§ Mr. Mathers
asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered suggestions with regard to the relaxation of black-out regulations during the coming winter especially in respect of controlled street lighting; and whether any changes have been decided upon?
Hulbert asked the Home Secretary how many municipalities have a master switch system for control of street lighting; and if he proposes to recommend the installation of this system to other authorities in order to relieve the disadvantages of the present blackout lighting?
§ Mr. W. Brown
asked the Home Secretary whether he is now able to announce the abolition, or any further relaxation, of the black-out?
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I keep constantly in mind the possibility of relaxing the black-out regulations where this would be safe and useful. A recent review has satisfied me, however, that there can be no question of an abolition of black-out at the present time, or of any general relaxation which would permit of lights452W being visible to raiding aircraft. A higher standard of street lighting to be extinguished by central control on alerts has frequently been advocated. The proposal was thoroughly investigated by the Government in 1940 and again last winter. One important reason why it was considered impracticable was that it would require a large amount of labour and materials in short supply to instal central systems which do not at present cover the vast majority of towns. Even if labour and materials were available, the necessity to switch out lights before the enemy came within the range of visibility would still forbid the use of anything like the peace-time standard, whilst to plunge the streets abruptly into darkness might well lead to confusion and accidents. In the case of Blackburn, to which attention has been drawn, control has been applied to the ordinary starlighting, which was specially designed to be retained during alerts. Its extinction is, from the security point of view, an unnecessary capitulation to the black-out doctrine.
It is frequently alleged that the blackout is a material cause of deaths and accidents on the roads. Although the road casualties showed a serious increase in the early part of the war, both by day and night, we have now reached a position in the year September, 1942, to August, 1943, where, of 100 deathes on the road, 36 only occurred during the black-out, a smaller percentage during darkness than before the war. The total number of deaths during darkness is less than in the year 1936–7, the only comparable year for which particulars were obtained. Various modifications have been, and as circumstances warrant will be, introduced. They affect bicycle lamps, motor vehicles and lights in trains and public service vehicles and on the larger railway stations. A recent change in the Order permits the use by pedestrians of undimmed torches. Vital industry and essential services, however, still have first claim on any increases of light which become permissible as a result of the continuously shifting balance between need and risk. In August last the Government considered what modifications could now be made in the lighting restrictions affecting industrial establishments with a view to increasing war production. After an examination carried out by all the 453W Departments concerned, the Government considered it impracticable at present to introduce any general measures, such as the further shortening of the black-out period or the abolition of black-out in industrial establishments, but they approved a number of steps which together will help production considerably. In particular, it has been decided to substitute removable for permanent black-out in a number of vital factories as quickly as material and man-power will allow. It would not be in the public interest to give details of other measures. The policy is to work out the lighting required with the representatives of the vital industries concerned and to authorise for essential operations as much light as is consistent with the maintenance of a proper balance between the need for the light and the risk involved.