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Reception Areas, East Coast

Volume 360: debated on Thursday 9 May 1940

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33.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now prepared to reconsider the scheduling of the Blackwater River area of Essex as a reception area, in view of its position on the East coast and the experiences suffered recently in that vicinity from hostile aircraft?

34.

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of recent happenings on the East coast, he will now remove East and South-East coast towns and villages from the list of reception areas, and arrange for the transfer of the children now in those places to areas less vulnerable to enemy aircraft or other forms of attack?

I assume the hon. Members have in mind particularly the recent crash of a German aeroplane at Clacton. I do not think that this incident justifies a change in the classification of the neighbourhood as a reception area. There are very wide areas of the country in which a similar occurrence might take place. If these areas were excluded from the reception areas the number of children who could be dispersed from the crowded cities would be substantially reduced. It is considered that, in the event of air attack on land developing the areas selected as reception areas, which offer the advantage of dispersal, give a greater degree of safety than the towns in which the children would otherwise be left.

In view of the experience of air bombing in this area berth in the last war and now in this war, does not my right hon. Friend consider it inadvisable to treat as a reception area a district which is obviously in the danger zone?

I am aware of the experiences of this area in the last war but the range of aircraft has greatly increased since the last war.

Apart from the vulnerability of these areas does the right hon. Gentleman think it in the interests of these children that they should be subjected to the noise of heavy gunfire for the duration of the war?

I have to take these matters into consideration, but I must be guided by the considerations that I have mentioned. If all these areas were excluded the number of children who could be dispersed would be substantially reduced.

It is not only the danger from the air in a place like Clacton but mines are being continually washed up?

I have that very much in mind but the area covered by the sea coast and a short distance inland is a very large area.