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Air-Raid Shelters

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th April 1957.

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Photo of Mr George Jeger Mr George Jeger , Goole 12:00 am, 11th April 1957

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the nuisance caused by the existence of air-raid shelters in narrow streets and courtyards; and whether he will make a statement of Government policy on their continuance.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I realise that many such shelters are unsightly and inconveniently placed but I am satisfied that the balance of advantage lies in retaining them for the present—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—unless there are compelling grounds for removal in individual cases. Individual shelters are removed if they obstruct road traffic or approved building development, or if they are structurally unsound or their removal is essential on medical grounds.

Photo of Mr George Jeger Mr George Jeger , Goole

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any real reason why they should be maintained at all? They are very old, most of them are insanitary and unless the local authorities are satisfied that they are actually dangerous structures, they are afraid to remove them. Why cannot the Home Secretary give a general direction allowing all local authorities to remove these shelters, which obviously would be of no use in the event of another war?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I think it would be wrong to remove the shelters except on the four grounds which I have stated. The Civil Defence (Shelter) (Maintenance) Regulations, 1956, empower local authorities to maintain shelters in repair and to keep a watch on them. I would rather rely on those powers.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

Is the Home Secretary really suggesting that these shelters would be of any value in another war in which nuclear weapons are employed? If he does not think so, what on earth is the purpose of keeping them?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

If I did not think they were of some value, I should have complied with the hon. Member's request. The reason why I think they are of some value is that we cannot tell what dangers may come our way. We cannot tell how valuable such shelters might be, provided they are not structurally, medically or in other ways unsound.

Mr. Dugdale:

Has the Home Secretary consulted the Minister of Defence? From reading the White Paper, it would appear that the Minister of Defence does not regard these shelters as necessary.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Yes, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence and I are in complete agreement.