Personnel.

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Defence. – in the House of Commons on 27th June 1940.

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Photo of Mr Walter Higgs Mr Walter Higgs , Birmingham West

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, after weeks of recruiting in Birmingham for essential Civil Defence services, the applications received are inadequate; and what steps he intends to take to make good this deficiency?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I am aware that special difficulty is being experienced in Birmingham in recruiting volunteers for the Civil Defence services, and that although a considerable number of recruits have responded to my recent appeal there are still deficiencies in some services. I am keeping a close watch on the position throughout the country, and I shall not hesitate to take such steps as I think necessary to arrest further wastage of personnel from these services. Meanwhile, however, it is essential that the local authority should continue to make every effort to bring home to local residents the possible consequences of failure to man their services adequately.

Photo of Mr Walter Higgs Mr Walter Higgs , Birmingham West

Is the Minister aware that the recent appeal produced only one-tenth of the necessary recruits, and that the existing A.R.P. services cannot be fully manned?

Photo of Mr David Quibell Mr David Quibell , Brigg

Is the Minister also aware that great discouragement is felt by those who have volunteered, by reason of the lack of proper A.R.P. equipment?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

No, Sir, I do not agree with that at all. Equipment is available for the authorised establishment—

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

—but it has not been issued in respect of reserves in excess of those authorised.

Photo of Mr David Quibell Mr David Quibell , Brigg

I will give the Minister proof of what I say.

Photo of Mr Charles Brown Mr Charles Brown , Mansfield

Could the right hon. Gentleman send the Lord President of the Council to Birmingham?

Photo of Mr David Quibell Mr David Quibell , Brigg

And send him to Scunthorpe too. It is a wilful misrepresentation.

Photo of Mr Walter Windsor Mr Walter Windsor , Kingston upon Hull Central

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the drastic reduction in the number of paid air-raid precautions workers in the Hull district; and whether he will take steps to allay public apprehension because of the substitution of volunteers for full-time and skilled personnel?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I am not aware of any drastic reduction in the number of paid Civil Defence volunteers in Hull or of any cause for public apprehension. I am, however, arranging for local inquiry to be made.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

Is not the Minister aware that in some localities the drastic cut has been 50 per cent.?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

Yes, Sir, that is certainly so in the case of paid wardens; and it was the general wish of this House, made clear on many occasions, that the strength of that service should be cut down.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that resignations of personnel in the Civil Defence services are seriously affecting their efficiency; and what action he proposes immediately to take?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I am aware that the loss of personnel due to calling up for military service and other causes is giving rise to concern in some areas. I made a special appeal for volunteers two weeks ago, and I have taken action to prevent further wastage among whole-time members of the A.F.S. and to maintain the strength of this service. I am keeping a close watch on the position in other branches of the Civil Defence organisation.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

Is it not a fact that considerable personnel are resigning for causes other than that they are being called up, and does not my right hon. Friend think the time has arrived to give A.R.P. officials power to refuse to accept resignations?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

Measures are being taken to prevent further wastage, including matters relating to pay and a further extension of the principle of compulsion.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

When the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that there is inefficiency due to reduction of personnel, or to some other cause, what action does he take?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

Action of the kind which I have indicated.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Yes, but does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman still persists in voluntary action when it leads to inefficiency?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

The hon. Gentleman cannot have listened to my supplementary answer, in which I said that the action included a further extension of the principle of compulsion.

Photo of Mr Walter Higgs Mr Walter Higgs , Birmingham West

Why not apply compulsion forthwith?

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

asked the Home Secretary the current number of vacancies to bring the Civil Defence forces to full strength, and the weekly increase in personnel over the four weeks' period most recently elapsed for which figures are available?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

The position varies widely between different areas, and, as the Civil Defence organisation is essentially a local service, any statement of deficiencies or surpluses in any particular service for the country as a whole would be misleading. The services are, of course, largely dependent upon part-time volunteers, and appeals have been made for additional recruits. There are, however, some deficiencies in the number of whole-time paid members of the services in certain areas, and active steps are being taken locally to increase the strengths according to local needs. Figures are not available centrally, showing the weekly changes in personnel, but, in the first week following my special appeal, about 28,000 persons responded, and volunteers are still coming forward.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

If this service is of any national importance at all, is there not a danger when these vacancies continue in the service, and does not my right hon. Friend think that the spirit of the nation now demands that a measure of compulsion be introduced in areas where the voluntary principle does not succeed? [An HON. MEMBER: "Low wages."]

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

Questions of pay are one of the matters concerned, but I would make it clear that the principle of compulsion has been applied already to a certain extent, and that a further extension is being considered. With regard to voluntary and part-time personnel, the principle of compulsion is very difficult in practice.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the country expects prompt action to be taken in this matter?

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Is it not a fact that if Birmingham had better representatives, it would get better A.R.P.?

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that, in any area where the A.R.P. service is not up to the strength required, he will apply the principle of compulsion?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I cannot give an undertaking of that character, and I suggest that my hon. Friend read my answer.