Air Raid Precautions.

Oral Answers to Questions — Prisons. – in the House of Commons on 29th July 1937.

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Photo of Captain Archibald Ramsay Captain Archibald Ramsay , Peebles and Southern

asked the Home Secretary whether he can give the House any information as to what proportion of the required 300,000 street-wardens for air raids have now been secured; and whether all these are persons who, in a national emergency, would not be required for other services?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

Detailed information as to the numbers of wardens enrolled in individual districts is not available, but it is known that many towns and districts have obtained large numbers. Local authorities were advised at the outset as to the categories of men whom it was undesirable to enrol on account of their value for other national services.

Photo of Captain Archibald Ramsay Captain Archibald Ramsay , Peebles and Southern

Is my hon. Friend keeping in touch with the situation, and, if so, will he give the figures of wardens enrolled to the House fairly soon?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

Certainly; the question of figures will arise at a later stage.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

What is the apparent age limit for these wardens?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

The age of 30 is the limit, but the local authorities will find men and women who are of much more mature age.

Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent Stoke

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that many of us on this side of the House appreciate the voluntary work which is being done by these people, who may be called upon to deal with the new technique of aggression which is encouraged by the hon. Gentlemen opposite?

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

asked the Home Secretary whether he is in a position to make any further announcement as to the Government contribution to the cost of air raid precautions services?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I am advised that legislation will be required in order to place Government expenditure on air raid precautions on a proper statutory basis and to remove doubts as to the powers of local authorities. A Bill for this purpose is being drafted; when it has reached a more advanced stage, an opportunity will be afforded to the representatives of local authorities of conferring with the Government, and I hope that it may be possible to reach a satisfactory agreement as to the allocation of expenditure. Many local authorities have already prepared plans and in many cases entered into financial commitments. Whatever financial arrangement is ultimately decided, will be applied retrospectively to a date which it is contemplated should be 1st January, 1937. I trust, therefore, that those local authorities who have not yet begun the preparation of plans will not think it necessary to wait until the financial arrangements have been placed on a statutory basis.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

In view of the fact that the delays that have taken place in settling this financial question, even if it were settled next week, must affect the efficiency of this service for several years to come, can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that he will do his very best by compromise to arrive at a solution with the local authorities by the end of the Recess?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

Certainly I will do everything in my power to arrive at an agreed settlement as soon as possible.

Photo of Sir Louis Smith Sir Louis Smith , Sheffield, Hallam

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the case of several authorities they are willing to shoulder some part of this burden, but they consider 30 per cent. an excessive amount?

Photo of Mr Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

Will any special consideration be given to districts where the population is very congested and very poor, and quite unable to afford the vast sums, or even part of the sum, required for adequate protection?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

The questions raised in the two supplementaries are among the questions that I am considering in connection with this whole problem. They are exactly the kind of questions that I am anxious to discuss further with the representatives of the local authorities.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

asked the Home Secretary whether it is the Government's intention to provide compensation in time of war in respect of members of air raid precautionary services who might be killed or injured while on duty?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I can assure my hon. Friend that, so far as the present Government are concerned, it would in the event of war lay before Parliament proposals for the payment of compensation which would cover members of public air raid precautionary services, not otherwise entitled to compensation, who might be killed or injured while on duty.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

Does that mean that my right hon. Friend has not in mind the intention to include this provision as far as possible in the legislation in the autumn?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I was not considering the question of specially including this sort of provision in the legislation in the autumn, for the reason that our legislation will be dealing with peace time, whereas the hon. Member's question refers to war time.