Fire Service.

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Defence. – in the House of Commons on 29th January 1942.

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Mr. Graham White:

asked the Home Secretary if adequate machinery exists for pooling the knowledge and experience of fire-fighting between the firefighting services of the Powers allied against the totalitarian states and for the exchange of ideas in relation to fire-raising in enemy territory?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As regard the second part, arrangements are already in train for a full and free exchange of information on military subjects between the United Nations.

Mr. White:

May we take it that machinery already exists for consultation between ourselves and other States in regard to this problem?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I think there are adequate facilities already. But they are being developed, for I am very anxious that my Department should place our exceptional experience at the disposal of any of the United Nations which may become involved in this kind of warfare.

Photo of Mr Denis Pritt Mr Denis Pritt , Hammersmith North

asked the Home Secretary whether he will take steps to ensure that the inquiry he has ordered into the dispute between the Beddington and Wallington Borough Council and members of fire-fighting parties, whom the council is alleged to have treated in a manner contrary to Fire Prevention Bulletin No. 3, shall be held without further delay; and that the aggrieved persons shall have an opportunity to be heard at the inquiry?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I have seen a report on this case, and do not consider it necessary to hold any formal inquiry. In enrolling members of fire parties not otherwise entitled to exemption who, before the date of the application of the Compulsory Enrolment (Civil Defence Duties) Order, 1941, to the area in which they live, had not given a definite undertaking to perform fire prevention duties for 48 hours a month, the local authority is acting on my advice, conveyed through the Regional Commissioners. I understand, however, that the local authority has, as requested in Fire Prevention Bulletin No. 3, informed representatives of the parties in question that it is the intention of the council to interfere as little as possible with existing parties, even though their members are not entitled to exemption under the Compulsory Enrolment Order. I have, however, asked my Regional Officer to see the complainants and to explain the position to them.

Photo of Mr Denis Pritt Mr Denis Pritt , Hammersmith North

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his own private secretary and the Regional Officer in London have informed the complainants that he has ordered an inquiry and that they are waiting for it to be held? Is he also aware that the local authorities, instead of following the right hon. Gentleman's advice to interfere as little as possible, have interfered as much as possible?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I indicated in my answer that certain inquiries were being made but that I did not think it right to hold a formal inquiry. On the other point, my information is that the local authority is exceedingly reasonable. I very much appreciate the fine work that voluntary fire watchers have done, but, although I am anxious that they shall not be disturbed more than is necessary, I must be in a position to mobilise them wherever it may be needed within reason.

Photo of Mr Denis Pritt Mr Denis Pritt , Hammersmith North

Will the right hon. Gentleman at any rate make sure that the complainants are given an early and full hearing by the gentleman who made the informal inquiry?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I will certainly do my best in that respect.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that many women in the National Fire Service have no overcoats; and whether he will take steps to provide these coats immediately?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

Yes, Sir. It has been decided that an overcoat should be included in the standard uniform provided for women in the National Fire Service. That decision, however, coincided with the steps taken relatively recently to augment the number of women in the Service while at the same time there are increasing difficulties in obtaining supplies so that, although the necessary contracts were placed some time ago, the best hope which I can extend is that deliveries will start to come through during March. I might add that the vast majority of women in the Fire Service are, and will be, employed indoors.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

Will it be possible during cold or rainy weather for the women to put ordinary overcoats over their uniforms when going to work? Otherwise, they will have to sit in their offices in clothes which are drenched.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I will consider that point. I have given instructions that the first women to have overcoats are those employed outside.

Vice-Admiral Taylor:

Will the overcoats have the badges of rank on them so that the necessary saluting may be carried out?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

My hon. and gallant Friend will be glad to know that we are doing our best to follow naval practice in this respect.