The need for the utmost economy in the use of petrol has been impressed upon all Fire Force commanders and a system of control designed to prevent unauthorised use of petrol and oil has been instituted throughout the National Fire Service. In addition I have asked Regional Commissioners to give this matter their personal attention. The vehicles of the other Civil Defence Services remain under local authority control and steps are being taken by my Department in co-operation with the Petroleum Department to achieve the strictest economy in the use of petrol by the Civil Defence Services.
This step was taken, I am sorry to say, without the knowledge or consent of myself or of the Regional Commissioner. I have seen the Deputy Regional Commissioner concerned with the Fire Service and the Chief Regional Fire Officer, and have told them how strongly I disapprove of the use of Fire Service transport and petrol for such journeys. The Deputy Regional Commissioner has submitted his resignation. The Chief Regional Fire Officer has been severely admonished. I have also ordered that the use of National Fire Service transport for sports purposes shall stop, pending the issue of further instructions.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider to what extent a number of people in his Regional offices up and down the country are using big motor vehicles for one passenger only, when such journeys might very well be done by much smaller cars?
These matters are certainly kept under observation, but long and difficult journeys often have to be undertaken, and I hope the House will not press me to take a course by which the efficiency of the Services might be impaired. I can assure the House that I will take all practicable steps.
asked the Home Secretary whether he will take the necessary action to ensure greater economy in the use of petrol by the National Fire Service, and in particular to discontinue the long distance practice runs by complete units with full equipment and substitute, if such practice runs are necessary to train drivers, a token force of one or two vehicles carrying all spare drivers as passengers?
As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the Reply I have just given to the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke). As regards reinforcement exercised, the principle of token detachments is fully recognised and often acted upon in the National Fire Service, but many other considerations besides the training of drivers are involved. When the fire brigades controlled by the local authorities were taken over by the National Fire Service, many of them fell short of the required standard of efficiency, and, until the new Service has been brought up to the necessary standard, I consider that occasional full scale exercises are entirely justified and necessary in the national interest.