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Fire Guard Duties

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 13 May 1943

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33.

asked the Home Secretary whether he proposes to issue amended fire-watching regulations, with particular reference to boys under i6 years of age?

The forthcoming Orders will include a provision preventing boys between the ages of 15 and 16 from volunteering for fire guard duty at schools and other business premises except where the appropriate authority is satisfied that adequate fire prevention arrangements cannot otherwise be made and even then allowing it only where the parent or guardian of the boy gives his consent in writing. Boys of under 15 will not be allowed to volunteer for fire guard duties at such premises.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that even that regulation has not been entirely satisfactory, and will he consult with his colleague the President of the Board of Education, who has expressed his disapproval of schoolboys under 16 years of age doing fire-watching duties?

My recollection is that consultations have taken place, but the circumstances of these educational buildings are often very difficult. Many of the boys rather like to do fire-watching, and I am constantly being pressed to take people off fire guard duties; and on the other hand, if fires occur, I am afraid that the House will be after me for letting them off.

Is my right hon. Friend sure that schoolboys under 16 years of age could cope with the circumstances he has just mentioned?

Yes, Sir, they could do a job on fire prevention; experience has proved it.

42.

asked the Home Secretary the terms of, and reasons for, the instructions issued by his Department, whereby the Fire Guard is given priority over the Home Guard in respect of male civilians directed by the Ministry of Labour to these services?

No such instructions have been issued, but with the concurrence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War I have arranged with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service that in issuing directions under the Home Guard Regulations due regard shall be paid to the fire guard needs of the premises where a man works or of the local authority by whom he has been enrolled.

Then it is quite clear that no priority is to be given to fire watching as against the Home Guard?

Not in the sense of the Question which has been put down by the hon. and gallant Member. But obviously there must be some administrative discretion as to relative urgencies by the Ministry of Labour and National Service.

43.

asked the Home Secretary how many fire-watchers are furnished, under the compulsory Fire-Watching Order, by friendly aliens, enemy aliens and neutral aliens, respectively, who are at present resident in this country?

No alien is at present compelled to undertake fire guard duties. There are no statistics regarding the extent to which friendly aliens have volunteered, or other aliens have been permitted to volunteer, for such duties.

Is it not ridiculous and very disturbing that hard-working housewives and girl war workers should have to care for the safety of thousands of these aliens throughout the country who, apparently, are doing nothing to safeguard themselves or the country which is giving them sanctuary?

I have sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member's point of view. There are technical difficulties, but he can be assured that I am giving the matter consideration.