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Air-Raid Precautions

Volume 344: debated on Wednesday 1 March 1939

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59.

asked the Minister of Transport what protective measures against air raids will be available for the crews of merchant vessels using British ports?

I assume that the protective measures to which the hon. Member refers are passive measures. These passive measures, which include anti-gas precautions, are now under discussion with the dock and harbour authorities and with the associations of shipowners. The delivery of masks to British ships ordinarily trading to this country has been commenced, and special arrangements are being made for the supply of masks to incoming crews not already provided with them.

I put this question down for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, and I received a reply that, frankly, I cannot understand, and I should like your guidance, Sir. He said:

"I think you will agree that this is not a question that the Admiralty could answer by itself, and, after inter-Departmental discussions, I have asked the Minister of Transport to take the responsibility of replying. He will give an answer, in which other Departments have concurred."
What is the locus standi of the Minister of Transport in this matter? I am not sure that he has any control over seamen. I thought it was a matter for either the Board of Trade or the Admiralty.

I am responsible for the ports, and, therefore, for the place at which the seaman from a merchant ship lands. I have two sets of booklets, "Anti-Gas Precautions for Merchant Shipping "and" Air-Raid Precautions for Docks," and I propose to send copies of both to the hon. Member.

Does the Minister's jurisdiction apply on board a ship that may be lying in the dock, when the crews are on board?

The responsibility for the protection of the dock from attack from the air largely concerns my Department, and so I think a ship alongside the quay does come within my jurisdiction to that extent.

70.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether it is proposed to employ only unemployed persons to carry out the evacuation survey; and what rates of pay it is proposed to give?

Local authorities were asked to submit the results of the survey by 28th February, and most of the authorities have already completed the work. I understand that the work has been largely carried out by voluntary workers, and that in general local authorities did not engage additional staff for the survey.

In view of the large number of unemployed in the country, will the Minister not consider, when work of this kind is being recommended, also recommending that the unemployed should be given an opportunity of getting employment on it?

Certainly, where the work, by its nature, commends itself to that method.