Has the principle been generally accepted of building underground shelters in order to protect the whole population, or only a portion of them, and has nothing been done?
The life of a respirator in use against gas varies widely with the nature and intensity of the gas. All respirators being provided by the Government have a life which is considered to be fully adequate, and peace-time storage arrangements will ensure that respirators are maintained in proper condition for long periods. Replacement in war may be necessary and provision is being made accordingly.
As my right hon. Friend has stated on several occasions, it is the duty of all good employers to take such precautions as are reasonable and necessary to protect their personnel.
I mean the works now being built by the Government. Is it part of the plans in regard to these works to see that air raid shelters are provided for the workmen? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is very essential in munition works to provide adequate underground air raid shelters for the workmen? Will he consult with the Office of Works to see that that is done?
Is it left to the good-will of the employers, if they think fit, to erect them, and if they do not do so, has the hon. Member's Department no responsibility, and are they not doing it?
We are in danger of some confusion between factories as a whole and Government factories. I have said that in regard to Government factories the matter is being considered by the appropriate Government Department.
asked the Home Secretary the number of local authorities whose duty it is to submit schemes under the Air-Raid Precautions Act; the number of such authorities who have submitted schemes; the number and estimated cost of such schemes approved up to the present time; and the estimated amount of the Exchequer contributions thereto?
There are 230 counties, county boroughs and large burghs in England, Wales and Scotland which are under obligation to prepare air raid general precautions schemes, to which must be added such other local authorities as may be directed, in accordance with the proviso (b) to Sub-section (2) of Section i of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, to prepare separate schemes. With regard to the submission of schemes by all these authorities, and the preparatory arrangements which are being authorised in advance of formal schemes, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 27th April to the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Colonel Nathan). The number of local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland under obligation to submit air raid fire precautions schemes is 1,213. From these authorities 305 schemes have been received. About 70 of these schemes have been substantially settled with the local authorities concerned. It is not possible at present to give a figure for the aggregate cost or the amount which will rank for Exchequer grant.
Can the hon. Member say whether when progressive authorities like the Borough of Bermondsey, which I have the honour to repre sent, are willing and anxious to create air raid shelters, any grant from the Government will be made towards the cost?
The latest available returns which may in many cases be considerably behind the actual position indicate that 4,453 badges have been issued to male air-raid wardens, and 362 brooches to female air-raid wardens.
asked the Home Secretary whether he can inform in the House of the arrangements made by the local authority in Leeds to defray the travelling expenses of air-raid precautions personnel attending for training; and whether he can state if these arrangements meet with his approval?
The City Council have been informed in the usual way that reasonable travelling expenses of air-raid precautions personnel will be viewed favourably for purposes of grant. I have no information as to the actual arrangements they have made, but, as I informed my hon. Friend on 14th April, I shall be glad to look into any particular case he may have in mind.
Can my hon. Friend say how it is that he has no information of the arrangements? Is it not the duty of the local authority to inform him of the arrangements they made last week?
No, Sir. The local authority has been informed that they can make their arrangements, and it is not necessary that they should inform us immediately of the exact nature of the arrangements. I would repeat that local authorities in the matter of air-raid precautions are now engaged in launching a very complicated task, and we ought not to hamper them in the least.
Local authorities will be asked this month to supply the regional inspectors with simple regular returns at monthly intervals. This system will come into operation next month, and my right hon. Friend expects to have the first complete return of this kind by the end of next month.
Is it not the policy of the hon. Member's Department to leave local authorities as much freedom as possible in this matter, and not to hamper them unnecessarily by having to make returns?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the consideration being given by the Minister of Health to the question of the introduction of legislation to exempt air-raid shelters from the incidence of rates, he will now give consideration to the question of the introduction of legislation to exempt air-raid shelters from assessment to Schedule A Income Tax?
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, having regard to the slow progress which is being made with the provision of adequate air-raid protection for their employés by factory owners in this country, he will consider making arrangements whereby part of the cost of such protection shall be borne by the State and that the balance shall be permitted to be used as a charge against Income Tax?.
As has already been stated on various occasions in this House, however much the Government and the local authorities can do in the provision of public air-raid precaution services, there must remain a duty on employers of labour to do what they can to help their employés as regards protection against air raids. In these circumstances the Government is not able to accept the first proposal made in the question. As regards the second, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave on 18th March to my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) and on 7th April to the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison), of which I am sending him copies.
While realising that employers should do all they can in this direction, does not my right hon. Friend realise that it will be most difficult to obtain universal and prompt progress in this important matter unless some arrangement is made by the Government to cover that very heavy expenditure?
As my hon. Friend knows, this matter has been under very full consideration, and I think that if he looks at the answers to which I have referred, they will give him the necessary information.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he can make any further statement as to the provision which is being made for the protection of Government staffs against air-raid attacks in case of war, more especially in view of the complaints that no practical steps are being taken, and also because it will be expected that large sections of Government workers will have to carry on as usual?
Substantial progress has now been made with the training of civil servants in anti-gas precautions, and a survey has been made of the headquarters offices of many of the bigger Departments and the accommodation most suitable for use as refuges earmarked. The survey of other offices is proceeding and other related issues are under active consideration. The proposals in regard to refuge accommodation are being, or are about to be, discussed by Departments with their staffs. I cannot accordingly agree that no practical steps are being taken.