Oral Answers to Questions — Air-Raid Precautions.

– in the House of Commons on 12th May 1938.

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Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Lanarkshire Northern

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

Yes, Sir, and at the conference which I had recently with representatives of the local authorities I expressly drew their attention to this matter.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Lanarkshire Northern

Are such preliminaries as the site of the trenches, the type of construction and who is to do the digging in case of emergency, being considered?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

They are being considered. I should prefer to deal with the whole question in a discussion rather than in answers to questions.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Is the Minister making any attempt to get adequate bomb-proof shelters or safety zones or experimenting with the transfer of the population to air-raid shelters and zones? Has he any plans at all?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

The question is very much in our minds, and I have asked the local authorities to expedite their surveys.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Has the Minister plans of any kind for experimenting with the transfer of the population from their homes to shelters or zones?

Photo of Mr Wilfred Paling Mr Wilfred Paling , Wentworth

Has the Minister made up his mind upon the principle of building shelters on a large scale?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member's question has been answered.

Photo of Mr Joseph Hepworth Mr Joseph Hepworth , Bradford East

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?

Photo of Captain Alan Graham Captain Alan Graham , Wirral

asked the Home Secretary whether local authorities have been asked to complete their surveys of shelter accommodation by any definite date?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

No, I do not think that is the case. I have in my hand a circular which was issued to local authorities giving general directions.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

Would my right hon. Friend say the date of it?

Photo of Mr Edward Fleming Mr Edward Fleming , Manchester, Withington

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

That raises another question which is under consideration.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the circular to which he referred gives no technical specification?

Photo of Mr John Cartland Mr John Cartland , Birmingham King's Norton

asked the Home Secretary how many local authorities have made arrangements with manufacturers who are carrying out direct armament contracts for the Government to provide protection for their workers against air-raid attacks?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr John Cartland Mr John Cartland , Birmingham King's Norton

Can my right hon. Friend say how many local authorities are seeing that these employers are carrying out such works?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I could not say precisely.

Photo of Mr John Cartland Mr John Cartland , Birmingham King's Norton

Would my right hon. Friend be able to find out the figures?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I will consider that.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

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?

Photo of Mr Morgan Price Mr Morgan Price , Forest of Dean

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that over 2,500 persons have volunteered to undertake air-raid precautions in the county of Gloucester; that there are only six instructors to deal with them; and what steps he proposes to take to deal with the matter?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr Morgan Price Mr Morgan Price , Forest of Dean

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr Morgan Price Mr Morgan Price , Forest of Dean

Would the right hon. Gentleman allow the local authorities to take the initiative in the matter and give provisional instruction in the meantime?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

Is it not a fact that one Metropolitan borough sent two officials for instruction, and was informed it was one too many?

Photo of Mr Gilbert Gledhill Mr Gilbert Gledhill , Halifax

asked the Home Secretary whether, in order to expedite the preparation of air-raid precautions schemes by local authorities, he will prepare and circulate to them a draft scheme suitable for an inland town of 150,000 inhabitants?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Grattan-Doyle Sir Nicholas Grattan-Doyle , Newcastle upon Tyne North

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Grattan-Doyle Sir Nicholas Grattan-Doyle , Newcastle upon Tyne North

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is adding an impossible burden to those which the local authorities already have to bear?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

No, Sir, that is not the case. This is one of the items which will rank for grant under the scheme.

Photo of Captain Alan Graham Captain Alan Graham , Wirral

asked the Home Secretary whether the Government or the local authorities intend to take powers to compel persons to strengthen or adapt suitable cellars or basements in order to render them proof against both splinters and the effects of blast?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Captain Alan Graham Captain Alan Graham , Wirral

asked the Home Secretary on what date local authorities were first asked to make a survey of buildings which could be rendered gas-proof?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr Joseph Hepworth Mr Joseph Hepworth , Bradford East

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?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

As has been stated in previous replies, this matter is under consideration, but I am not yet in a position to make any further statement upon it.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

asked the Home Secretary how it is proposed to provide shelter for those persons whose houses are shown by the survey, in connection with air-raid precautions, to be incapable of affording reasonable protection?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

If my hon. Friend will read my answer, he will see that I did deal with that.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

Is it possible, in regard to these shelters, to start construction in some cases, even though the survey cannot be completed?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I will consider the suggestion.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

asked the Home Secretary whether rural and other areas which may be considered relatively immune from air attack have been asked to make surveys of the accommodation they could provide for people who may be evacuated from more dangerous areas in time of war?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I am inclined to think it would not.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I am not responsible for this.

Mr. De la B ère:

Is not the air-raid precautions scheme the greatest fiasco ever known?

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

asked the Home secretary the percentage of industrial workers in Great Britain for whom adequate air-raid protection has been provided by their employers or for whom such provision is now actually in hand?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

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.

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

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?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I am certainly prepared to consider that suggestion; whether the time has come for it or not, I am not quite sure.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

Is progress not bound to be slow while no allowance is made under Schedule B of the Income Tax?