HC Deb 03 December 1948 vol 458 cc2327-51

11.45 a.m.

Mr. Younger

I beg to move, in page 7, line 33, after "defence," insert: does not include the provision or maintenance of a shelter which is used or intended to be used wholly or mainly by naval, military or air forces but save as aforesaid. I think it would be for the convenience of the House if this Amendment were discussed with the next two in line 42 and page 8, line 14.

On the Committee stage there was criticism of the fact that the phrase "civil defence shelter" was so defined as possibly to permit the inclusion in that phrase of shelters which were to be provided by the Armed Forces purely for their passive defence. Anxiety was expressed lest certain works to be used entirely by the military might be placed on the local authorities so far as expenditure was concerned. In these Amendments we have sought to limit that definition of a civil defence shelter. The first of the Amendments excludes from the definition shelters which are, intended to be used wholly or mainly by naval, military or Air Forces. The second Amendment confines the definition of a civil defence shelter to shelters other than those used for those purposes. The third Amendment is consequential, simply giving a definition of the word "shelter."

Mr. C. Williams

I have no reason to dispute these Amendments in any way, but I want to know what is the position of a college like the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. Would it come under Civil Defence or would it be covered by this Amendment as part of the Admiralty? Perhaps this is a naval matter and that would exclude such a college from the possibility of the local authority having to meet the expense, but I should like to know the position of a college run by the Navy for training officers or boys. Would that be regarded as a military establishment or otherwise?

Brigadier Prior Palmer (Worthing)

While these Amendments go a long way towards meeting the point which I raised on the Committee stage, I think there is evidence of rather hasty draftsmanship. I admit that I have not had long to look at them—just a cursory glance—but surely it would have made more sense if the first Amendment, to line 33, had been placed at the end of the paragraph defining a civil defence shelter. I suggest that if the word "but" were placed in front of the word "does" and the Amendment put at the end of the paragraph defining a shelter, that would have made it much more sensible. The Amendment speaks of "a shelter." but the Clause says: 'a civil defence shelter' means any premises, structure or excavation used or intended to be used to provide shelter from any form of hostile attack by a foreign power. The Amendment proposes to define a "shelter" at the end of the same definition Clause as that for police forces. Why those words should appear in that particular paragraph is beyond my comprehension. Would it not be better to run the whole definition of civil defence shelter into the same paragraph?

Mr. Younger

Those seem to me to be purely drafting points. I am afraid that any substantial difference that the hon. and gallant Gentleman sees between his meaning and the meaning of the Bill entirely escapes me. As regards his second point, I do not think that in an interpretation Clause there is necessarily any connection between one thing defined and another. The Clause contains a list of things defined.

As regards the question asked by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), it would be rash of me without notice to try to give a legal definition of what is civil and what is naval in a particular case. I am not in any way briefed as to the exact status of the Naval College or of the cadets there, but I should think that there would be no difficulty in practice in taking a decision as to whether they were or were not part of the naval forces.

Mr. C. Williams

I did not intend to spring a legal conundrum on the hon. Gentleman. However, this does effect my constituency at present; it will not after the next General Election, but it does now, and I am bound to look after my constituents' interests. Perhaps, the hon. Gentleman will get the legal point cleared up when the Bill reaches another place, and, perhaps, he will let me know personally about it, because he may thus save an awful lot of trouble.

Mr. Younger


Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In line 42, leave out from "any," to end of line 45, and insert: shelter other than a shelter which is used or intended to be used wholly or mainly by naval, military or air forces.

In page 8, line 14, at end, insert: a shelter means any premises, structure or excavation used or intended to be used to provide shelter from any form of hostile attack by a foreign power."—[Mr. Younger.]

Sir J. Anderson

I beg to move, in page 8, line 20, to leave out from "Minister," to "as."

I think it will be agreed that we should discuss together this Amendment and the last remaining Amendment, which is also in my name and the names of my hon. and right hon. Friends—in page 8, line 21, to leave out from "Council," to the end of line 23.

Without reflecting in any way upon the manner in which the Under-Secretary of State has discharged his duties, I cannot but express my regret that the Secretary of State is not in his place, because we are now dealing with what, in the view of those of us on this side of the House, is the only real question of substance that arises this morning. The matter is one which was discussed very fully in Committee. We have thought it necessary to return to the charge at this stage because we regard the issue which is involved as one of the highest importance from the standpoint of effective organisation.

Now, of course, we would all of us, I am sure, entirely accept the statement that the Home Secretary made on the previous occasion, in regard to the position which what he called "the presiding Minister" would occupy. He said that there would be a presiding Minister. That was his own expression. It does not appear in the Bill. He said that that Minister would have general responsibility over the whole field, including—and he emphasised the point more than once—responsibility for keeping his colleagues up to the mark. He did not use that expression. What he said was that the designated Minister—in the first instance the Home Secretary—would keep an eye on all branches of Civil Defence organisation, and if he found that any Minister concerned was not fulfilling his duties in a satisfactory way, it would be his business, his responsibility, to see that something was done about it. From my point of view—and I have some experience of these matters—that is quite a satisfactory conception.

However, our first criticism of the Bill is that its terms are directly contrary to that statement. They clearly contemplate in specific terms several Ministers all designated, all to be, so far as the Bill is concerned, on exactly the same footing. That is not really consistent with the conception that the Home Secretary put to the Committee at the earlier stage. I quite understand that other Ministers who may be concerned in Civil Defence may find the proposal to have one designated Minister rather unpalatable. Perhaps, on grounds of departmental prestige, they may prefer to be put on the footing of a designated Minister. I should be the last person to argue that departmental prestige does not matter: I think it matters a great deal.

However, if one looks at the position of these other Ministers, what is really going to happen? They will come into the picture of Civil Defence because of the nature of their normal functions. The Minister of Health comes in, the Minister of Transport comes in, the Minister of Food comes in, and so on. They come in because they have already duties which are relevant, and for which they are responsible to the public and to this House. There is nothing in this Bill that takes away any of these duties—nothing at all. The Home Secretary, when discussing the matter on the last occasion, referred to a provision in the Act of 1939—the provision which gives certain powers specifically to the Minister of Health. He seemed to be arguing that that was the reason for designating a Minister like the Minister of Health.

I think the point was a false one. The point was that the Minister of Health, at the time of the enactment of the Bill of 1939, had certain duties in respect of hospitals which that Bill gave him, and They became part of his normal functions, and the Bill said that he should have, and should be deemed to have had, them always. The Minister of Health, in winding up the Debate on Second Reading, made the point that the Minister of Health now has functions which had to be specially conferred upon him as part of the new Health Service.

All that this Bill does is to distribute responsibilities specifically in connection with Civil Defence, and the only issue which arises here is whether those Ministers, other than the presiding Minister, are to have those responsibilities specially assigned to them by making them designated Ministers for that purpose, or are to derive them by way of delegation, under Clause 1, from the presiding Minister. Our contention has been that they ought to be derived from the presiding Minister, and that there is nothing derogatory to the status and prestige of other Ministers in having that position. That is the first point.

I do not want to go over all the arguments put during the Committee stage, but I will briefly touch on some of them. There are one or two points that I want to make which are purely practical. First, let us take the position under the Clauses of the Bill which provide for the making of regulations. Is anyone going to argue that we shall get a better code of regulations if we distribute the functions in regard to making regulations among a number of designated Ministers? The idea is absurd. We want a code of regulations all properly dovetailed together and presented as a whole. That was secured under the earlier legislation because the regulations were then made by Order in Council, and every Order in Council goes forward as the act of the Government as a whole.

12 noon.

Consider the position of a rest centre provided by the local authority, acting no doubt under the general supervision of the Minister of Health, but supplying food through the exercise of the responsibilities of another Minister, the Minister of Food. If there is to be a regulation for a thing such as that, it must be one regulation; there cannot be one bit done by the Minister of Health and another bit by the Minister of Food. That, I suggest, is a strong practical argument for having one designated Minister. I would go on to say that, even if there is not one designated Minister there must certainly be one Minister for making regulations, and I do not see how to get him except by having one designated Minister.

My final point is one to which I attach very great importance and which I am afraid I did not bring out sufficiently in Committee. It concerns the organisation of Civil Defence Services. In the last war we suffered inevitably—and I speak from practical experience—from the manner in which the Civil Defence services had been built up. Those services were built up, not as one service but in separate detachments: there was the wardens' service, the first-aid service, the demolition service, and so on, all separate and distinct, and we had the task of trying to weld them together into one service.

Mr. Gibson (Kennington)

There were 38 services.

Sir J. Anderson

There were certainly a lot. I am sure hon. Members will appreciate the force of the argument I am now advancing. We must not repeat that experience on a future occasion. We ought now to be planning and organising with a view of having a properly integrated Civil Defence service with a sense of unity. We shall never get the right atmosphere, the right status and the proper conception in the minds of the people concerned unless there is that unity, which we shall not get under a system involving a number of separate designated Ministers, all, so far as the law is concerned, on the same footing. For those reasons, I urge very strongly the acceptance of these Amendments which I consider to be vital to the provision of an efficient, properly organised Civil Defence service.

Commander Noble (Chelsea)

In support of my right hon. Friend, I should like to quote an example which occurred yesterday, arising out of a Question I asked the Home Secretary. I asked what instructions had been given to builders during the past year with regard to garages or cellars under new buildings which might be used in future as shelters. The answer was: None as yet,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 2164.] followed by our old friend "active consideration." I would add that the Home Secretary did not try, under the present legislation, to shirk responsibility for this question; but I very much wonder whether, when this Bill becomes law, the answer to the same question would not be: "This is a matter for the Minister of Health," or perhaps for the Minister of Works.

Mr. Burden

I am sure that most of us agree with the general proposition of responsibility in trying to build up the new Civil Defence service, and I suggest—although I am not by any means a lawyer—that Subsection (2) of this Clause, to which reference has been made, does give the designated Minister the power it is suggested he should have, because it says: 'The designated Minister' means such Minister, or such Ministers, acting jointly as may be designated by Order in Council. The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) may be putting a limited interpretation on the words "as may be designated by Order in Council," without, of course, being able to foresee what those Orders in Council may be. It is, surely, conceivable that such an Order in Council may direct that the other Ministers must be subordinate to, report to, and act in conformity with any instructions given by the Minister primarily in control of Civil Defence. That is a possible interpretation of Subsection (2) which has been overlooked by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. C. Williams

As there is apparently to be no answer yet, perhaps I might have a shot. I welcome the fact that we now have the Home Secretary with us, because this is a most important Amendment. In saying that, I should like to assure the Home Secretary that during his absence there has been no falling off in the Under-Secretary's performance of his duties. In fact, the hon. Gentleman has probably done as well as the Home Secretary would have done, if not better. I do not want to be in any way unkind to his subordinate.

I realise that this is one of the fundamental Clauses of the Bill. The hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) said the Bill might mean that by an Order in Council one Minister could be designated, and that that designation would lay down that he should have control over all the other matters. That might or might not be the case, but it is purely problematical. What I, and I think most of my hon. Friends, feel is that in dealing with such a problem the minds of the public outside would be relieved to know that one Minister was responsible. It is something which may affect—we hope it never will—thousands of lives, and responsibility should be fixed on one Minister, who has complete power over the other Ministers.

My right hon. Friend said he did not think it would be derogatory to the other Ministers to lay down in a Bill that they should come under the Minister of Health. I do not want to say anything derogatory of anyone, but whether or not something is derogatory of a Minister or his staff, is a very small matter compared with that unity of control which may save thousands of lives and speed up enormously the method or methods of dealing with these problems. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) made reference to a rather unfortunate answer he had from the Home Secretary yesterday. Those of us who have had experience of these matters realise that nothing holds up departmental work so much as doubt on which Minister is responsible.

I welcome the courtesy of the Home Secretary in listening to what I have said, because he had the great misfortune to miss the amazingly able speech of my right hon. Friend. I hope that on this occasion the Home Secretary will be able to meet the wishes of the Opposition, who have done everything in their power to help to make this a good Bill. All the way through we have been extremely friendly—at any rate, I have—and now that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to have further consultations, I express, on behalf of my hon. Friends, the hope that in his own interests and in the interests of the Bill, he will accept these Amendments. I would add that in granting the Minister this power, the House has the right to be quite certain that it knows who will be the Minister and the local authorities have the right to know that they will have to go to one Minister and not half a dozen.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I agree with the Home Secretary that the designated Minister ought to be the Home Secretary so long as we accept the definition of Civil Defence in Clause 9, but what is raised here in relation to unified control is whether the next war will be in the least similar to the last so far as Civil Defence is concerned. My feeling is that there was great reality in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) on the Committee stage in relation to paratroops arriving in this country. I am certain that in that sort of event the definition of Civil Defence will be inadequate. As soon as the definition becomes inadequate, the designated Minister under this Clause ought not to be the Home Secretary. The Minister I have in mind to replace him in such an event is the Minister of Defence.

The matter of delegated responsibility under the Bill resembles the issuing of a military operation order by a commander. At the moment we have the Home Secretary as the commander. There are various branches such as the "Q" branch, which is the Ministry of Supply, the medical service under the Ministry of Health and Movements under the Ministry of Transport. It may happen that when we really want unified control in the event of Civil Defence having to cover a wider scope than is envisaged under the Bill, we shall have the Minister of Defence in charge, with the Home Secretary taking orders from him.

However, I realise that, as the case for the Bill has been presented by His Majesty's Government so far, we are not visualising actual hostilities in operation—that is the impression I have from what the right hon. Gentleman has said on earlier occasions—and that this is essentially the preparatory stage in peace. That may be all right as the matter stands, but the Home Secretary ought to give the matter further consideration and make certain that he has based the re- sponsibility of the Minister and the definition of Civil Defence on reality and not on what I believe to be wishful thinking.

Squadron-Leader Kinghorn (Great Yarmouth)

I should like to make it clear from this side of the House that, having taken a great interest in the Debate from its inception, I have had a change of heart due to the arguments I have heard. In practice, what we have had, when faced with a situation such as we are discussing, and what we shall have if the same situation arises in the future, is the Minister the Opposition wish to have, and that is the Minister of Defence. There is an organisation outside this House which is run by the Cabinet; it is the Defence Committee. In modern wars the Secretaries of State for the Naval, Military and Air Services must march equally with the Secretary of State who looks after Civil Defence. Once we have our representative for the Civil Defence side of Defence, he must issue orders and have discussions with certain other Ministers. For instance, there is the evacuation of school children, about which the Minister of Health must be consulted. A number of other Ministers are also concerned in other matters.

The Home Secretary unites these functions and presumably sits on the committee with representatives of the other Services. That committee is presided over by somebody, and during the last war it was the Minister of Defence who was also the Prime Minister. Presumably, that sort of organisation would operate. Therefore, in practice, while these preparations are being made, we have that kind of organisation working now, and should a crisis arise, the chairman immediately assumes the part of a dictator.

12.15 p.m.

There is very little between the two sides of the House over the Amendment. Perhaps if we have an explanation from the Secretary of State we may find that we are really in common agreement as long as we can be satisfied that when the crisis arises there can be prompt action, the machine can click into action like the gear of a motor car, and wherever an atom or germ bomb drops, there is an organisation to come into being at once like the soldiers in the Greek legend who rose out of the earth.

Brigadier Head (Carshalton)

I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn) is a convert to the Amendment and the principle which it attempts to get the Home Secretary to adopt. I am extremely sorry that the Home Secretary missed the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) who put the arguments with all the weight of his authority and his experience. Even though the Home Secretary missed it, I would not presume to try to repeat it, but the Home Secretary has heard many of the arguments before. The House has not yet heard a single argument in favour of the abandonment of this suggestion. All we have heard in previous Debates on this subject is a series of somewhat lame excuses and no good reason for not adopting it.

Anybody who has had any experience of the workings of Whitehall knows the inherent viciousness and troubles in the present system. I can see so clearly how things will not be done and how it will not be anybody's fault that they are not done. One of the greatest dangers of the system by which things get done in this country is the danger of collective irresponsibility. The Home Secretary has a great chance of showing to the House that on occasions common sense can prevail. Can he overrule the difficulties which, I believe, stand in the way of some decisions, not for any logical reason but because of the extended egos of various Government Departments? Everyone wants to retain his status and powers, instead of coming to an agreement. That is the only reason why this proposal is retained. It would be very cheering for everybody if in the light of the overwhelming arguments submitted, which have been unanswered, the Home Secretary were to say that he would think about the matter and report back.

Mr. Peake

Two considerations move me to rise now rather than to wait until after the Home Secretary has spoken, which is usually considered to carry with it debating advantage. These are the considerations. All through the proceedings on the Bill the Secretary of State has met us extremely fairly. He has considered the Amendments put forward on their merits. He has accepted some of them and has taken others away for consideration and met us on the Report stage. The right hon. Gentleman has therefore shown that he is open to the influence of discussion and debate upon all matters connected with the Bill. The second consideration which moves me to speak at this stage is that on this Amendment we have such a strong case that I can forgo any debating advantage which might come from following the right hon. Gentleman.

This Amendment has been moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). He, of all people, has an absolutely unrivalled experience and unquestioned capability in the field of Civil Defence administration. I should have thought his views would carry great weight with the Government in this matter. The Home Secretary, replying on the Committee stage, said that it was very largely a matter of mere words, and I agree that on reading the second speech of the right hon. Gentleman during the Committee stage it would seem that, as regards what is intended, both sides of the House are at one. But words are very important when put into an Act of Parliament, and it is not what the Home Secretary said in his second speech during the Committee stage that really matters, but what are the words contained in the Bill. On the Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman said: It is intended that Governmental responsibility for the new Civil Defence organisation shall be shared, as in the 1939–45 war, by the Ministers whose peace-time functions are analogous to those which the organisation would have to discharge in time of war. He went on to tell us: Unless and until some other Minister is designated, responsibility under Clause 1 rests on the Secretary of State."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 23rd November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 1092.] I moved Amendments on the Committee stage designed to secure that there should be one Minister and one Minister only, who should be the designated Minister. In reply the right hon. Gentleman stated: The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) has advocated one alternative. The structure of the Bill proceeds on the basis of the other alternative"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1948, Vol. 458, c. 1826.] But the fact is that the Bill proceeds on the structure of two alternatives for in Subsection 2 of Clause 1 the Bill contains the power of the designated Minister to delegate powers to other Ministers. That is quite incompatible with the provision we are now discussing in Clause 9, which enables a whole group of Ministers to be the designated Minister for the purpose of the Measure. Delegation by the designated Minister to other Ministers and the designation of a group of Ministers to act jointly and collectively as the designated Minister, are two conceptions which are quite incompatible. Those two alternatives must have been included in the Bill as a result of disagreement amongst Ministers.

What is in the Bill, it seems, must represent a compromise and bargain, an attempt to reconcile conflicting rivalries and jealousies, either between Departments, or between the Ministers who preside over them. I am perfectly satisfied with the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman when he replied on a similar Amendment on the Committee stage. He made it perfectly clear time and again that the Home Secretary would be the presiding Minister. I think he went so far as to say that the Home Secretary would, if necessary, knock the heads of dissident Ministers together.

Mr. Edeindicated dissent.

Mr. Peake

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Here are his actual words: … the Home Secretary will secure effective collaboration between the Departments which are jointly responsible for Civil Defence measures…. He can only secure effective collaboration if from time to time he is prepared to use the schoolmaster's stick. He went on to say a little later: …. it will be the duty of the Home Secretary of the day to see that where two Departments have functions that may involve both in a particular service, each does its allocated share, that there is no gap left, and that there is no duplication."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1948, Vol. 458, c. 1827.] Those statements are highly satisfactory. They seem to indicate that the Home Secretary is in fact to be the presiding Minister and to have sufficient power to be able to tell other Ministers, of whom at least eight or nine are concerned, what they must, or must not, do.

But when we come to the Bill, it is incomprehensible why power is taken in Subsection 2, Clause 9, to designate a whole group of Ministers as the effective and controlling force. This Subsection seems to embody the idea that the group of Ministers can act with a group mind in the same way as do a covey of partridges. They are all going to rise and fall together, automatically, inspired by a common purpose from the unseen. But, of course, we know in practice that that is not the way in which Ministers' minds operate. It is perfectly clear that if a group of Ministers is designated as the effective controlling force, those Ministers will all have to be in agreement before anything can be done. We think that is likely to lead to confusion, delay and lack of any clear-cut responsibility, and it is vital in a matter of this kind that the House of Commons should be able to fix responsibility definitely on a single Minister and hold him answerable for the progress of Civil Defence measures.

We are quite convinced of the justice of our case on this issue. For that reason, I have intervened at this stage in the hope that the right hon. Gentleman may have been able, during the course of my remarks, to give further consideration to the points we have made and to indicate some hope that he will think once more and possibly introduce in another place an Amendment such as we desire.

Mr. Sargood (Bermondsey, West)

I listened with great care to the argument produced by the right hon. Member for Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and, if I understood him, he did not dispute the fact that there would be several Ministers who would have to be concerned with the operation of Civil Defence, however we visualise it. But he felt that one of those Ministers should be designated as a kind of dictator who would direct the other Ministers in administering the services for which they were responsible. Whilst I share with the right hon. Gentleman the need for reducing the number of services that will be under the control of separate Ministers in future Civil Defence work, I do not see any difficulty, provided those duties are clearly defined and reduced in number, in operating the Bill as drafted.

12.30 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

First, may I express my sincere apologies to the House that I was not present when the Debate on these Amendments started. At another meeting at which I was present the arguments took rather longer than I had anticipated, and on the timetable I had sketched out as likely to operate this morning, the arguments here appear to have taken substantially less time than was anticipated. However, I apologise sincerely to the House and to the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) who has been exceedingly helpful throughout this Bill, and I hope the House will acquit me of showing any disrespect either to the House itself or to the right hon. Gentleman.

As I understand the idea put forward by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite, it is that all Civil Defence powers should be concentrated in one Minister. If this were a single Service like the Army, or the Air Force, that might be possible, but it may well be that in the course of devising a Civil Defence scheme we shall have to call on practically the whole range of the civil Departments, and that all the technical advice and experience required for formulating policy will be found in officers of each separate Department in the first place. Any Minister who had all these powers concentrated in him would immediately be faced with the necessity of delegating to each of his colleagues their particular sphere. The machine would merely exist as a sort of clearing house, all the powers coming to him and he at once seeing that they all flowed out again.

I do not think in time of peace, in the time of preparation, that that would be desirable. It is far better that each Minister should understand the responsibility which he and his Department must accept in this matter. Therefore, I made it quite clear, both on Second Reading and during the Committee stage, that we have decided that the arrangement proposed in the Bill is for the period of preparation. However, during that period I accepted on behalf of whoever may hold my office the responsibility for seeing that this work is carried out, and that there shall be no gaps and no duplication. Cer- tainly I did not use any words which indicated that I would commit a physical assault——

Mr. Peake


Mr. Ede

—on any of my colleagues, either by knocking their heads together or, as I gathered the right hon. Gentleman later suggested, by applying something else to another and softer part of their anatomy.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

Would it be softer?

Mr. Ede

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that in the case of all my colleagues it would be a softer part. I believe that is the reasonable way in which to conduct this Service in time of peace.

In reply to what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn), I hoped that I had made it clear during the Debate on the Committee stage, when I took the liberty of reading to the Committee a document which was carefully thought out, that this is a matter which comes under the Committee of Defence, of which the Prime Minister is Chairman, of which the Minister of Defence is Vice-Chairman, and all our arrangements made for Civil Defence have to be brought into line with the other requirements for defence. The Home Secretary is the Minister responsible for bringing to the Defence Committee both the conclusions and the needs of the Civil Defence services as they are discovered from time to time.

I cannot help thinking that the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) rather extends what may be necessary in the realm of Civil Defence into services which we regard as quite outside our province. We do not anticipate that we shall be required to deal with paratroops. That could be the work of the Home Guard, but the Home Guard was never a branch of the Civil Defence Service. It was raised and organised by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) when he was Secretary of State for War, and I cannot think that in any circumstances it would be regarded as part of the duty of Civil Defence to repel invasion. I do not say that if there was an invasion a member of the Civil Defence service might not do what every other patriotic citizen would do—hinder the enemy as much as possible—but he would do that as a citizen and not as a member of the Civil Defence Force. In fact I could see circumstances in which he might be charged with being a deserter from the Civil Defence force if he was inspired to go off, neglect his proper duties, and take part in the repulsion of an enemy invasion. Therefore, we do not regard paratroopers and other forms of hostile activities of that kind as coming within our Service.

Major Legge-Bourke

The point I make is that when such a situation as the right hon. Gentleman has just visualised arises, to try to separate civil from military defence is clearly a waste of time and quite impracticable.

Mr Ede

After all, that is a matter that will arise after hostilities have commenced. In preparing I do not think we should expect somebody whom we have marked off to be, say, a shelter warden, should regard himself as being a prospective front-line combatant. We believe, and I do not think there is any inconsistency in the Bill, that there is no reason why the separate Ministries concerned should not prepare; in fact they will have to prepare, their own regulations and submit them to the House for confirmation. We believe that in that way we shall get the best service from each Department, and I want to assure the right hon. Gentleman that the form of the Bill arises from no conflict of interest between the Departments. At no stage has there been any quarrel about the way in which this work should be done.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about delegation to the second Minister. The designated Minister may delegate some of his powers to a second Minister. I will explain the point we have in mind. It may very well be that the Minister of Health might designate the Minister of Pensions to be the responsible Minister for, say, providing artificial limbs because he himself has not the service. That is, in fact, a service which is performed by the Ministry of Pensions, as I have every reason to know from my own family experience.

As far as these Amendments are concerned, I am prepared to accept the first one moved by the right hon. Gentleman, to omit the words: or such Ministers acting jointly. It must be understood, of course, that there will be occasions on which the Ministers will have to consider matters jointly. For instance, on Committee, I gave the example of evacuation in which the Ministers of Health, Education and Transport are certainly involved. In fact, as one who went to the Board of Education—as it then was—just at the time when the second evacuation was taking place, I am quite sure that better arrangements would have been made had the Board of Education in those days been more closely associated with the evacuation scheme. Quite clearly, it will be necessary on a subject like that for these three Ministers to get together. One hopes—in fact, I am quite certain that, so far as this Government are concerned, it would happen—that those Ministers would have joint consultations before each drafted the regulations which covered his particular sphere of the work. I do not think it necessary, or, perhaps, even desirable, that a group of Ministers should actually be designated, because that might lead to the kind of shuffle between one and the other which we are anxious to avoid. Therefore, I am prepared to accept the first Amendment.

I cannot accept the second Amendment because that would prevent the Minister of Health being designated for the whole range of health services, and the Minister of Transport for docks, harbours, and so on. I suggest that when one gets down to the actual detailed work, it should be made quite clear to this House and to the general public who is the Minister really responsible for doing the job. It might lead to confusion in the minds of the public if one Minister were designated until such time as a Minister of Home Security were appointed. If there were a proposal that there should be a Minister of Home Security—there is no such proposal—I think there would be more substance than there is in the argument of the Opposition while things remain as they are at present. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will feel that I have deserved the few kind words which he delivered at the opening of his speech about my being still open to listen to discussion and debate. I repeat that I will accept the first Amendment, but that, on the general principles I have advanced, I think the House would be ill-advised to accept the second Amendment.

Mr. Peake

By leave of the House, I should like to say that I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I think that his proposal to delete from the Subsection the words: or such Ministers acting jointly goes a very long way to meet the objections from this side of the House. It will mean that, although different Ministers may be designated, the functions of each designated Minister will be clearly laid down in the Order in Council, and that the whole House and the public will know what is the sphere of his responsibilities. That seems to us to mark a great advance from the provisions originally in the Bill, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the concession.

Amendment agreed to.

12.46 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

In the discussion we have just had we ranged over the general principles behind this Bill. I wish to express my thanks to the whole House for the way in which they have helped to frame this Measure so that it really emerges at its Third Reading as a House of Commons Measure to which all parties have made their appropriate contribution. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health said on Second Reading, it is very gratifying that we have been able to discuss a Measure of this kind in no spirit of panic, and that there has been a general desire, from both sides of the House, to see that as workmanlike a Measure as possible is produced.

I want to repeat what I said previously. This Bill is designed to deal with the preparatory period. We believe that preparation for this matter is essential; it is no act of aggression on our part. We feel that the country should be prepared for any eventuality that may happen, and that the powers in this Bill will enable us, on the side of Civil Defence, steadily to take those steps that are necessary to afford appropriate protection to our people, and to assure the maintenance of morale. I thank the House most sincerely for the reception they have given to this Measure.

12.48 p.m.

Major Vernon (Dulwich)

Although there has been such general agreement on the main principle of this Bill, and much accommodation on both sides of the House with regard to the details, I think that one voice at least should be raised against the Measure itself. I speak, not as a pacifist—I have never belonged to that school of thought—but as one who has tried to take a detached view of this problem. For several reasons, in my opinion, it is a pity that this Bill has been introduced at all.

The first is that there is no urgency about the matter at the moment; indeed, there is quite a possibility that there never will be. Another reason is that it will worsen rather than improve international relations. Then, again, I think that it will have a harmful effect on the minds of those who take part in it. With regard to the cost, it may make the difference in the economy of the country between recovery and decline. On the technical side, I think that failure is more probable than success.

Civil Defence is in an entirely different category from that of the three Armed Services. They have a job to do every day of the week. We may deplore the troubled state of the world, but there is the occupation of Germany, the trouble in Malaya, and the difficulties all over the world. Therefore, the garrisons are still necessary. But to add a new service at this stage, and one which, to begin with, will have nothing at all to do, seems to me to be wrong. In any case, the need for it cannot possibly arise for a long time to come. My reason for saying that is that it took the Allies three and a half years of work, with the pick of the scientists of both hemispheres, to get the atom bomb into action. The Russians, with a much smaller scientific force to draw on and many other disadvantages, will take a much longer time. Some careful students of this subject have guessed twice as long. That is seven years from 1945 until their production begins, and that will be till 1952.

Mr. Speaker

The function of the Bill is to make further provision for Civil Defence. It gives the functions of Ministers. It does not give the whole history of what might happen. Discussion of that kind, and observations about how the atom bomb is prepared, would be appropriate on the Second Reading. They are not appropriate upon the Third Reading, which is confined to what is in the Bill and the effects of the Bill, and not upon what is outside the Bill.

Major Vernon

I was trying to draw attention to the length of time that will intervene before the Bill is necessary, and I was doing so as an argument that it is unnecessary to introduce the Bill now. Surely that line of argument is in Order. The length of time which will intervene before Civil Defence against the atom bomb will be required is according to the rate of production, which is very small indeed. Sufficient has been published on this matter for us to get some idea of the figures. The Americans are said to have been increasing their rate of production. I think there is no doubt about that. It means that by the time the Russians start, the Americans will have a considerable lead. It is highly probable that the Russion rate of production, at the beginning at any rate, will be less than that of the Americans, so that for quite a long time the advantage will be entirely on the side of the Americans. For these reasons——

Mr. Speaker

I must again remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he is going quite outside the scope of the Third Reading.

Major Vernon

I will leave that section of my argument, Mr. Speaker, and proceed to the next, and that is the effect of the Bill on the mind of the civil population who take part in operating it. In my experience, the people of this country, the ordinary folk, do not understand the nature of international antagonisms. They are confused by what they read in the papers. They do not really believe a great deal that they read. Their feeling towards the Russian people is far more friendly than that of the people who write in the papers.

As the Civil Defence services begin to be put into operation and people begin to see holes dug in the ground, people getting into uniforms, orders and instructions being issued, the effect on their minds will be to make the whole idea of international antagonism much more real. They will be taught in lectures the terrible effect of the new weapons and the enormous efforts that must be made to combat them. They will believe worse of populations of other countries than they otherwise would do. As they work day by day preparing for an attack, the idea of the attack will become much more real to them, and fear and hatred will be engendered.

With regard to the economics of the matter, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us repeatedly that the possibility of our paying our way depends upon a series of favourable circumstances, and that if those favourable circumstances do not occur there will be disaster in front of us in the shape of a declining standard of living and the troubles, dissentions and disorders which will follow from it. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, when he was asked how much the Bill was likely to cost, said that he could not give any figure at all. We all know how public money tends to disappear when these vast, vague projects are put forward. As it was the last straw which broke the camel's back, so this Bill may well result in the load of bricks which cripples the poor creature altogether.

On the technical side one would say that the fact that Russia is so much at a disadvantage compared with America would make the possibility or the probability of what was called during the Second Reading "an orthodox war," one in which there are declarations of war and a certain amount of warning, out of the question. American thought is turning in the direction of the knock-out blow. What might have to be envisaged is preparation for extremely sudden action. That is the sort of problem that will have to be set the scientists. One would say to the scientists: "You have to prepare for something which the enemy is trying to make as unexpected as possible. You have to disregard all the possibilities of better feeling and of appeasement in general taking place. You have to tackle the problem of something which the opponent has schemed to the very utmost of his ability to make sudden and unexpected." The scientists would be set apart to deal with this extremely difficult problem, and I can imagine that after a couple of years or so they would come back and admit that the problem was too difficult, or else they would demand such great expenditure that the whole thing would be impossible anyhow.

It seems to me, in conclusion, that science has made war now so terribly destructive that war has ceased to serve a useful purpose. In the past it was a safety valve which did settle some disputes.

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Member is not dealing with what is in the Bill. It may be interesting to discuss the uselessness of war, but that subject is not in the Bill.

Major Vernon

I conclude by saying that the time appears to me to have arrived for warfare to be regarded as obsolete, and that therefore the aspect of war preparation dealt with in the Bill is unnecessary.

12.58 p.m.

Mr. C. Williams

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I have no intention of following the line of the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon). I would remind him, however, that this is a preparatory Bill. Those who have had longer experience welcome the Bill as a preparatory and non-controversial Measure. We realise that by taking forethought we may be able to strengthen our position. Now I will deliberately leave that argument, which is not advisable on the Bill.

The change which has been made in Clause 9, after very considerable argument, does not go as far as some on this side would wish, but I believe that it fulfills the main purpose of the Bill, which should be to have one authority that starts the control of this matter and has power to pass it over to the requisite and proper authorities. I am completely satisfied with the Bill. I have taken a considerable interest in this matter, although I have only taken a small part in the discussion on the Bill, and I do not wish in any way to bring those points up again. Some of these Civil Defence arrangements will have to be reorganised from time to time.

I welcome the Bill above all because it has been an example of co-operation among all parties in the House. We have been able to do something to strengthen our nation. I am sure that the Bill is absolutely necessary. I have to complain of the shortness of time between the various stages of the Bill, but I do not regret that as much as I would on other occasions, because it is important that we should be prepared as far as we can, and it should be shown that this is not a party matter in any sense but one in which we work in common in the interests of the country.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Burden

It is somewhat unfortunate and unhappy that after six years of war it should be necessary today to have a Bill of this kind before the House, but I take it that the Government have access to sources of information which are not generally available, and that they feel it necessary to introduce the Bill. Therefore, I should like to say to the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary that while I have had to take a firm line in regard to certain Clauses of the Bill, I feel sure that, having got the Bill, I can say to them that those on whose behalf those objections were put forward will do their utmost to make a success of what is desired in connection with the Bill. Having said that, I do beg that in the working out of the provisions of the Bill there shall he the fullest measure of consideration and consultation at all levels in order that there shall not be unhappy repercussions arising from the considerations which I ventured to submit to the House.

1.2 p.m.

Squadron-Leader Kinghorn

It should be said from this side of the House that there are people who are in complete disagreement with the point of view which has been expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon). The tenor of his speech was just as unreal as if there had been someone in this House in 1900 who had made a serious proposal that we should abolish the British Navy. It seems to me that in these days it is our bounden duty to carry this Bill, whatever party may be running our country. Indeed, it is rather overdue. We could quite easily have been doing this last year.

I hope that the provisions will be carried out by the designated Minister and that from time to time, we in this House will be able to hear about some of the proposals made and the organisations set up, etc. I urge the Home Secretary that when these organisations are set up in the months to come, an eye should be cast on those successful organisations which have carried out such measures. The only place where they have been carried out has been in Germany. That was at the height of our bombing campaign. We have a lot to learn in the building up of organisations of this kind, from the work of Goebbels and similar people. They did a good job of work in the face of the biggest onslaught the world has ever seen in battle. We should be wise to get as many facts and figures as we can and stories of experiences of the horrible things in Hamburg and elsewhere, so that the people who are responsible in this country can base their future plans on the only solid experience which the world has so far had.

In his speech on Second Reading, the Home Secretary mentioned the possibility of a scientific adviser. That scientific adviser must be the most important person in this organisation. He must be given every facility to study all development, wherever it may take place. Intelligence services all the world over should be put at his disposal. He is the man who in a crisis will save the lot of us; it will not be, the Government who will do that; it will be that scientific adviser. I hope that, so far as secrecy will allow, we in this House will from time to time be told of the progress he is making, for our lives will depend on the work of this man.

Mr. Peake

This is now a much better Bill than it was when it received its Second Reading. That is a result of collaboration and suggestions from different parts of the House. I thank the right hon. Gentleman and his Under-Secretary for the courteous and considerate way in which they have conducted the proceedings on this Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.