Fire Services

– in the House of Commons on 8th September 1942.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

I want to take this opportunity of bringing to the notice of the Deputy Prime Minister the question of fire watching and the compulsory bringing-in of women for fire watching. The Minister of Home Security, I should think without any consultation, has taken certain steps in regard to these important matters. In the City of Liverpool last week, the City Council disagreed with the whole of the system, and it was thought that women would not be able to take it on the chin. That statement is very flippantly used nowadays, but anybody who was in the City of Liverpool and encountered eight consecutive nights of blitz, knows that women were not able to take it on the chin. They were very much excited about the security of their own homes. At that time there was in Liverpool a great deal of demolition and a great many fires, and our people were very much perturbed. I am perturbed now to find that the Minister of Home Security has brought out an Order of a compulsory character to bring women into the centre of the city for fire watching. I do not think there has been any consultation—as far as Liverpool is concerned there has been none—and knowing that the Home Secretary has a knowledge of local government which is as good as that of any other person in the country, I am surprised that a large city such as Liverpool—I do not know anything of the other cities and towns of the country—was not consulted by the Home Secretary as to what was the best thing to do.

I am fully convinced that the step about to be taken is not in the best interests of the nation, and in the City of Liverpool, with its vast docks and locomotive and transport works, it is one of the most lamentable things that any Minister has ever introduced. Instead of there being fire watching that is beneficial, there will be fire watching that will be detrimental. It would be possible to get many women to do the fire watching voluntarily, but to compel all and sundry to fire watch in the city, especially in the centre of the city in the huge buildings far away from their homes, is not the proper way to deal with the matter. I feel sure that other cities also disagree with the whole system. I should have thought that the Minister of Home Security would have been able, through the Press, to make some reply on this matter or to give some indication that it was worth considering, but I find to-day that once a man occupies any great post in the Government he becomes as dictatorial as some of the systems that we have to fight against. I am rather impressed by the fact that hon. Members who, when they were on this side of the House, were always able to see two sides of a matter, when they get to the other side of the House seem to be affected only by their own point of view. In Liverpool there is a great body of Labour men and women, and they are not in any way pleased at the attitude that has been adopted towards this matter. I have a question on the Order Paper at the next Sitting Day, and if the Minister of Home Security has not deliberated over this matter, I shall be able to give a report to the answer that he may give me.

Another important thing I find is that strikes are occurring among men in the National Fire Service. These are the men who have been dealing with blitzes ever since Hitler has been sending his planes over to this country. When I find this organisation being disturbed without consultation and the men grumbling, I begin to wonder whether we are not fitted for Colney Hatch, and whether there should not be some damping down by a more compos mentis mind. We were all glad when the nationalisation of the Fire Service was brought about, especially when we remember the earlier difficulties over hoses which would not fit, and how brigades could not be used because their equipment was not the right size. I see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is smiling. I love his little angelic smiles.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I am sorry, but I was not following my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

This is not a smiling matter. We are obtaining valuable work from these people, and it is base ingratitude to upset such a splendid service without consultations. I say it is arrogance on the part of the Government or of any person to determine these matters off his own bat and without having any regard to the views of those engaged in the Service. I know comment will be made on that statement, but after all we are all working for the national purpose, and, therefore, no man should be afraid to express his opinions, especially when he knows them to be true. In the best interests of Liverpool, I say it is time a change was made, and that the Home Secretary should give some consideration to these people. He should see whether out of this disorder order cannot be brought about. Knowledge of London may be all right, but surely a great seaport like Liverpool is also worthy of consideration. My remarks are not made solely to criticise, but to bring something constructive out of all this chaos. I trust that the Deputy Prime Minister will express my views to the Home Secretary. I would also point out that the city council passed a resolution against this action, which they considered was not in the interests of the city.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I am afraid that the hon. Member has already addressed the House.

Photo of Mr Alfred Edwards Mr Alfred Edwards , Middlesbrough East

On that occasion I rose only to put a point of procedure. I will not delay the House on this issue which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan). As his remarks are to be passed on to the Home Secretary, I should like to draw attention to the fact that my town council has passed a resolution asking for a special inquiry. My constituency has suffered more from fires during recent months than any other town in the country, and very serious allegations have been made. The council passed, almost unanimously, a resolution asking for a special inquiry, but what surprised me was that it was turned down by the Home Secretary on the grounds that he had sufficient information. I think that he should give careful consideration to this matter. A few days ago my office was filled with firemen, who were alarmed because they felt they were governed and directed by amateurs who knew nothing whatever about fire fighting. I think it would be wise for the Home Secretary to look into this question which is being raised by the men who do the fire fighting and take the risk.

There are some rather stupid regulations. I know of a case of a fire brigade coming from another town which passed a fire on the way and had to travel three or four miles to headquarters before they could obtain permission to tackle it. That sort of thing may have been overlooked when the Regulations were issued, but now that the Home Secretary knows about it I hope the Regulations will be revised. A fire brigade captain should have authority to stop and help at a fire—at any rate, there are such things as telephones. There should be some method for obtaining assistance other than a brigade having first to travel three miles to reach headquarters. I am sure the position is much more serious than the Home Secretary realises, and I hope he will make a thorough investigation.