HC Deb 12 February 1942 vol 377 cc1576-7
29. Sir John Mellor

asked the Home Secretary whether, in collaboration with the Secretary of State for War, he will encourage members of the Civil Defence Services to receive weapon training and Home Guards to receive Civil Defence training in areas in which it is practicable and advisable?

Mr. H. Morrison

I am happy to announce that, following discussions between the various Departments interested and after consultation between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and myself, an arrangement has recently been reached on the following lines. In districts where the Home Guard needs men, Civil Defence workers who can be spared will be permitted to enrol in the Home Guard under conditions enabling them to continue in the Civil Defence Services but to receive Home Guard training, on the understanding that when the Home Guard musters on a threat of invasion they will only be called upon for military duty if fighting is imminent in the neighbourhood, or if, in the opinion of the Civil Defence authority, they can be spared from their Civil Defence duties. The arrangement will apply to unpaid part-time members of all branches of the Civil Defence general services except the ambulance and first-aid post services, but the extent to which it will operate in any particular area will depend on local circumstances. It will not apply to whole-time members of the Services. The scheme will apply also to part-time members of the National Fire Service in certain areas, but it is unlikely that many men can be spared from this Service. The Civil Defence part-time establishments will also be examined to see whether any men can be released outright, and a similar scrutiny is to be made in the Special Constabulary, to whom the general scheme does not apply. Men so released will retain no Civil Defence or police liabilities and so will become available for immediate recruitment to the Home Guard.

The War Office is arranging that the Home Guard, under their own officers, where, in the opinion of the military commander such a course is necessary and practicable without undue interference with Home Guard training and duties, shall assist in general Civil Defence and fire prevention duties. They will co-operate under the present quiet conditions as well as during and after heavy raids, subject to the requirements of their primary military role. I am glad to take this opportunity of acknowledging the great assistance which the Home Guard have already rendered to the civil authorities, and I am confident that the arrangements I have outlined above will be to the mutual benefit of both Services.

Sir J. Mellor

While thanking my right hon. Friend for the statement, which I can assure him will be appreciated, will he say whether this training will include training in "scorched earth" methods?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid I cannot answer that question which, of course, affects the responsibility of the War Office.

Mr. Stephen

Will this training be at the option of the individual?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir.