apologise for not giving him notice of my questions. These Regulations are rushed through, and we are working under some difficulty.
§ On Question. Motion agreed to.