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Air-Raid Shelters

Volume 360: debated on Thursday 9 May 1940

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asked the Home Secretary what steps are being taken to provide at once shelters for the homes of the people in cases where it is impossible to erect an Anderson shelter; and who is responsible for the planning and provision of such shelter?

It is the policy of the Government that, in all areas specified for the purposes of Part III of the Civil Defence Act, free shelter should be provided at or near the home for all who cannot be expected to provide it at their own expense. The responsibility for planning and providing such shelter rests upon the local authority; and, where the standard steel shelters cannot be made available, authorities should plan in terms of the alternative forms of shelter recommended by my Department. I am sending the hon. Member copies of circulars on this subject which have recently been issued by my Department. (Nos. 38, 68 and 77/1940.)

That is good as far as it goes, but what is the right hon. Gentleman doing to see that local authorities carry out the policy of the Government?

There are regional organisations which are in constant touch with the local authorities and do everything to ensure the most rapid progress possible.

Seeing that this is a matter of urgency, will the right hon. Gentleman send a circular to the area authorities calling their attention to the need for making this provision as soon as possible?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the provision of shelter is reasonably adequate in most parts of the country?

In view of recent happenings, has the right hon. Gentleman applied his mind further to the question of providing deep shelters where the ground is sloping?


asked the Home Secretary what steps are being taken to ensure that adequate provision is made for air-raid shelter accommodation in houses, workshops, etc., and for the public in general, in cases where the houses are owned by people other than those resident in them; and who is responsible for the provision of air-raid shelter in such cases?

It is difficult to deal with the full range of points raised by the hon. Member within the limits of an answer to a Parliamentary Question. Briefly, the general principle is that, in areas specified for the purposes of Part III of the Civil Defence Act, a statutory obligation to provide shelter rests on the occupier of factory premises, and on the owner of commercial buildings, where more than 50 persons are employed. As regards private householders, persons in the lower income-ranges are provided with shelter free of charge at or near their homes; in other cases the responsibility for providing shelter rests generally with the occupier, though special provision has been made for certain types of private residential buildings. The local authority has also a general responsibility to take into account, in providing public shelter, the needs of persons for whom no special provision has been made.

While realising the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties in dealing with this matter in reply to a Parliamentary Question, will he take early steps to bring about serious consideration of the need to implement his circular amongst all authorities, in order that the best possible provision can be made?

I fully agree with regard to the urgency of the matter; I have been doing and am continuing to do everything possible.


asked the Home Secretary in how many churches in Scotland and England, respectively, the crypts or lower halls have been adapted for use as air-raid shelters; and how many of these are open to the public?

I understand that in approximately 250 cases, of which about 25 are in Scotland, public air-raid shelters have been sited in the crypts or lower halls of churches.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what steps he is taking to extend this form of humanitarian service?

The use of these crypts and lower halls is subject to very definite limitations because of the nature of the superstructure, especially where there is a spire. I think the fullest use consistent with the public interest is being made.