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Civil Defence

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

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Fire Guard Duties


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the married, non-resident, full-time nursing staff at the emergency hospital, Rugby, have been informed that they are to do fire-watching duties at the hospital during their off-duty time; that many of these married nurses, in addition to their hospital duties, are on emergency call throughout the 24 hours and have home duties and shopping to perform; and whether he will inquire into this matter?

Under the forthcoming Orders women will only be liable for fire guard duty at the premises at which they work where, as in the present case, there are not enough men available to carry out the arrangements. I propose at the same time to make suitable provision to ensure that women working at business premises who have heavy domestic responsibilities may be exempted from fire prevention duties at those premises.

Are we not indebted to the trade unions in some measure for this modification?

Yes, there has been a good deal of co-operation from the trade unions.


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, when incendiary bombs fell recently on a building of which he has been informed, there was only one porter on duty who was available for service; that there is no allocation of staffs for fire prevention duty until 11 o'clock each night; and whether he will take steps to ensure adequate cover from 5 to 11 p.m.?

From preliminary inquiries it appears that three members of the staff were on fire guard duty on the occasion in question and that normally up to 11 p.m. there are two porters on fire guard duty in addition to a large number of hospital staff, all of whom have been trained in fire guard duties. These latter are available for fire guard duties in an emergency.

If I submit a letter from the staff, will my right hon. Friend go into this matter again as his reply does not accord with my information?

Motor Vehicles (Immobilisation)


asked the Home Secretary whether, in order that loss of time may be avoided, he will cause the Regulations in regard to the locking or otherwise immobilising of motor vehicles to be relaxed at least during daylight?

I regret that I do not feel justified in adopting my hon. Friend's suggestion at the present time, but, as I stated in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne (Captain C. S. Taylor) on 21st January last, this matter will be reviewed from time to time in the light of current circumstances.

Personnel (Co-Operation With Home Guard)


asked the Home Secretary how far the Civil Defence units, especially National Fire Service, are co-operating with Home Guard duties in sparsely inhabited localities; and to what extent reciprocity has been secured?

Co-operation naturally varies according to local circumstances, but I am glad to say it is improving and in some areas is already close and effective. The Civil Defence Services can help the Home Guard by enrolling in list (ii), and several thousands of such enrolments come from the rural areas. Conversely, in many country districts Home Guards undertake training and duty in the wardens' and other services, and instructions have been issued whereby in many places the Home Guard give their assistance after air raids. In addition the Home Guard depend on the Civil Defence casualty services in case of invasion, and co-operation in this and other activities is secured by joint exercises. In the case of the National Fire Service, while the same general principles apply, the nature of the duties which firemen will have to perform in time of invasion limits the numbers who can be permitted to enrol in list (ii). A certain number have, however, been permitted to enrol, and in some areas Home Guards are being earmarked and trained as members of fire pump crews. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and I wish to promote full co-operation between the Home Guard and the Civil Defence Services, and within the bounds of what is practicable no opportunity is lost of extending the system of mutual aid and dual training and duty.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to ensure that this information gets down to the lower ranks and is not confined to the higher ranks?

Depot Superintendents, London


asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the grievances of superintendents of Civil Defence depots in the London area, who, though they are in charge of the combined service depots which comprise the heavy rescue services, have never had their status properly defined, and so have been granted neither the increases of basic pay allowed to Civil Defence personnel nor the cost-of-living bonus paid to local government officers; and will he take steps so that they may have treatment as favourable as that accorded either to Civil Defence personnel or to local government officers?

The great majority of depôt superintendents are enrolled as members of an appropriate Civil Defence service, and are employed under Civil Defence conditions. Local authorities are aware that it is open to them so to enrol the superintendents where that has not already been done. The maximum rates of pay of depôt superintendents were fixed in four grades in accordance with the responsibilities of the posts. The increases in Civil Defence pay have been authorised in full for the lower grades of superintendent. Holders of posts in the higher grades have not received the full increases because, except on the occasion of the last increase, their pay was above the rate up to which the increases in Civil Defence pay were applied.

Fascist Signs And Slogans, North London


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Fascist signs and slogans are being chalked all over North London arousing indignation on the part of local residents; and have orders been issued to the police to keep a careful watch with a view to the arrest of these Fascists?

I have no evidence to the effect that the practice is as extensive as my hon. Friend's Question suggests, but if my hon. Friend will let me have particulars, I will cause inquiries to be made.

Is the Minister aware that these pro-Germans actually tarred a picture of the Prime Minister the other night outside the Russian exhibition and that this is happening all over North London, according to Press reports? Surely if a few arrests were made and the people given a term of imprisonment and then internment for the rest of the war, it might have a salutary effect?

I can assure my hon. Friend that both I and the police are anxious to get hold of these people, and that if we do suitable legal proceedings will be taken. There is no lack of wish on the part of the authorities to make prosecutions.

Is it not amazing that the Labour Party are getting so anxious to put everybody in prison?