asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether persons whose incomes were above £350 but below £450 per annum at the time when the Government circular was issued permitting lime mortar to be used in the erection of shelters, and who had air-raid shelters erected to such specifications with a loan from their local authorities, can be released from the payment of interest and principal in cases where the shelter proves to be defective because of the use of lime mortar?
asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that a number of domestic air-raid shelters, although erected in accordance with Home Security Memorandum No. 14, prepared in April, 1940, which provided for the use of lime-cement mortar, later proved unsatisfactory; and whether he will give an assurance that in any case in which the cost of the erection of such a shelter was made with an advance to the owner by a local authority he will take appropriate steps to enable the local authority to make a remission either in the amount of principal and/or the amount of interest payable in respect of the advance?
I am aware that a number of domestic surface air-raid shelters which purported to be constructed in accordance with Air Raid Precautions Memorandum No. 14 proved unsatisfactory. The specification in that Memorandum did not authorise the use in mortar of lime ungauged with cement, although it was so construed by a number of people. In fact, given proper materials, workmanship, and conditions, lime mortar containing no admixture of cement does not, I am advised, necessarily produce unsatisfactory results; still less is it correct to assume that building in lime-cement mortar is inevitably an undesirable method of construction. If private shelters built either in lime mortar or lime-cement mortar have proved defective, that is a matter between the houseowner and his builder. I have no power to release persons who obtained loans from local authorities under Section 29 of the Civil Defence Act, 1939, from their obligation to repay such loans, and I regret that I cannot see my way to give an assurance of the nature of that referred to by the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. N. Bower).
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that many of the local authorities erected air-raid shelters from similar specifications, and that they have also proved defective and have had to be reinforced?
Yes, I am aware that some difficulties arose, but in some cases it was due to bad workmanship. My difficulty is that if I once entered into this line of territory, I simply do not know where I could draw the line administratively.