asked the Home Secretary whether he has examined the possibilities of trenches dug in parks, square gardens, and private gardens in city areas as an additional refuge in case of air attack; and whether any preliminary steps are being taken in this direction?
asked the Home Secretary (1) whether, in view of the officially-expressed view that the main danger in aerial warfare comes from high-explosive and incendiary bombs rather than from gas, he has made any additional provision for grants for the building of bomb-proof shelters;
(2) whether local authorities are required to provide bomb-proof shelters in their air-raid precaution schemes; and, if so, whether the Government grant will be on the scale proposed for the remaining expenditure?
By the regulations made under the Air-Raid Precautions Act, the duty of providing such shelters as are necessary is placed upon the local authorities. The approved expenditure on such shelters will rank for grant, and the terms of the grant are settled by the Act.
It is quite clear from the Act which was passed a comparatively short time ago that it is the duty of local authorities to provide shelters and such accommodation in their zones. I have asked them to expedite their surveys.
asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider the advisability of taking a census of the capacity of underground accommodation in the principal towns of the country, with a view to ascertaining what accommodation of this type is available and suitable for use in connection with the air-raid precaution schemes?
asked the Home Secretary what guidance has been given to local authorities to assist them in making surveys of available shelter accommodation; what definition has been given of the terms "blast-proof "and "splinter-proof "; whether cellars and basements which, while not at present affording adequate protection, can be strengthened and adapted at small cost, are to be included in the survey; and, if so, whether the local authorities have been advised as to what sum per head it is reasonable to spend to strengthen and adapt such shelter accommodation?
The general principles upon which the survey should be conducted were indicated in the circular of 28th March. Previous publications by the Home Office had described the methods by which shelter accommodation could be adapted to resist splinters and the consequences of blast. A further handbook which is being prepared in consultation with distinguished architects and others will be issued in the course of the next few weeks. Experience has shown that there are many cellars and basements which, with reasonable adaptation, can be made to serve as shelters. These will be included in the surveys that are being made by local authorities. In view of the wide variety of conditions it is obviously impracticable to indicate what sum per head should reasonably be spent in adapting such accommodation for shelter purposes. I have asked authorities to complete the surveys of the problem as far as possible by the end of July.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that surveyors in various boroughs have not been given any precise standards to work on, and that therefore the results of surveys in different parts will not agree with each other?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that if any private owner has a cellar which is suitable for conversion into an air-raid shelter and converts it at his own cost, he is likely to have his assessment raised?
The Government consider it to be the obvious duty of all good employers to prepare air-raid precaution schemes for their personnel, and both the local authorities and officers of my Department are constantly in consultation with manufacturers and other employers of labour in the preparation of such schemes.
Since the right hon. Gentleman wants good employers to do this, and seeing that the Government is supposed to be the best employer, may I ask what provision is made in this connection when Government factories are being established?
I presume the hon. Member has in mind instruction in anti-gas measures. For this there are available in Gloucester City and County 15 fully qualified instructors who have passed through a Home Office Civilian Anti-Gas School. In addition, as the House was informed on 27th April, steps are being taken to secure an immediate increase in the number of persons qualified to give preliminary instruction in anti-gas measures.
Would the Home Secretary, in the meantime, undertake to allow local authorities provisionally to instruct persons who can get on with the job, until the Home Office are ready with their permanent instructors? Further, does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that not only anti-gas instruction, but instruction in many other matters, will be required?
That is one of the questions which I discussed a fortnight ago with the representatives of the local authorities, and I hope very much that we shall be able greatly to expand the number of instructors by certain methods which I then suggested.
I think that the suggestions I made to the local authorities met with their approval. They were generally based on the principle of allowing the instructors who have been through the central school to give instruction in the localities to others who would then be able to act as local instructors.
The outline of a suggested general air-raid precautions scheme for a county borough was sent to local authorities with the circular of 28th March. There is, of course, considerable variation between the conditions of different areas, but a simple descriptive account of the basic organisation of all such schemes is in course of preparation, and in the meantime any local authority which is preparing a scheme under the Act and is in doubt how to proceed can obtain the help of the Regional Inspector of my Department. A sketch of a fire precautions scheme for a town of 80,000 inhabitants was issued last December, and I do not think the issue of any further model scheme is required.
asked the Home Secretary whether any decision has been arrived at respecting the rates of pay of volunteers for air-raid precautions services who would be employed whole-time in war; and, if so, whether he will cause the rates of pay to be given in the official leaflet issued by his Department on air-raid precautions?
It is the intention of the Government that in the event of war members of public air-raid precautions services who are called up for whole-time duty will be paid, but it will be for the Government of the day to lay down the rates of pay that will be applicable.
asked the Home Secretary what provision has been made for the payment of compensation to members of public air-raid precautions services injured during peace-time training?
As stated by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary on 30th November, the schemes of peace-time training of personnel for public air-raid precautions services, whether volunteers or volunteer employés of local authorities, should everywhere make adequate provision for compensation in the event of death or injury. For some time past such compensation has been available under insurance policies which local authorities can take out, the terms of the policies and the amount of the premium having been settled with the issuing companies by my Department. The question of providing this compensation by other methods is under consideration.
I do not propose at present to introduce legislation for the purpose suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend. I hope that all persons possessing accommodation which could be suitably used as shelter for the public will arrange with the local authorities to put such accommodation at their disposal in the event of emergency, and to allow such preparation of the shelter to be made in peace-time as may be required for this purpose.
I think my hon. and gallant Friend is under some misapprehension. As he will realise, gas-proofing relates to particular rooms, and not to buildings as a whole, and the survey which local authorities have been asked to make is concerned primarily with the provision of shelter against blast and splinters.
asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the representations sent from the National Federation of Property Owners suggesting exemption from additional rating of air-raid shelters; and whether, in accordance with the suggestion made, he will introduce a one-clause Bill to give effect to this policy?
By the Regulations made under the Air-Raid Precautions Act, the duty of providing such shelters as are necessary is placed upon the local authorities. My hon. Friend is aware that I have asked authorities to conduct a survey of the problem in their areas, so that they may ascertain the number of persons likely to be exposed in the streets and the numbers who are in houses in which additional protection cannot be given. I have also asked them to make a survey of the accommodation available in their area which, with some adaptation in peace-time, could be used as shelter accommodation in war-time, and I have more recently indicated the need of planning for a deep trench system in all open spaces in or near centres of population. When plans on these lines have been completed it will be possible for the local authority to see whether it is necessary to provide any specially constructed shelter accommodation.
Can my right hon. Friend answer the real point of the question, that is, is it the intention of the Government to see that these people who cannot afford proper accommodation will have some kind of blast-proof shelter provided for them?
I assume that my hon. Friend has in mind what are sometimes called billeting surveys. No instructions for these to be made have yet been issued. They form a part of the problem of evacuation which is at present being actively studied. I do not think that premature requests to local authorities to consider isolated aspects of the problem would be useful.
In view of the fact that some measure of evacuation will undoubtedly be necessary would it not expedite the whole preparation of air-raid precautions, to allow the survey to proceed at the same time as that for air-raid shelters?
Would it not be wise to take immediate steps to prevent this problem of evacuation becoming even more serious by preventing new industries from continuously concentrating in the London area, and by dispersing the industries and population over a wider area?
I regret that this information is not available. It is the duty of all employers to make suitable arrangements for the protection of their workpeople, but they can obtain advice and assistance from the local authorities or from my Department.
Having regard to the apparently slow progress made in this matter, will my right hon. Friend consider calling a meeting of representative employers to see what can be done?