Fire Watching (Hospital Staffs).

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Defence. – in the House of Commons on 11th June 1942.

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. MESSER:

15. To ask the Home Secretary whether any alteration is to be made in the position of resident staffs of hospitals and institutions which will affect their right to obtain allowances under the fire-watching order?

Photo of Sir Frederick Messer Sir Frederick Messer , Tottenham South

Since I put down this Question, an alteration has been made that may affect the answer.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

Subsistence allowance is intended to cover additional expense incurred through fire prevention duties, and there is therefore no justification for its payment where a man performs those duties in premises comprised in the building where he lived. An amendment of the Business Premises Order covering this point came into operation on 25th May.

Photo of Sir Frederick Messer Sir Frederick Messer , Tottenham South

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great injustice that this really causes, for it means that there are many staffs, who are compelled to do fire-watching duty, and that that particular duty necessitates sleeping three nights in the institution, which brings them within the resident category, in which they would, therefore, normally be entitled, as they are not now entitled, to their allowances? Is he further aware that a member of the staff living next door to the institution can get the allowance and that members living inside the institution cannot?

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

Would my right hon. Friend meet a deputation from these people to hear their side of the case? Most of us have had complaints about the matter?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I think there is a wrong angle about this. This payment is not in the form of remuneration or wages. It is compensation for expenses incurred, and therefore a line must be drawn somewhere. The line taken is that if a person is normally or fairly normally sleeping on the premises, it would be wrong for him to claim payment out of public funds, because he is doing a civic duty which many others are called upon to do in residential areas. I do not think a deputation is necessary, because this matter was discussed with representatives of the employers and the T.U.C. and an amendment of the Order was made with their concurrence.

Photo of Mr Wilfrid Burke Mr Wilfrid Burke , Burnley

Will the Minister look into the matter again, because it is causing great dissatisfaction?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

We must insist upon the principle that people not put to additional costs must play their part in preventing their towns burning. Where there is inconvenience or cost involved, we give subsistence allowances, but we must distinguish between the two cases.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

Would not my right hon. Friend admit that there is extra cost if men are kept up all night as well as being up all day at their normal work, owing to extra meals? Should not some compensation be made to them on that account?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I am not at all sure that they are necessarily up all night.

Photo of Sir Frederick Messer Sir Frederick Messer , Tottenham South

Will my right hon. Friend take into consideration the point about compulsory stand-by duty?