§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Sir John Anderson (Scottish Universities)
It appeared to some right hon. Members and hon. Members on this side of the House that it would be desirable to take this opportunity to have a discussion on the organisation of Civil Defence. I feel sure that the Government will not think any apology is due to them for that decision, because I noticed that they have themselves declared in the past week, through their spokesman in another place, that no defence plan can ignore the importance of Civil Defence and the need for full and adequate arrangements in that field, no less than in the field of military affairs. I do not propose to take advantage of this opportunity for the purpose of criticising. We have indeed insufficient material on this topic with which either to praise or to blame. I hope to be able to elicit further information on the subject of Civil Defence. The Prime Minister on 19th November gave what he himself described as an outline of the plans which the Government had under consideration, but that was merely an outline. I have certain specific questions which I should like to put to the Government, to which I hope that the Minister, when he replies, may be able to give specific and precise answers..
I want to ask, first: How far the principles laid down in connection with the organisation of Civil Defence before and in the early stages of the last war are being adhered to, and so far as they are being departed from, why such departure is 2649 being made? I should like, at this stage, to state briefly what in my view, according to the best of my recollection, those principles were: In the first place, we regarded Civil Defence as essentially a citizen service based on the principle of self-help. The whole community would be in the front line, and it would fall, therefore, upon the community, through its natural leaders, to take the necessary measures after suitable instruction and aided by the various specialist services, such as the police, the fire service, and the medical service, expanded, of course, so far as necessary.
The second principle was that the system of Civil Defence should be organised, not under a single centralised control, but on the principle of making full use of such agencies of Government and local and other public authorities as had peace-time functions analogous to the functions that would have to be discharged by the Civil Defence organisation in the event of war. Thus, the Home Office had its traditional responsibility for security and good order. The Ministry of Health were responsible for emergency medical services and for first-aid centres. The Ministry of Education, with the Ministry of Health, were responsible for organising evacuation, primarily because that service was organised chiefly for the benefit of schoolchildren. The Ministry of Food were responsible for the feeding arrangements for the displaced persons—if I may use that term. Those were the responsibilities of the various Ministries concerned, the Home Office having a certain direct responsibility in their own sphere and, in addition, being responsible for co-ordination over the whole field.
The third principle of organisation was that there should be delegation of responsibility to regions in which the representatives of the different Ministerial Departments concerned would be grouped under one leader—the regional commissioner, the deputy commissioner or the district commissioner, as the case might be. These were the basic principles of the organisation before the last war so far as the Civil Defence services were concerned. I say so far as they were concerned because Civil Defence goes, of course, far beyond the mere question of the organisation of the personnel services. So much for the first question which I wish to put to His Majesty's Ministers.
2650 The second question is perhaps rather more technical, and concerns the sphere of the military authorities in relation to Civil Defence. In the view of the Government, should the military authorities, in future, have the primary responsibility, or should they have merely the ordinary traditional responsibility of coming in aid of the civil power when a situation arises which it is beyond the capacity of the civil authorities to deal with effectively? I am sure the Home Secretary will agree that the distinction I have drawn is very real and vital.
In the arrangements that were developed as the last war proceeded steps were taken to ensure that certain military formations were instructed in Civil Defence duties. But apart from very exceptional occasions I think it would be true to say that the Civil Defence organisation functioned independently, on its own responsibility and relying on its own resources. Do the Government think that in that respect a change should be made in their plans for the future? If they do, I would ask whether they have considered the danger to civilian morale that might result if it came to be thought that primary responsibility rested on the military authorities and not upon the community organised, as I have indicated, under its own leaders?
I should like to stress—and I have little doubt that the Home Secretary would agree—the tremendous importance of local knowledge in the handling of such a situation as constantly arose within the experience of many of us during the recent war. May I, in that connection, inquire what is to be the precise position of the functionary who is sometimes referred to as a commander and sometimes as a controller in the new organisation which the Government have in view? May I also inquire what will be the precise role of the police? I myself, from the very slight knowledge that I have of the plans which the Government have been working out, have been left in some considerable doubt upon that point. I know, of course—and this was clear from the Prime Minister's outline—that the Government contemplate military mobile columns, civilian mobile columns and civilian static forces.
I think I have described these different parts of the organisation accurately. I am not sure, but I think it has been sug- 2651 gested that the civilian mobile forces will be based on the police organisation. I am not sure, however, whether they are to be based entirely on the police organisation, or whether they are to be partly based on the local authority organisation. I should like further light to be thrown on that. I think it has been stated with precision that the local static forces will be organised and administered by the police. I hope the Home Secretary will be able to make clearer than it is now what the Government have in view in relation to the police in this matter.
If I might venture an opinion on that subject, I suggest that it is very necessary to beware of overburdening the police. They would inevitably have very heavy responsibilities in their own sphere, and I believe that in the cases where, in the last war, Civil Defence services were organised under the control of chief constables, as happened in several centres, experience showed that the burden was really more than one officer could comfortably bear. I hope the Home Secretary will give us his views on that subject.
I should now like to pass from the question of the organisation of the services to another topic of great importance in connection with Civil Defence. I refer to shelter policy. I have no doubt, and I am sure the Government have no doubt, that some account ought to be taken of the possible effects of atomic bombs. We probably do not know at present as much as we shall come to know in time about the probable effects of atomic bombs of different types, exploded in different conditions. But when we come to organise a system of shelters, or make plans for shelters in the possible conditions of a war in future, it seems that some account must be taken, and from an early stage, of the bearing of this new and horrible aspect of war on our problem. The first thing I would say to the Government is that we should not, because of the novelty and uncertainty which surrounds this subject, either do nothing on the one hand or, on the other, attempt the impossible.
I should like to make a few observations, based on such knowledge as I have been able to gain, on the bearing of the atomic bomb upon shelter policy. The 2652 consequences of the explosion of an atomic bomb may, for this purpose, be considered under four heads. There is, first, the blast from the explosion. There is, secondly, the risk of what is called flash burn, which is burning by the radiation of heat. It is a phenomenon almost unknown before the fast atomic bombs were set off. Then there is the problem of radiation; and, lastly, the problem of contamination.
So far as blast is concerned, at more than a very short distance from the centre of an atomic bomb explosion the blast wave presents all the characteristics of the blast wave following an ordinary explosion. It may no doubt be considerably more violent, but it is not different in kind from an ordinary blast wave. So far as the protection afforded by some thickness of resisting material is concerned, there is not so very much difference in respect of blast between an atomic bomb explosion and any other sort of explosion. Therefore, if general considerations of policy dictated that a system of surface shelters should be adopted, there seems no reason why such a system should be rejected because of the atomic bomb. I will say a word or two further on that point in a moment.
Flash burns were the cause of many casualties at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The very flimsiest protection is sufficient to prevent injury. A sheet of brown paper would do. Radiation on the other hand, presents a serious problem peculiar to the atomic bomb explosion. In order to give protection against radiation it would be necessary, according to such information as I have, for considerable thicknesses of resisting material—it need not be of solid structure—to be interposed between the explosion and the people to be protected. Some means must therefore be found—assuming that such shelters as were used during the last war will still have to be resorted to—for covering the shelter with material which will suffice to exclude the results of radiation. No doubt research will be required to determine the best kind of material. It may be that a concrete construction will be best, but, on the other hand, it might be that a substantial thickness of several feet, for example of sandbags, would suffice. Simple investigation would show.
2653 The problem of contamination is this, as it seems to me: it might not be altogether easy to decide when it would be safe for persons in a shelter who, because of the protection of the shelter, had suffered no injury, to emerge. There are certain quite simple precautionary measures that can be taken in that connection. The first will be to ensure an ample supply of simple detectors which could be, I believe, provided quite cheaply, and would require no specialised knowledge for their use. If such detectors were in the hands of shelter wardens, or whoever the people might be having had proper instruction in the matter, it should be possible to determine at what stage after an explosion it would be safe to allow people to come out into the open.
In that connection it must be remembered that while the dispersal of radioactive material might be very widespread after an explosion, a great deal of the activity would die away after a comparatively short time. The activity is inversely proportionate to the life of the material. The most active and dangerous radio-active residual material loses its activity after a comparatively short time. It might be a matter of hours; it probably would not be a matter of days. If the occupants could be provided with suitable footgear and probably suitable gloves, it might then be perfectly safe for them to come out, and even to traverse a considerable area still infected by radio-active material. Whether there was any distribution on the ground of radioactive material would, according to experience in Japan, and I believe at Bikini, depend upon the point at which the explosion took place. If it was high above the ground, all the radio-active material might be carried into the upper atmosphere. If it was on the ground, and more probably if the explosion took place beneath the surface of the ground, radio-active material might be very widely dispersed and be extremely difficult, if not impossible to remove.
I wonder if the Home Secretary can tell us anything about shelter policy in relation to the atomic bomb. If not, I would not wish to press him unduly. May I, at any rate, express the hope that all these aspects of the matter to which I have alluded, and other aspects which may present themselves to his experts, will be 2654 carefully considered, and without undue loss of time? It is obviously of very great importance that, whatever shelter policy is devised, it should be one capable of being put into effect at short notice, and one for which preparations can be made. For that purpose, it is obviously necessary that an authoritative decision, based on adequate knowledge, should be made beforehand. I therefore suggest that the fullest advantage should be taken in settling policy of the very considerable amount of information which is available in this country on this topic, and that a statement on policy should not be unduly delayed.
I should like finally to ask the Home Secretary if he can tell us anything about the progress of the consultations to which the Prime Minister made reference in his short speech on i9th November. I gathered from that statement that it was intended that consultations should be entered upon rather widely with representatives of local authorities and others, and I suggest that the rime has come when more publicity might well be given to the plans which the Government may have in their minds. It does not seem to me quite appropriate that representatives of local authorities should be given all the information which is necessary to enable them to consult effectively with the Government and that, for example, we here in this House should be in the state of benighted ignorance under which I confess I have been suffering.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Major Vernon (Dulwich)
The very learned address to which we have just listened was pitched in the key of question rather than that of assertion, and the traditional role of the Opposition to oppose has been for a moment in abeyance. That may be some excuse if I assume the rôle of what was called last week "the unofficial Opposition" and make my remarks a little more pointed than those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). The information we have about this interesting proposal was given——
§ Major Vernon
I would like to deal with the technical aspect of the matter first, leaving emotion out of it. At the end I may add a few words of a more personal and humane character, but I have found it convenient to separate the technical from the emotional side of my argument. The information we have on this subject was given by the Prime Minister in his speech in the House in November last. Soon after, in "The Times," there was an article which must have been based on what is technically called "an official hand-out," which gave some more details of what was proposed. From this I found that it is intended that the new Civil Defence service shall be on an entirely new basis, all citizens shall be available for training, there shall be mobile full-time forces, the military shall have a prominent part to play, there shall be static forces called the wardens, the geographical basis shall not be the municipalities but certain target areas, as they are called, special training shall be given to the troops and Territorials in Civil Defence and that the sections of subjects are anti-gas, anti-biological warfare and anti-atomic warfare.
Thus there are certain key ideas. One is the static force and the other is the target area. From what I have been able to -gather from well-known experience of high explosives and bombing in the last war, from the atomic explosions which have occurred and the records we have of them, and from the little knowledge I have of biological warfare—the spreading of diseases, the poisoning of water supplies and the destruction of plant life by the very violent or virulent processes which are to hand nowadays—I have come to the conclusion with which I think the authorities have not yet agreed—that this island with its densely populated areas will be untenable.
In the Air Debate, I argued that the Air Force will have to be entirely redesigned if it is to exist in an atomic age. In the Navy Debate I was able to continue the same line and indicate the reasons I thought the Navy also would need an entirely different approach and its material would need radically different design for the kind of warfare it will have to face if we do not avoid wars in the future. For all these reasons I have come to the conclusion that our large centres of population can-not remain as centres of population once a war of this nature 2656 breaks out. The only remedy which can be applied is that of dispersal.
Dispersal has been mentioned a great deal but seldom in any sort of detail. The easiest or most rapid form of dispersal is by air, but there will not be enough aeroplanes to take many people and so that is really an almost negligible remedy. Dispersal by sea will be extremely difficult. The Bikini experiments showed that an atomic bomb exploding under water produces an enormous quantity of radio-active water—one million tons was the quantity which the Americans mentioned. This was partly in the form of rain, spray and mist, and this radio-active cloud passed over the ships and, in the words of the report, turned them into radio-active stoves in which no life was possible. The report did not say how long this contamination lasted, but I noticed in the American papers a fortnight ago that four ships had had to be sunk because they were still radio-active after 18 months and it was unsafe for them to be taken to the ship-breakers' yards to be disposed of in the ordinary way. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities was absolutely correct when he spoke of the effect of an atomic bomb exploding in the air and making objects on the ground radio-active, but an under-water explosion is an entirely different matter. The water itself becomes radio-active and it leaves this disintegration in operation in everything it touches, and that in certain circumstances will last for a considerable time.
These assumptions are pretty unpleasant, but the other assumption which the authorities seem to have made, that war is inevitable or, at any rate, that war is worth preparing for, is one which I doubt. There is a conflict on in the world, a very real conflict—the "cold war" it has sometimes been called. It is the conflict between the political and economic set-up which they have in Russia and the economic and political setup which is characterised by the arrangements they have in the United States. That is stating it in exaggerated simplicity, but no one will deny the conflict and antagonism.
Our problem is whether this conflict will continue in its present form or whether the "cold war" will change to a weapon war. I do not see any reason 2657 why it should change to a weapon war. One cannot imagine that victory by either side over the other would really settle the matter. If the Americans won, they would never be able to impose American capitalism on whatever remains of the Russian population after their experience. If the Russians were to win, it would take them a very long time to turn the population of America into real good party members, supporters of the Communist regime or even "fellow travellers." There is, therefore, no sense in a war of this kind and it may be that it can be avoided altogether. These ideas are beginning to penetrate to America. I can show that by means of a quotation from an American newspaper "The Chicago Tribune," which, in discussing the second world war and the possibility of a third world war, says:What have we to show for the quarter million lives lost on the battlefield and for hundreds of billions of dollars that were expended? The prize we won is the threat of a new and perhaps even more difficult war. At the end of it, Europe will be a desert, Russia will be an insoluble administrative problem tar more difficult than Germany or Japan, and we may be bled white and busted."Busted" is, I think, the American equivalent of bankrupt. That is what the Americans are beginning to think.
Another reason which leads one to hope that the weapon war will be avoided, is the greater difficulty nowadays in getting the civil population to follow its leaders. In the past there were dynastic and economic wars; sometimes people were driven to war by the poverty of their own country and the need for food, when they invaded a more fertile and prosperous land for subsistence; and sometimes they were led to war through the quarrels of kings and rulers. Neither of those urges to war applies now. If the people are to fight they must have some real reason which strongly appeals to them. In the old days the leader said "Fight" and the ignorant fought. Nowadays the leader may say "Fight," but the people will question the order, and want to know what it is about; and unless they do know what it is about, unless they feel in their very bones that it is something desperately worth fighting for, their enthusiasm will be half-hearted, and in an atomic war half-hearted enthusiasm rather destroys the chance of success.
I will not labour the point, but I do say that this new factor which has come 2658 into the world through popular education, the radio and the spread of knowledge, and the more general understanding of what war means, the general structure of life, of government and of civilisation, has made it extremely difficult for people to be persuaded blindly to follow the flag or the fife and drum into the awful calamities which await them. For those reasons, I think there is some hope.
In this state of affairs, what are the Government doing? They go to their experts, ask them, "What about it?", and the experts tell them the story which they have allowed, in a small measure, to leak out to the general public. If we were to follow this advice it would mean that Britain, already in desperate straits to make ends meet, would be faced with another and greater chunk of expenditure. We have the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, which constitute a burden, and young fellows are being conscripted and having their careers upset at the outset, with a consequent great economic loss to the country. If, on top of that, we have the Civil Defence preparations, with all the shelters about which we have heard, with thick layers of sandbags—the right hon. Gentleman did not mention lead as one of the more convenient materials for protection against radiation —the country would be faced with an enormous burden.
I cannot believe that the Government are serious about this, because they are destroying the shelters we already have. We have been told how the shelters are moderately serviceable, and would serve the purpose with a little more concrete on top, yet we are sweeping them away; we are pulling down the Anderson shelters, and taking the Morrison shelters to pieces; I do not know what has become of the gasmasks. We are doing all that, while at the same time contemplating fishing them all out again, repairing them, and having them ready for the next great effort. The Government and their experts have performed a serious and honest job of work; but, everything considered, before imposing this tremendous burden upon us—which may just turn the scale from prospertity to bankruptcy—the Government should ask their experts to think again.
§ 7.55 P.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
Today, I am very pleased to have the opportunity 2659 once again of following the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon), because we had a very similar discussion to this during the Debate on the Navy Estimates a week or two ago. Later in my speech I will deal a little more fully with many of the matters he mentioned on that occasion and again this evening.
There seem to be two sides to the problem we have to consider. First, there is the organisation and training of the personnel who, we might say, go into action after the incidents—as I believe they were called during the war—have taken place. That has been dealt with to some extent by the Home Office memorandum dated 10th December, and also very fully today by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). The other side of the problem is that we must have a plan of dispersal and evacuation, in which I would include our shelter policy. That must be a long-term plan, but, as far as I know, nothing is being done about it at the moment. No doubt the Home Secretary will tell us something about that later. As my right hon. Friend said, we now have quite a lot of information with regard to what the new weapons might be for the next war—although we all hope there will not be a next war. We have learned quite a lot from the effects of the two atomic bombs used on Japan, and of the two atomic bombs used at Bikini. As the House knows, I was one of the two hon. Members sent there as observers.
We know the different effects of the atomic bomb. There is the shattering blast, which I believe President Truman likened, in 1945, to the effect of 20,000 tons of T.N.T., if it could be exploded in that way. There is what my right hon. Friend called the intensive radiation of heat which in Japan caused so many fires and so many casualties from burns. There are the two radio-active effects, one from radiation at the moment of explosion, and the other from radio-active material which is left in the air, rather like a gas cloud, which permeates the ground and all buildings and material in the area. We have learned, especially from Bikini, that the effect of the atomic bomb is limited in range, and is not quite what people thought at first. The first thing that 2660 comes to mind is the remark of the American general who has said that the only defence against the atomic bomb is not to be there when it goes off. Two considerations which arise from that: First, we do not all want to be in this country, from which springs the idea of dispersal, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said in a recent Debate, one day we must decide whether to build our fighters in Manchester or Winnipeg. Tonight, I shall not deal with Commonwealth dispersal, because this Debate is directed mainly to civil defence in this country.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Is there any sense in discussing civil defence in this country if all the war potential is out of the country, and if all the people go out of the country along with the war potential?
§ Commander Noble
Presumably, some people will be in this country, and tonight we are debating the best method of Civil Defence for those people.
§ Commander Noble
So far as there can be dispersal and evacuation within this country, some defence is possible. We should plan very much along those lines, but it must be a plan fitting in very much with our day to day economic life. As I asked in the Defence Debate a week or so ago, are our satellite towns, new power stations and new buildings being sited with any strategic implication, because if not they ought to be. We have now enough information for local authorities to be told what are the modern ideas of dispersal, and what range of dispersal is recommended for factories, hospitals and the larger units of accommodation. They should also be advised, on the information we have now, as to what is the best strength and design of building—this last point is very important—which might well save a large number of lives.
That brings me to a subject with which my right hon. Friend dealt very fully, namely, the subject of shelters. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us on what principle or plan have our present shelters been demolished or filled in; I should be interested to know whether our deep shelters have, in fact, been filled in? As my right hon. Friend said, the deep shelters are going to give the best protection, but the ordinary garden or surface 2661 shelter with additional protection would be quite satisfactory to those not near the actual centre of the explosion. Having dispersed the population and having tried to provide the best building and the most suitable shelters, we have to consider next when the people in these shelters are to be able to come out. My right hon. Friend said there must be some method of detection whether an area is radio active or not. There are instruments called Geiger Counters which will tell whether an area is radio-active or not, and to what extent.
I have always said that the type of building like the Admiralty citadel would probably be as good a protection against the atomic bomb as anything else, but when can the people in there come out and how long have they to stay there? We have the information that the two bombs that were exploded over Japan were done so at a height so that the radioactivity would not be too intense. If a bomb explodes on the ground radioactivity will be far greater than anything known yet. As is known, and as was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich, some of the ships used at Bikini were still radio-active and dangerous quite recently and had to be sunk. When I am lecturing on the atomic bomb, as I do from time to time, I am occasionally asked whether this bomb means we will have to have our houses built underground. I reply rather aptly that the Minister of Health is having enough trouble building them above ground. This does emphasise that the plan of dispersal, about which I have been talking, must fit in as much as possible with our ordinary day to day and economic life.
§ Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)
Does our ordinary day to day and economic life tell us where the atomic bombs are going to fall and where we should make this preparation?
§ Commander Noble
The hon. Member seems to have missed the point I was making. We have discovered now that the effect of the atomic bomb is limited and it would be very sensible to have our hospitals, factories and power stations so dispersed that if an atomic bomb falls only one of them will be affected, or as few of such important buildings as possible. As I have already said, we have got a lot of information 2662 already, and there is probably a great deal more up-to-date information which is not available to hon. Members of this House. Let us firstly have a comprehensive plan for dispersal throughout the country and let the siting of new towns, power stations, hospitals and large buildings be carefully considered within that plan. From that plan let us pass to the physical protection as outlined by my right hon. Friend and see that it is provided and that the buildings are most suitable to be constructed. Most important of all, let all this be carefully explained to the people of this country.
§ Commander Noble
As my right hon. Friend said, research is one of the most important questions in this field. We have to have a real defence against radiation and a real system of decontamination against radio-activity, for unless there are these there will be wide areas of this country which will remain relatively dangerous for a considerable period.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
It is a shocking commentary upon our time that we should be sitting in this Chamber this evening, less than four years after the achievement of total victory, deciding how we are going to protect our citizens against the terrible instruments of slaughter in the next war. This is indeed a tortured generation. Before we have drawn our breath after one war, we are getting ready to fight the next. Before we have built the houses which were destroyed in the last war, we are beginning to think how we should build shelters to protect our people from the next. Before the ink is dry or indeed before we have even signed the Peace Treaties, we are rattling our swords in our scabbards and hurling abuse at one another across the ether. It is a terrible commentary on our times, and how we can be expected to sit here and not feel any kind of emotion while we discuss such things, I do not know. Maybe the men can do it, but I know the women cannot.
However, I want to try to keep calm because there are one or two things which ought to be discussed. Having listened to this Debate and also to the suggestions which were made the last time we had a similar discussion, particularly in regard to Civil Defence, I have come to the 2663 conclusion that they do not bear any relativity at all to what we are supposed to be going to suffer in the next war. We always seem to start a new war with the weapons of the last, and here we are discussing how we shall defend ourselves from the horrors of the next war with the ideas of the last, for I have always understood that the way in which the countries of the world will be destroyed next time will be by the dropping of atomic bombs on the great centres of population and then sowing them with bacteria afterwards. Where in the name of the world is the relevance to that kind of war in the suggestions made by the Prime Minister in his statement? If we are going to leave some people in this country, they must do something or other to protect themselves against these weapons which are going to be rained down.
I remember when the New Towns Act was being debated, one of the things which the Minister of Town and Country Planning said was that some of the new towns were being built mainly for strategic reasons and would be about 25 miles from the great centres of population. It was hoped that we could disperse our people there. How can we do that if we do not know when the war is coming and we do not know what is going to happen and whether or no it is going to be a press-button war? How are we to get the people to those centres of population? There has been nothing said in these Debates that will bring comfort to our anxious people. Indeed, all that we seem to know is that after this kind of war the population is going to be reduced to a handful of peasants who will be scratching in the fields to build up a civilisation all over again.
I hope the Home Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary will bring a sense of reality to this Debate, because it seems to me that no one has done so up to now and that we are being frightened for nothing. Otherwise, these things are not true; otherwise it is not to be atomic bomb and bacteriological warfare, and all these terrible things are simply meant to work up a sort of hysteria and fear among us all. I wish I could accept the naive assumptions of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon), who thinks that people will not fight unless they understand what they are fighting 2664 for. I should not have thought that the hon. Member was very much younger than I am, and I have been through two wars in which people did not know for what they were fighting. Fear and hatred can always be whipped up, and we are beginning to do that at the present time. It is working up in the world today.
Two thoughts occur to me. The first is that if the Government are absolutely convinced that there is to be another war, they must find out how they can disperse our people into the Commonwealth. It is going to be no use whatever to leave anyone in this tiny island. I hope that what they decide upon in that respect will not be anything like what we had to do under the evacuation arrangements in the last war—and I had a lot to do with evacuation—when we had to break up families at a time of great tension. The psychological effect of that evacuation upon many of the more sensitive of the children of this country has been such that their lives have been practically ruined, and I hope that the Government will have that subject worked out very much better than was the case before the last war.
Finally, I would say—and this is much more important than anything which has been said in this Chamber tonight—the "Iron curtain" which we are told exists between East and West has today given place to a kind of sheet in a shadow-play across which both sides see a phantasmagoria of distorted, horrible, grotesque people passing. Someone has to tear down that sheet, and show people on both sides that we are all ordinary human beings hating war and longing for peace. Unless the Government can do that, the Government have failed in all that they set out to do.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)
The House, I am sure, thoroughly appreciates the deep sincerity with which the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) has just spoken. I agree that it is most important that nothing should be said in this Debate which would in any way increase hysteria or nervous apprehension. We have to examine the question of Civil Defence this evening as calmly as possible, but it is essential that we should not shut our eyes to the possibility that war may happen. I feel that it is our duty as representatives of the people of 2665 this country to see that these considerations are carefully brought out in the reply which we hope to hear from the Home Secretary at the end of this Debate.
My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) who opened the Debate really asked a series of questions of the Home Secretary, and pointed out that owing to the ignorance of both sides of the House as to the Government's intentions concerning Civil Defence it is impossible to make a speech which is not a series of questions. However, owing to the great experience he had during the last war, he was able to give to the Home Secretary much detailed knowledge of what happened then. I feel that Members on all sides of the House must await the Home Secretary's reply before they can clear their minds as to the shape of our future Civil Defence policy.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) stressed the fact that we needed a plan, and needed it as quickly as possible. I agree with him, but I feel it is impossible to make a plan until one has some appreciation of the weight and form which the attack will take. There has been delay on the part of the Government in making such an appreciation for those who will be responsible for planning our Civil Defence. They will include Government Departments, local authorities, police and the Armed Forces. Surely now it is possible, with our present knowledge of the form these new and ghastly weapons of war will take, to make such an appreciation. Therefore, to talk of a plan is really to talk of something which cannot be effective until the planners have this appreciation on which to work.
I am particularly interested in the function of local authorities in the new schemes for Civil Defence which are likely to be prepared. I was surprised to hear my right hon. Friend, at the end of his remarks, say that he spoke with considerable ignorance on this subject because he had had no official information as to what the plans of the Government were, but that he assumed these plans had been divulged in some way to local authorities. Speaking as a member of the L.C.C., I wish to tell the House that to the best of my knowledge there have been no conversations, official or otherwise, with the L.C.C., which after all is the largest authority in this country and the authority 2666 for the capital of our country, on the original Memorandum which was sent to them on 1oth December. A great deal of time has passed since then and I feel that this matter should at least have reached the stage of official discussions between the local authorities and the Government. I hope that the Minister who is to reply may have something to say on this disquieting delay.
From the broad outline of the scheme which the Prime Minister gave to this House, the functions of the local authorities appear to me to be very different from what they were in the last war. Then, if I remember aright, although the civil defence forces were, so to speak, under the operational command of regional commissioners, the administrative, housing and accommodation arrangements of those forces were matters for which the local authority was responsible. If I understand the intention of the Government, they propose, under their new plans, that the area commanders or controllers shall be responsible for both the operational and administrative control of all Civil Defence forces. There are probably considerable advantages in such an arrangement, but it will build up all sorts of complications unless the detailed planning is well and truly done. In war the Civil Defence forces will be operationally and administratively under the area commander or controller, but in peacetime the training of those forces must, as the Government admit, be largely a function of the local authority. Therefore, to hand over in wartime, to an outside central commander, a force which has done its peacetime training under a local authority, must be a matter of considerable difficulty. On that one point alone there should already have been considerable discussion.
I also feel that it should have been possible by now for the Government to give some lead to local authorities as to how they wish to recruit the civilian volunteer personnel who are to be the key to their new Civil Defence force. The local authorities have clear memories of the splendid, gallant and completely self-sacrificing work done by hundreds and thousands of men and women in the Civil Defence forces during the last war. There are many of those men and women available and willing to give their services again. I think that the time has come 2667 when local authorities should be instructed to recruit, at any rate, a volunteer cadre of men and women whom they know gave good service during the last war, and who would be prepared to form the initial corps of a new volunteer Civil Defence force for the future.
I feel also, and I am continuing to speak very much from the local authority point of view, that the Government should think again on the question of finance. I understand, from the intention they have, that large scale capital expenditure construction of new types of shelter, or the extension of existing shelters, would be borne by the national Exchequer. But I understand also that it is the intention that local authorities should bear the costs of what the Government describe as costs of a local character, subject to whatever grant may be paid in respect of the peace-time service to which the extended Civil Defence Service will be attached. In other words, supposing the Government say that the London Fire Brigade shall be doubled or trebled in size, that extra expense will be borne largely by the London ratepayer, and the Government will merely contribute its present quota of, I think, 5o per cent. of the cost of that service. The same thing would apply to ambulance services, and so on.
Surely, the experience of the last war has shown that Civil Defence is, in fact, a branch of the national defence? It became quite clear in the last war, and if there is the tragedy of another war it will be even more true. The principle that local authorities shall act as agents of the Government so far as Civil Defence is concerned should be accepted by the Government. Modern war has shown that it depends for its success largely on the destruction of the morale of the civil population. Those countries where adequate offensive forces are combined with a well equipped and disciplined civil organisation will prove to be the countries difficult to conquer. They are the countries which will cause the aggressors to hesitate before they decide to attack. I believe most sincerely that on the effectiveness of our Civil Defence forces will largely depend the future peace of this country. I would say to the House that we must not hesitate to plan accordingly, and we must not hesitate to act with urgency on those plans.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) said at the end of his remarks. I agree, for instance, that one of the most effective deterrents to an enemy would be for him to know that an active, strong, well-disciplined civil population lay behind the forces which were opposed to him. I do, however, feel that the hon. Member was a little unreasonable in one criticism which he made of the Government. He said that, if we are to plan for Civil Defence, we must know in detail what we have to plan against. That is, perhaps, easy to answer in a technical sense. We have heard from the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) a horrifying description of an atomic bomb plunged into the huge centres of population, and followed by a widespread diffusion of bacteria. Whether war would take such a form is, I think, a question about which we may have to wait some time—I hope we shall have to wait some time, to obtain an answer.
I hope that the grim joke in which the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) suggested that we shall soon have opportunities for improving our knowledge, will not be realised. Should an enemy decide to indulge in that kind of press-button war, he may find himself faced with certain dilemmas. Bacteria in the past, for example, have been extremely internationally minded and are unlikely, once they have taken control, to confine their activities either to one part of one country or, indeed, to one country itself The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) quoted a remark by an American to the effect that the only adequate defence against an atomic bomb was not to be there when it exploded. It may be that the best defence against an atomic bomb is for the man who gives the order to drop it to know that one is coming back to replace it in the country or origin.
Hon. Members who have spoken in the Debate this evening may be divided into two classes. One class says, "Let us press ahead with Civil Defence now, because the need is urgent". The other says, "Civil Defence is no good; therefore let us just wipe it all out and withdraw from this country 2669 and, in fact, give the potential enemy what he asks for without his having to fight for it." I should deprecate the latter course.
Some of the questions which the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities asked are not only fundamental, but go perhaps a little further than the right hon. Gentleman himself suggested. Certainly, they are no less fundamental than the question put by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) in the Defence Debate on 1st March. The question which the hon. Member for Twickenham put amounted to this. What is to be the nature of the central organisation which is to be in control, operationally, of Civil Defence? In relation to the little that we have heard about Civil Defence at all in the last year or two, we have heard a great deal about the rôle of the "military columns." I forget the exact phrase, but the intention clearly is that there shall be large bodies of troops devoted to, and ready to take part in Civil Defence work when there has been a major attack on this country.
There are, I think, two questions which have to be answered in regard to an organisation of that kind. The first is to what extent is our military manpower to be committed to such a rôle. The second is, if they are to be committed to such a rôle, what kind of organisation is to control them? I anticipate that, should a future war break out, the problem of manpower will once again dominate our minds. It was an overriding problem in the latter phases of the last war, and was almost equally acute in the latter stages of the 1914–18 war. It is clear that one of the enemy's first objectives would be gained were a great number of active, fit young men, who might take part in operations elsewhere, to be tied up in this kind of purely sedentary rôle. The danger is that by building an extremely elaborate organisation for Civil Defence in peace, we might precipitate the very danger against which we are trying to insure. On all the evidence I should have thought it much more likely that the catastrophic methods of war—the atomic bomb on the civil population, the widespread use of bacteria—would be used in the later stages to complete a victory and to annihilate, a more or less defeated foe rather than at the outset.
2670 If, as the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) suggested in a Debate before Christmas, the role of our Army is to be a limited one in future wars and work in Civil Defence is to be one of its major commitments, then indeed one is made to reflect whether the whole structure of Civil Defence may not need to be reorganised. The control of large bodies of troops on a national scale clearly will require a different sort of organisation from that which obtained in the last war when the work at the centre was largely co-ordination of the work in the various regions. I doubt whether the role of the troops is to play such a great part either in the life of the Army or in Civil Defence. I should have thought that they would have been by way of being supplementary helps to be brought in only in the last resort when a major catastrophe had occurred. I believe, with the hon. Member for Woodbridge that a well-trained and disciplined civil population is one of the main requisites for an effective Civil Defence. I would like my right hon. Friend to tell us what is the nature and extent of the training which he is preparing for the civil population, for the third line in the Civil Defence force.
§ Mr. Wells
The hon. Gentleman says that it is all nonsense to train people against rockets. I dare say that he is perfectly right. I was trying to say that there is no certainty in any future war of the kind of weapons that will be used. If indeed rockets were used, all one could do would be to train the population, and it would be useful training, to mitigate the damage which was caused. Another of my hon. Friends says, "Bury one another." Not all casualties even from rockets are fatal. Those who are not killed will require succour. One or two of my hon. Friends entertain conscientious doubts whether any form of Civil Defence can serve a useful purpose. It has been demonstrated in the past, and it may be demonstrated in the future, that it can serve a useful purpose. It is the urgent duty of the Government to prepare plans for Civil Defence without committing either our defence effort or our economic effort to an undue and disproportionate strain in the process.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
I have listened to this Debate and I did not think that anybody could say that one word of what has been said has been, in any form, of an aggressive nature. It is on the question of Civil Defence—[Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman may laugh, but does he deny that?
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
Many people in the world today are crazy. We are perfectly entitled as a Parliament to consider where we stand in the matter of protecting the men, women and children of our own country. I think that any hon. Member who does not consider the matter, however unpleasant it may be, is not facing up to the facts of life as they exist.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
Many people may be dead if we do not consider them. If the hon. Gentleman wants to interrupt, perhaps he will stand up and I will do him the courtesy of giving way.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that we were not facing up to the facts of life, but what he is discussing are the facts of death, not the facts of life. Let us face up to the facts of life and forget all this madness.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
I could answer that remark very easily but probably I should be out of Order. Other countries are not facing up to the things which the hon. Gentleman suggests.
It is impossible to evacuate the people of Great Britain. We cannot consider evacuating 45 million people, though we might consider taking a certain number of the children and old people. We could not possibly evacuate the whole of the nation. Therefore, the answer is that we must stay here and make the best of it. Today I read a speech by the present Prime Minister in 1938 soon after the Munich crisis. He asked some very pertinent questions about defence. I think that we are in the same position today. We are entitled to ask how we stand on the matter of Civil Defence.
§ Mr. Shurmer
The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the crisis of 1938. Does he suggest that there is a crisis now in 1948 and that we have something coming along in 1949?
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
I suggest that there is a world crisis at the moment—I do not say, in what degree, but there is a crisis and we must face it. A certain amount of interest has been taken in defence Debates, and I think that it would have been wrong if we had not had a Debate on Civil Defence. Today the three Fighting Services and the Civil Defence service must be integrated. When we come to discuss atomic bombs I must say that I know little or nothing about them, and therefore I cannot make very much of a contribution in that respect. When people say, "You ought not to be there when the atomic bomb arrives," I do not think that that is the answer. In atomic warfare the important thing is to drop the bomb first. If we wait for bombs to be dropped on us, very little will be left of Great Britain which will be worth while. I doubt very much whether we could really defend the country from atomic bombs.
I pass from that to consider what may be more elementary points in regard to defence which we learned towards the end of the last war. After all, at the moment, we imagine that the only country with the atomic bomb is the United States. We have no real reason for thinking that any other country has got it, so I will confine my remarks to the means of Civil Defence that we had at the end of the war. What is being done about giving warnings of V2s to the public? During the last war the V2 arrived and then the hooter went; everybody sighed and went on with their work. We must perfect and improve our radar in order to give some warning to the people. On the question of shelters, I agree that they are an eyesore, but they cost a lot to build, and I think it would be a pity to pull them down if we shall need to build them again. Let us grow some creeper over them and make them look as decent as we can, and let us see that all our underground shelters are maintained in a good state of repair.
I now want to refer to the communications system, and to inquire whether the Fighter Command system of telephones and radar is being maintained, because that is the system that gave us our warnings in the last war, and it is dependent upon Fighter Command. It was centralised at Fighter Command Headquarters, and the warnings were given from there. We do not want to 2673 cause additional work to the telephone system of the country if we can maintain a system which is already in being. On the question of the black-out, I would ask whether that is being considered by the Government. It is very questionable whether the blackout was effective at all in the last war, because bombers can drop their bombs by following the beam and working on interceptions. It might confuse an enemy if we had the lights on, because the black-out destroys the morale of the people, and it might be better not to have a black-out. Is that matter being considered as part of the plan for Civil Defence? Are we also getting out a number of decoys and dummy airfields and so on, because it was a fact in the last war that decoys collected many thousands of bombs which otherwise would probably have landed in the populated areas. Are our food supplies being dispersed as they were during the war?
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
We are constantly being told by the Minister of Food that there is ample food, and the hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. However, I do not propose to follow his interruption. If the hon. Gentleman wants to interrupt and will stand up, I shall give way.
The people want to know where they stand in this matter, and I ask the Minister to be quite frank and tell them what he expects of them. May be, he does not know yet, because it is difficult to assess what has to be done, but he should let the people know as soon as he can where they stand in this matter. I implore him to get out some plan for the evacuation of children. It will be a big job, but, nevertheless, whether it is to be done by ship or by air or both, there is a real danger that we shall not get the children out of the country should the necessity arise. I ask him to give this matter as much consideration as is being given to the Fighting Services.
§ 8.43 P.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
This has, indeed, been a remarkable Debate. I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) that we should be frank, and I think that the Estimates for Civil Defence are far more important, as the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea 2674 (Commander Noble) has said, than the Estimates for the Fighting Services. What do we find? We have had three Debates on the Fighting Services, and I have opposed every Estimate. We have budgeted altogether for £305 million for the Army, £153 million for the Royal Navy and approximately £150 million for the Royal Air Force, a total of £600 million. How much are we budgeting for now in what are called "Home Office War Services" in this Estimate? I find that this year we are actually spending £7,166,700, as compared with £12, 989,780, or £5 million less than was spent on Civil Defence last year.
But let us examine the Estimates a little more closely. We find that of the Estimate of £7,166,700, a sum of £4,200,000 is being spent on dismantling the old air-raid shelters, including those which bear the name of the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), and on the reinstatement of land and buildings. Again, we find that of this £7,166,700, the grant to local authorities in respect of Civil Defence services comes to only £1,200,000. Then there is the further sum of £1,272,000 to be paid by way of compensation to war victims, so that what we are actually spending on preparation for Civil Defence is an infinitesimal sum. Indeed, we are told that on the examination, storage and distribution of respirators and other equipment we are still spending £105,700. Further down in the Estimate we are told that the protection of vital public utility services is this year costing nil as compared with £75,000 last year. The fact is that compared with the £6oo million for the so-called Defence Estimates, practically nothing is left of this £7,166,7oo for the practical organisation of Civil Defence.
I ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he is going to reply, what is the attitude of his Department at this time regarding gasmasks. I put a question to the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty a fortnight ago about gasmask drill in a naval detention prison. He informed me that for a quarter of an hour every Wednesday the men double round the parade ground in gasmasks. Does the Admiralty still hold the view that for the preparation of the sort of atomic war we have been discussing tonight we have to train men in going about in gasmasks? The people who bring forward these Estimates should be indicted 2675 for high treason for thinking of carrying on a war under those conditions, especially in view of what has been placed before this House by hon. Members who have some technical knowledge of what atomic warfare involves.
We have heard today the most amazing speeches ever made in this House. We have been told that we must instruct our local authorities to make plans. Plans for what? To build air raid shelters when they cannot carry on building houses? I would like the Home Secretary to tell us what instructions he is giving to local authorities in view of the possibility of an atomic war. Hon. Members who know a good deal more about warfare than I do expressed a slight ignorance of what might happen in the event of such a war. I will read to the House a quotation from a publication entitled "The Atomic Bomb," published by the atom scientists of Chicago, which deals in detail with what happened in the cities of Japan. It says:A single bomb, reported to have exploded at a height of 1,000–1,5oo feet, totally demolished more than four square miles of Hiroshima.I wonder what would happen if one of those bombs destroyed four square miles of the City of London, or the City of Glasgow, with its crowded warehouses, tenements and its teeming slum population.Structures as far as ten miles from the centre of the blast were reported levelled. Sixty thousand persons were killed; 150,000 more were casualties.This is no phantasm of the imagination. According to the research scientists of America, this is what actually happened.A second bomb, dropped a few days later at Nagasaki, was reported to be an 'improved' model, making the first bomb already obsolete. Even though the terrain was less favourable than at Hiroshima, the damage was more severe. The atomic bomb is a weapon of saturation. It destroys so quickly and so completely such a large area that defence is hopeless. Leadership and organisation are gone. Key personnel are killed. With the fire stations wrecked and the firemen burned, how control a thousand fires? With the doctors dead and the hospitals smashed, how treat a quarter of a million injured?This is not a propaganda dream: it is a statement of the scientific people who investigated what actually happened in a 2676 war. We are now told that atomic bombs are a hundred times more powerful than when Japan was knocked out of the war.
We have had theories about dispersal and I have listened respectfully to the military experts. Reference has been made to the theory of dispersal in which it has been argued that we must disperse our munitions factories to various parts of the British Empire; for instance, Winnipeg. Already in this Debate hon. Members have pointed out the enormous practical organisational difficulties of taking munition workers, and all associated with the production of munitions, over the Atlantic to man these factories at Winnipeg. It cannot be done. We have not got the aeroplanes and we have not got the steel for the ships. As far as I can see, this dispersal theory, if it ever does work out, will mean in practice that the General Staff of the organisers of this war are going to be dispersed somewhere within the British Empire while the working classes, in the crowded slums and tenements of our industrial cities, will be called upon to stay at home and face all the effects of this warfare.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Government may be in Ottawa and we may get speeches across the ether telling us that we must carry on and shed more blood and sweat and tears.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)
May I ask the hon. Gentleman who, on his assumption, is going to drop this atom bomb?
§ Mr. Hughes
I assume that the people who are going to drop atom bombs are the people who believe that we are going to drop atom bombs on them. It is we, Western civilisation, who dropped the atomic bombs on the East. I hold no brief for any nation that drops atomic bombs. I wish this nation would give a lead to civilisation and say that we are not going to be the pioneers in atomic warfare in a vain idea that it is a measure of defence for this country. I would remind the hon. Lady what actually happens in the event of atomic warfare. Here is a quotation on Hiroshima by a well-known American publicist:Mr. Tanimoto (Pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church) found about 20 men and women on the sandspit. He drove the boat 2677 on to the bank and urged them to get aboard. They did not move and he realised that they were too weak to lift themselves. He reached down and took a woman by the hands, but her skin slid off in huge glove-like pieces. He was so sickened by this that he had to sit down for a moment. Then he got out into the water and, though a small man, lifted several of the men and women, who were naked, into his boat. Their backs and breasts were clammy, and he remembered uneasily what the great burns he had seen during the day had been like: yellow at first, then red and swollen, with the skin sloughed off, and finally, in the evening, suppurated and smelly…He lifted the slimy living bodies out and carried them up the slope away from the tide. He had to keep consciously repeating to himself, 'These are human beings'.'I say to this House—this is a great Christian nation, and yet we are preparing for atomic warfare in which scenes like those will inevitably result. Where is the Christianity of which we hear so often in the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer?—only for export. Where is the Christianity when there is talk about organising this nation for the horrors of atomic war?
Finally, I want to give a quotation from a scientist who I believe realises that we have to face this matter from an ideological point of view, and that we have to go back to the philosophy of the Quakers and adopt the point of view of non-aggression as preached by the leader of the Indian people who was shot not so long ago. This is a quotation by Dr. Lonsdale, D.Sc., F.R.S., in "Atomic Scientists' News," of 17th October, 1947:I believe very strongly that if we were to agree to press for the policy outlined by Professor Mott as an alternative to the accumulation of atomic bombs, namely, an open statement that we in Great Britain were making no stockpile of atomic bombs, and an invitation to the Russians and everyone else to come and see that this was so, we should introduce enough fresh air into the present tense atmosphere to enable the people of all nations to breathe freely again. After all, what better defence is there than to be above suspicion, and what possible foundation for world cooperation other than mutual trust?I submit that as a result of listening to this terrifying Debate we can only come to the conclusion that modern war is bankrupt, that we are wasting £600 million in our Estimates for this year, that our Civil Defence Estimates are absolutely irrelevant and paltry, and that we will have to reverse our whole international policy and take up the attitude that this nation could lead the way towards a new civilisation if we abandoned altogether the ideology of war.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Bechervaise (Leyton, East)
I, with others, regret that there may be a possibility of having to use Civil Defence forces again. I do not think any assistance is to be gained by putting up guys and proceeding to knock them down, and, in a self-righteous manner, charging the Government with endeavouring to bring about atomic warfare. I remember that similar discussions took place before the last war. There was one element which held that it was profoundly wrong to discuss Civil Defence, and they would have nothing to do with it. Generally speaking, they were the first people to go to their Anderson shelters and get their gas masks. Then there was the other element which drew very vivid pictures of what would happen in gas warfare. That did not happen. I remember how unrealistic, according to HANSARD, were the Debates in November, 1937, on preparations for Civil Defence, in which there were arguments about who was to pay. How unrealistic was the atmosphere can be seen from the reference in those Debates to bombs ranging from 25 1b. to 500 lb, in weight. As a result of those discussions, there was considerable delay in organising the Civil Defence forces.
I was associated with the Civil Defence force from its inception and became a controller. When the war started, we had fire brigades which were anything but adequately equipped, and some time after the war had been in progress the question of water supplies had not been considered, brigades were short of the fire hoses requisite to do the job, and in some cases stand-pipes were not available. Adequate ambulances were not available.
We started the last war with a Civil Defence force which ultimately proved itself worthy of the highest recognition of the nation, and I think we are justified in discussing Civil Defence now. The right hon. Gentleman who initiated the Debate, the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), is largely responsible for our getting on to this atom bomb discussion, with all its attendant horrors. Whether it is atom bombs or high explosives, we have a responsibility to see that there is adequately organised Civil Defence force in this country. If Parliament can spend a day debating the Army, Navy and Air Force Estimates, I say Parliament is justified in devoting 2679 at least a few hours to discussing the organisation of Civil Defence.
I am sure that the Government will do their utmost to establish the best possible relations with every other nation in the world. They have manifested that desire. At the same time, we must be prepared for any eventuality, and we must and should be prepared to do what we can for the civil population should anything happen. As a result of mere platitudes and ideological talk, we would not do away with fire brigades because fires are undesirable things. In the same way, we regard bombs, of course, as a disaster for the civil population. Heaven knows some of us have seen the results of high explosive, rocket and "doodlebug." The Civil Defence boys did a really good service and were as brave as anybody in the front line trenches, and ultimately at least became organised, but it took a considerable time.
I am going to appeal to the Government not to make a military force of the Civil Defence force. I believe they should be organised in a very similar manner to the organisation which we had during the war, and the responsibility should not be placed on the local authorities. As a matter of fact, whilst the local authorities did set up emergency committees and A.R.P. committees and did a great work in this subject, in the main the business was in the hands of regional control, handed down to the area. I believe there are quite a number of people, not of military age, not likely to be called up, who are fit and suitable to be trained for Civil Defence purposes. I believe there should be a national force and it should be administered by region down into the areas, organised and efficient. As there have been many pleas that the Territorials should not be short of those things which are necessary for their training, so, if we are to make a start with Civil Defence, the force should be adequately trained and have adequate equipment.
In previous Debates on military, naval and air matters, reference has been made to research. For the work of the Civil Defence forces there is plenty of room for research. Surely, it is not beyond the wit of science, which has advanced so far, to overcome the difficulties which confronted heavy rescue squads in the last war? At times heavy rescue squads worked right through the night looking for people they 2680 believed were in the debris, and eventually dogs were brought along in an attempt to trace those who were buried. If science has not already devised some method, there should be further research so that more scientific means might be employed in discovering bodies among the debris.
In a number of fields there is room for considerable improvement. In the last war the Civil Defence organisation was largely a matter of improvisation, and, although it was very efficient, it never reached the stage at which we should like to have seen it. That is not the sort of force we require now: we want something more than improvisation; we want an organised body of men and women who are sensible of their responsibility; we must encourage them in every way by giving them the proper equipment with which to train; and there must be adequate research to provide them with all the help science can afford. I ask the Minister: How many instructors are now available for the Civil Defence force? How many schools for training the necessary instructors are there in the country? I hope that that side has not been neglected. When the organisation is set up, I hope that it will be done as thoroughly as the organisation of any regiment of Territorials, as befits a section of the community from whom we expect so much, and who rendered such valuable service in the last war.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Kinghorn (Great Yarmouth)
I am very glad to have the opportunity of speaking for a few minutes on this topic at the end of a very interesting Debate. One thing which has emerged, and which is apparent to all, is that for the future, in both defence and attack, we must envisage one whole force. The jobs which would have to be undertaken by the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and Civil Defence will be of very much the same nature in any future conflict. In order to assess what that future conflict will be, we need to study very closely what took place during the last war, what methods were used, and particularly what methods were adopted in bombing warfare. I am probably the only hon. Member who, throughout the war, was able to see, day by day, the results of our bombing and the building up of our great bombing technique—carried out, mainly, of course, by heavy bombers.
2681 We have heard some horrific stories produced from the professors in Chicago about the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. If hon. Members could have read some of the reports I had to read after our own bombing raids on Hamburg and similar places, they would have been seen to be just as frightful. What would emerge, were they conversant with those details, would be that the old system of Civil Defence, however good and well administered it was in this country, would not be the slightest use against any enemy who adopted, not merely the atomic bomb technique, but even the technique we were using at the end of the war. I remember stories coming through —perhaps from prisoners of war—after some of the bombing raids, when the inhabitants were whirling through the streets like flaming torches; and Goebbels himself said over the German wireless that the streets of Hamburg were flowing with fire.
Again, there was the dreadful raid on Dresden—which had never been one of our targets—towards the end of the war, when the Russians were more or less at the gates. Those raids cannot be compared with the raids undertaken by the Germans over our territory, because the Germans never built up a bomber force at all. The biggest mistake that Goering ever made was in not building up a bombing force. The raids which were made on London were very small indeed compared with the raids which were made on the German towns. We have to take the job in hand and try to work it out, not from our point of view, but from the point of view of the Germans. Even if war never breaks out in our lifetime, the Government of the day must work these things out and be prepared.
Dispersal has been mentioned. Dispersal of population is an obvious remedy against the bombing of this country, but as a great project it is, of course, out of question. We cannot ship all our population to some part of the British Commonwealth, but we can at least consider a long-term policy in this respect, and the various Ministers concerned should have this matter in mind. We should realise, as the economic Minister of Alberta said, that Alberta is a country which is three times the size of England and Wales, and that it could be used to find accommodation for some of the 20 million inhabitants which Canada needs.
2682 The same is the case with East Africa, which will be used and is being used now in connection with defensive measures. We all know that Lord Montgomery went to Kenya, and that developments are going on there. We all know that the centre of things will shift from these islands and that defensive measures can be undertaken there, such as would not be possible in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
We should all appreciate that any potential enemy in another war who wanted to attack our food supplies would not have to build up a large fleet of U-boats to sink our ships in the oceans. We showed the Germans in the last war that all that is needed is to set fire to the prairies and burn the grain. The Germans had perfected before the end of the war a very long-range heavy bomber, which they were able to fly across the Atlantic, and, as far as we know, it flew across the Atlantic on its tests. But, they had to concentrate on fighters to protect themselves from the American bombers by day and ours by night and they never went any further with it. Some of the defence organisations we have in mind, which are based on our own limited experience, may come to nought in the end. We have to take a wide view, realising that bacteriological warfare can take place and that our defence is in the Commonwealth. Our developments must in future take place mote and more with the Commonwealth, because only in that way shall we meet with success.
We gained some experience during the last war with the little town of Lubeck. We made appreciations months ahead of what would happen if we tried to set fire, after the dry summer season, to that medieval town almost entirely built of wood. We gained experience in one night, when we proved that we could burn it down completely without dropping any high explosive bombs at all. Some German scientists will be studying the results of that from their experience at the receiving end. And so, a great new technique of warfare will come into being. We have had enough warning from the things we were able to do, and therefore we had better take steps to see that we can cope with anything which may take place, bearing in mind that the problems we shall have to face in the future will be something far more intensive than the problems the Germans had to face in 1945.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I am sure the House will have great respect for the opinions of the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghom), who has much practical experience of aerial warfare offensives, and has been particularly interested in the speech of the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Bechervaise), who has much practical experience of the question we are discussing tonight. I, for one, was particularly impressed by the practical side of his remarks, and his obvious experience and direct acquaintance with Civil Defence. Many points have been raised in a comparatively short Debate, and it would be futile for me to try either to recapitulate them or to make more small points. The best service I can do is perhaps to attempt to underline some of the things which have been said, and which seem to me, from my very limited experience of this subject, to be important.
I think we need make no apology to the Government Front Bench for raising this particular matter, in view of the increased offensive power of modern weapons and the present international situation. The points which have been raised can be divided into two broad categories: first, anxiety as to the preparations which have been made to meet any sudden contingency, that is to say, if we should blunder into war in the next few years; secondly, the arrangements which are being made to ensure that in the more distant future we shall have an adequate, up-to-date and well-planned Civil Defence service. I agree very much with what was said by the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning), that it is peculiarly melancholy that so soon after a great war we should be discussing this subject once again. Nevertheless, it would be unwise and, in my opinion, negligent of the Government if they were to disregard the possibility of our blundering into war, and needing suddenly some well organised safety measures during the next few years. I believe the House would feel happier if it were sure that something was in train, and was being organised in the event of such a contingency.
So far as I know, nothing has been said or written to reassure us on that point. I believe that every hon. Member owes it to his or her constituents 2684 to see that something is done to ensure that in the event of our blundering into war arrangements have been made which can be put into effect quickly and smoothly. For instance, can we be told that such obvious things as gasmasks are available? I do not know what the new gasmasks will be like; I do not know whether they will he available, although I should say that the old ones have perished. What about mobilising those whose knowledge and experience of Civil Defence was available to us in the last war? Have orders been prepared for the B.B.C. to broadcast as was done in the last war? Have measures been considered for the evacuation of a certain percentage of the population? Are children to be evacuated? Have all these things been considered or have they been filed and put into abeyance because the Home Office are so busy with many other things? Will the Government have to make a sudden effort to take ad hoc steps which can only result in inefficient counter-measures to a very dangerous and a very present threat? The House deserves an explanation of the measures that are in hand to deal with such a short-term emergency.
I pass now to the question of the main arrangements and principles which have been enunciated concerning the evolution of our future Civil Defence. A memorandum was circulated to local authorities and, I understand, to the Press. I have a copy in my possession, which I have read with some care, and I would like to make a few comments on the steps that are being taken in connection with our future Civil Defence services. The memorandum quite logically divides the question of Civil Defence into two categories: first, the steps to be taken before the bomb drops, namely, the preventive steps; and secondly, the steps to be taken after the bomb drops, namely, the remedial steps. Let us take the question of the preventive steps first. The memorandum states:The provision of structural protection for the civilian population and for industrial plant, communications, and essential supplies and services…in due course provision will also be made…I think that the general opinion of anyone who has read the memorandum is that, so far as preventive measures are concerned, there is a somewhat leisurely tone about it—"in due course"—"in 2685 the future"—" close study "—" in the course of the years "—" as the situation develops," etc. I must confess that I quarrel most strongly with that attitude towards preventive measures.
I will explain to the House why I do so. I believe this to be a very matter. At the present time, many plans are being made for future construction of various kinds. Let me illustrate what I mean. I know personally of an architect who is designing several factories. They will not be made for four, five or six years. He is making the designs now because it takes a very long time to design a factory. He has asked whether the Government have any special modifications to be included in the designs before they are approved by the firm and eventually erected when the permit comes along. The answer he has received is that there are no special directions. It is my contention that this question of the policy on preventive measures should have been considered and settled as a far more urgent priority than is the case. Policy must be designed early; then announced, and thus incorporated in the plans, or in the design of the factories, or whatever it may be.
Let me give some more illustrations. I understand that at present the Ministry of Transport are designing certain large underground garages to relieve congestion in Central London. I am told that these garages are being designed as a long term project; but the designer is now making the plans, and he would like to know of any special modification in design, concrete, ventilation or any other matters essential from the point of view of defence. The same applies to the railways. We have certain electrification schemes under discussion. Is there any general policy with regard to them? No.
The Government may say that they have had all too little time to consider this matter. But at the end of the war Hiroshima had happened, and we knew about the rocket. We should have immediately instituted a committee to consider the matter. In fact, the matter is now under leisurely consideration, and there is no policy available by which plans now being designed can be guided. I say that this is inexcusable and ought to be put right at the earliest possible moment.
2686 May I say a word about dispersal on a rather broader scale than has been mentioned in the Debate so far? When talking about dispersal on a global basis, there are wiser and older people than myself who say it is not possible to do anything of this kind. The reason they give is that we are now struggling to recover our industrial and economic supremacy, and we cannot monkey about with this question of dispersal throughout the Dominions or the Empire. Therefore, we must lump it and, so far as any kind of disadvantage through our vulnerability from air or atomic attack is concerned, we cannot seriously consider preventive steps.
On the other hand, I have been sufficiently fortunate to have been able to discuss this matter with leaders of the biggest firm of war potential that there is, and they did not agree with that attitude. They maintain that just as shadow factories were created in the years before the last war, so in the same mariner something can now be done to give us some kind of Empire and Colonial dispersal. That has been done by the biggest single firm in this country in Australia, Canada and South Africa, but it has been clone through private enterprise on their own initiative. Surely, this matter should be considered on a Governmental basis, in conjunction with the Chiefs of Staff. So far as I know—the Under-Secretary of State will no doubt inform us on this —it has not been considered. Surely, we should consider certain essential aspects of war-time production with a view to taking measures now to ensure some degree of dispersal. If war came upon us, such measures would not be out of tune with the development of certain industries throughout the Dominions and Colonies and with a pronounced trend of emigration which is now evident. It would surely be of some value if the Government would take a more serious view of some preliminary measures in that respect.
The next point I should like to mention in regard to preventive measures concerns the centre of government. I opened a weekly illustrated paper the other day and saw that the Government propose that the wartime centre of government underground in Great George Street, from which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) 2687 conducted the war, shall be preserved as a museum. As a corollary, if this is to be a museum, it is apparently considered that it would not be of any great use in the future. If war came upon us again, have the Government considered seriously the removal of the real nerve centre of the whole of England—the seat of government? I well remember during the war there was a certain feeling in some quarters that those in Whitehall were trying to save their own skins. That does not enter into it. If the whole of the communications and the method of disseminating Government orders and rulings are left concentrated in Whitehall and no arrangements are made for evacuation and dispersal if war comes, in these days of atomic weapons we are being guilty of the most appalling, lamentable, and culpable neglect of precautions. I wonder whether the Under-Secretary can give us an assurance in that respect. We went into the last war most lamentably unprepared, and I hope we shall not go into the next one as unprepared, because there would be nothing worse for the morale of the people than to have the seat of government, the B.B.C. and all the other means of giving orders and instructions disrupted through an early and unlucky hit.
May I pass on to another point of the memorandum, on page 2, from which I should like to quote to the House:…the special requirements of the future will dictate a greater mobility, and a completely unified command…In this subject of Civil Defence, this seems to me particularly important. Who is really responsible for effecting that command? We all know that the Home Secretary is charged with this particular responsibility. We also know that he is preoccupied with a large number of other tasks. That is proved by the fact that earlier in the day he spoke, quite rightly, about the police. He cannot give his undivided attention to this matter. Who, then, is responsible? Is there someone under him in the Home Office who has that responsibility? The knowledge which has come to us on this side of the House from the announcements which have so far been made is that Sir John Hodsoll is responsible for training; Major-General Irwin has a joint planning staff over which he presides; and we have also 2688 been told that Dr. Paris has been appointed as Scientific Adviser to the Home Office. That is all well and good. These gentlemen have their various functions of science, training and planning to perform.
My anxiety about this question of Civil Defence is about who is really responsible. Many Ministries have a responsibility in this respect, but my feeling is that the present set-up has all the makings of the most dangerous thing in Whitehall, namely a form of collective irresponsibility. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman, bearing in mind the much increased importance of Civil Defence, might be well advised to put the responsibility for this matter under someone under himself, who would co-ordinate the various Ministries and be responsible, under him, for all aspects.
I wonder how seriously the right hon. Gentleman has considered that; how seriously or otherwise he is worried about the chance of this matter not going forward owing to the fact that no one is responsible. I see that the Under-Secretary does not look as though he agrees with me, but there are so many Departments involved which have so much to do and are already preoccupied. I see that the Minister of Health has come in. He has an immense responsibility in this particular subject, but he does not seem very much interested in it. How much is he doing to discharge that responsibility? He is preoccupied with building houses. How much is he really doing, and who is "egging him on" to do something about it? It is beyond my sphere to do that in this Debate. In the last war he had a somewhat dubious reputation as an amateur strategist. He kept demanding "Second Front now." How about his demanding "Home front now" in the Ministry of Health? It would be a healthy and consistent method of advocating Civil Defence. I commend that to him.
I wonder if there is anyone in the Home Office to do what I have suggested? The measures for which an overworked Department like the Ministry of Health are responsible are very far-reaching. Perhaps we can be told something of the measures which have been taken in that respect, because when one considers evacuation, health, drainage and so forth, it will be seen that the Ministry of Health has a great burden to bear. It is difficult to do these 2689 things with a staff which is preoccupied with a housing problem of the magnitude of that which faces us, and is trying to put that straight.
My last point concerns personnel. It has been mentioned both in the memorandum and in this discussion that in the event of war or the threat of war coming suddenly upon us, the Civil Defence machine will be helped by the immediate assistance of the mobile military columns. I hope that the Under-Secretary will give us a little more detail in this respect. These mobile military columns will be required at a time of great crisis, when the threat of war, or even war itself, is present. At that time, in my opinion, from what I know of the future structure of the Army, there will be a cadre of the Regular Army, and the Territorials will not be mobilised. The situation will be that the Regular Army will be immensely preoccupied with attempting to mobilise, the Territorial Army. Judging from the last war, every Regular soldier available will work about 20 hours in the 24.
Does the hon. Gentleman mean to tell me that, in the middle of all that, he will be given these mobile military columns from the Regular Army? If he says "no," then I ask, from where will they come? The Territorial Army will be unable to furnish them. I am sorry to say so, but, in my opinion, the mobile military columns are a bit of window dressing. I do not believe that the War Office can implement its promise to provide them. I commend the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary to go very carefully into this matter, because if they have priority, then mobilisation will be slower, and if mobilisation has priority they will not get their military columns.
The question of personnel for Civil Defence is skated over in the most ingenuous way. It is a most praiseworthy effort, so far as prose style is concerned. Does the hon. Gentleman honestly think that, at a time when we have conscription, at a time when we have the greatest difficulty in finding volunteers for the Territorial Army, we shall get people to volunteer for part-time training for this vital matter of Civil Defence? I believe most strongly that he will never get people to volunteer, unless he offers some bait. There is no evidence of the bait that is necessary, if he is to get recruits. If he does think that he will get them, I would say to him that this 2690 country is sick of the buckets of sand and the spades that we used to fall over, and that he will find it hard to find these men unless he makes it worth their while to volunteer. Unless he gets sufficient volunteers to make the framework or a hard core on which to build, it is my contention that the volunteer organisation will fail.
The Home Office is very busy and somewhat overworked. Inevitably, most of the big Departments which co-operate in this vital matter are also very busy and overworked, because never before have our great Ministries been required to do so much. In addition, the general public is naturally averse from this topic of Civil Defence. With the pre-occupation of the various Ministries, and the public aversion -from this matter, I say there is the greatest danger of very few steps being taken realistically to cater for the event of a sudden emergency. Nothing has ever been said to reassure any conscientious Member of this House that the safety of his constituents is being looked after in the event of war within the next five years. I believe that I speak for every Member on this side of the House when I say that we shall follow most closely any Government statement on this matter, and, unless we feel reassured, we shall raise it again at the earliest opportunity.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Younger)
The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) opened this Debate upon a strictly practical note. He made a number of observations of a very interesting kind about administrative, technical and scientific matters. He said very little about the broader background to the problem of Civil Defence. He did not discuss why we should be talking about this subject at this time. Other hon. Members who followed him made up for his omission, and many and various points of view were expressed. A number of hon. Members referred in pressing terms to the urgency of the matter. Perhaps the most extreme example of that was in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred early in his speech to the question of sending out orders. He asked, "Are the orders out?" As I understood it, he was referring to orders 2691 corresponding to those which were sent out for the issue and distribution of gas masks in 1939. That was the context in which he asked, "Are the orders out?"
§ Brigadier Head
Either I said it wrongly or the hon. Gentleman misheard. I think I asked whether the orders are ready, sitting in the Home Office, so that they could be sent out in an emergency, and not whether they had been sent out.
§ Mr. Younger
I am glad to think that the statement was not quite as extreme as I thought it was. Nevertheless, I think that the hon. and gallant Member is moving very fast if he really thinks that detailed orders of that kind should at this moment be ready and drafted.
§ Mr. Younger
That may be the hon. and gallant Gentleman's opinion. I can only say that it seems to be a somewhat extreme point of view. On the other hand, there were a number of hon. Members who appeared to think that the whole of this Debate was unnecessary, if not rather crazy, because, in any event, the United Kingdom would be untenable, conditions of atomic warfare would make all Civil Defence impossible and we might as well give up before we had begun. I am sure that many of us felt a good deal of sympathy with the emotional reaction of the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) to the fact that we are now, so soon after the last war, discussing questions of Civil Defence. Emotionally we may feel considerable sympathy, but I think that in the light of all these diverse speeches it is only right that I should attempt to put this problem a little bit into perspective, and make a few general remarks before I tell the House something of what we have already done and what we are planning.
It is perfectly clear from this Debate that the term "Civil Defence" covers an extremely wide field. Normally one thinks principally of the Civil Defence services proper, the warning systems, the black-out, the fire service, the rescue services. One also thinks of fairly large-scale enterprises such as the restoration of damaged public services, the emergency medical service and everything of that kind. But, of course, Civil Defence also goes a great deal further than that. It 2692 involves inter-departmental planning including practically every agency of government. It involves the dispersal of key installations; questions relating to advance buying of food in order to build up stocks, storage and distribution, and a vast range of problems which must be faced in order to keep transport and communications in action under war conditions. In addition to that, not only must one envisage large-scale air attack, but also, probably to a greater extent even than in the last war, it would be proper to plan for the possible isolation by military action of complete areas of the country which might have to carry on on their own.
That is something of the range of the problem which is involved in Civil Defence, and I think it is clear that, if we were to perfect and put into skeleton form, if not in operation, a complete system of defence covering the whole of that range, we would certainly profoundly affect nearly all our peace-time commercial, economic and social activities. I am not saying necessarily that that would be wrong, but I am asking the House to face the fact that, if we were to have a system covering that range, scarcely any peacetime activity would be unaffected.
One would have to be thinking in terms of the distribution of our industries largely on military, or hypothetically military, grounds, and of the building of new towns, not only of the siting of new towns, but the nature of the buildings and the types of structures, particularly for public or industrial buildings. We should also have to face very considerable diversion of our productive effort, both in materials and also in manpower, for producing the defensive apparatus, and also manpower in the sense of a skeleton force, at any rate, of Civilian Defence workers standing by.
It is quite obvious that we have to try to strike some kind of balance between, on the one hand, being caught entirely unprepared for an emergency, and, on the other, developing a large defence system too soon, and consequently having to maintain it too long, and having to maintain for a long period elaborate and costly services which, when the day arrived, we should find would be equipped with very largely out-of-date equipment. I am sure that hon. Members, looking back to the experiences of pre-war days and the early 2693 days of the war, will realise that there is an immense advantage which goes to the man who has gone into production last, and one always has to be on one's guard against having production on a large scale of equipment which is quite out-of-date when it is required.
We found that in the course of the last war. We saw the speed at which this technique of Civil Defence can get out-of-date. I think I am correct in saying that we planned with a view to day-time raids of short duration, but, already, by the beginning of 1940, we were finding that it was not so much that; but nighttime raids of very long duration that we had to face, and, consequently, our defence services had to be adapted. By 1944, they had changed again, and we were facing attacks all round the clock by guided missiles; and when 1945 came, although we were not the people to suffer from it, we had before us the spectacle of atomic bombing, which, of course, raised entirely new and revolutionary considerations from the point of view of Civil Defence.
§ Brigadier Head
I think everybody realises that this question will involve changes as the years go by, but have the Government, quite apart from a long-term policy for the creation of Civil Defence arrangements, any plans to deal with any emergency which might arise?
§ Mr. Younger
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to continue. I suggest that, after a great war, the first task to be undertaken is a careful analysis of experiences, not only of ourselves but of other countries, to see how far that experience may be applicable to the future.
The immediate prosecution of research on the highest possible priority—research into the scale and types of possible new attacks, and possible new means of creating defences against them—seems to me quite obviously to be the main task upon which one should engage at the end of a great war. Simultaneously, perhaps, tentatively, because this depends on the progress of one's research, we can attempt to develop some type of new modified organisation—a planning organisation—for planning ahead during the years of peace, and it is only when we have got some distance with our analysis and research, and, probably, also the setting up 2694 of our central planning organisation, that we may hope successfully to take any practical steps about recruiting the personnel, training them, providing the equipment and bringing some knd of system into existence.
Obviously, the timing of a programme of this kind is, in the circumstances, a matter of argument. Different people hold different opinions. At any given moment it may be thought that the Government or, perhaps, the local authorities are lagging behind, or even that they are going too fast. In any case, the timing of this programme must depend on a combination of political, strategic, and economic appreciations of what is going on in this country and in the world outside. There-fore, one cannot be dogmatic about the speed with which the programme should be developed.
In principle, I should have thought—perhaps I may get the House to accept this—that very thorough planning and research, probably over a substantial period, would be likely to pay very big dividends in the long run, and that we should not lightly allow ourselves to be stampeded either into cutting short research or committing ourselves, unless we feel we must, to some particular type of equipment, method, or organisation and, perhaps, involving ourselves in costly and half-considered arrangments. In a matter of this kind, I think the House would possibly agree that prolonged planning will probably produce better results, and not necessarily any slower results, in the long run. In this field, as much as in other aspects of defence, we must avoid the obvious danger of planning for the perils of the war that is past. We have to have our basic research and some clear idea of what we are up against before we can put any great and costly machinery into operation.
With these remarks I would like briefly to say what has actually been done. First, as many hon. Members must know, there has been a very intensive analysis of the experience of the last war, not only in this country, but of the experience of bombing in Germany, the atomic bombing in Japan, and so on. It has certainly not been pursued at a leisurely pace, which was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton. It is being, and has been, pursued very intensively. The Defence Research Policy Committee has 2695 this among many other subjects within its purview, and there is every reason to believe that it attaches a high priority to it. All the aspects of research into Civil Defence are bound up with research into forms of attack, and there is no reason for anybody to think that this is being overlooked.
Mention has already been made of Dr. Paris who, as was recently announced in another place, has become scientific adviser to the Home Office, and who will be responsible for ensuring that my right hon. Friend and his advisers in this Civil Defence matter are kept fully apprised of new developments, and that the requirement, of Civil Defence are kept continuously before those engaging in research.
§ Mr. Younger
This is a question of building up the machinery. I would not say that there has been any delay at all in the prosecution of research. It is not altogether unreasonable to suggest that, at any rate one, or, perhaps, two years, would be necessary before one could say precisely what administrative machinery was best designed to apply the results of that research. After all, the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows as well as anybody else in this House that there was highly developed machinery for coordinating matters of this kind in existence at the end of the war, and that by no means all of it went out of existence. There has been a very considerable interchange of information between all the relevant Departments.
It is perfectly true that Civil Defence, like other Defence Services, has been running down, but I repudiate any suggestion that there has been no machinery in existence. We have got to the stage when, having thought over the whole administrative question, we are beginning to build up a new and modified form of administration for the future. I do not think any useful purpose would be served by my talking in detail about technical and scientific matters. I would only say that research on this matter covers all the aspects mentioned by hon. Members, including that connected with gas, bacteriological warfare, and so on. I think the House can rest assured that these matters are in the hands of very eminent 2696 scientists. As hon. Members know, the Committee is under the presidency of Sir Henry Tizard. Those scientists can be relied upon to deal with all aspects of the matter.
Reference has been made to certain other topics on which we have done something, although I would not pretend that we have done nearly enough. I refer particularly to the dispersal of key installations and factories, and the further question of the standards which will be adopted for big buildings with a view to air defence. I am not claiming that everything, has been done which perhaps might have been done in the last two years. The machinery has perhaps not been wholly adequate. The Home Defence sub-committee, however, which until recently was the body concerned with this subject, has not overlooked the question. As far as Government buildings are concerned, the Ministry of Works has a great deal of information and experience on this matter, and applies that information and experience in the buildings done to Government order. Where there has perhaps been too little organisation has been in the relations between Government agencies and industrial bodies who are building.
There has been one very great difficulty, which will continue for some time. It is a great limitation due to shortage of materials and to the economic requirements of many of these factory buildings. No matter what may be recommended by experts, it simply is not possible to expend another 5 or 1o per cent. of steel on the building of industrial buildings at present with a view to eventual air raid protection. One must expect that at this time the working out of this scheme in practice must be somewhat incomplete. Here, as in so many aspects of defence, we find that economics and strategy are in conflict, but the whole question—these two matters of dispersal and building standards which are desirable—will be very high on the list of matters to be dealt with by the joint planning staff which is now in existence and to which I will refer presently.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
Would the hon. Gentleman say whether any instructions have been given to local authorities for giving protection in basements, which, after all, exist, in the new blocks of flats which are going up in every large town?
§ Mr. Younger
I am sorry that I cannot answer that question offhand. Indeed, there are many details of this kind that I certainly cannot answer now. I cannot go on giving way the whole time.
§ Mr. J. H. Harerose——
§ Mr. Younger
There are probably 300 practical questions of this kind which could be asked of me. Unless I am to go on speaking for about an hour I must really be allowed to cover the question in a more general way. I have already made it quite clear that, on a very large number of detailed matters, instructions have not gone out. On the particular topic which I have been discussing—the question of form which building should take—I have said that, apart from building being done under Government auspices, the machinery has hitherto been somewhat imperfect, and that the joint planning staff will, very early on its agenda, be considering how the machinery in this matter can be improved.
§ Mr. Younger
Really, I do not know why the hon. Member should have asked that question, for I answered it only a moment before. I cannot deny that no instructions of the kind have been issued. I cannot say without notice what instructions have been issued, but I certainly cannot deny the fact. I have no information that they have been issued.
Another point to which I would refer relates to what we have been doing regarding shelter policy. It is not possible, here and now, to formulate any general policy. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman who first raised this question thinks that it is possible. He talks as though there was already enough information available of the effects of atomic bombing to enable us to say, here and now, what can be done with surface shelters, how they should be covered and so on. I do not think he is wholly correct. After all, even if we do know what happened when the first and second bombs were dropped on Japan, atomic warfare like other things moves on, and it would be highly dangerous to be dogmatic about 2698 what can or what cannot be done at this stage in respect of shelter policy.
That is another matter which is largely a question of research, but I can say—and this answers a question which I was asked—that the deep shelters which existed in various parts of the country, and which prima facie seem to provide good protection against even atomic war fare, are still in existence. I am not aware that any of them have ceased to exist. I know of a number which are being maintained in reasonable condition. Of course, there are some which were intended to be used for other purposes after the war, but I do nut think that they have been put to those purposes, such as underground railways in London. I do not believe they have been adapted; in fact they still exist and they are being maintained. Therefore, there has been no question of those deep shelters being allowed to go to ruin or in some other way to be destroyed. The research on this problem of shelter protection continues.
I do not wish to take long in talking about organisation and planning, but it is the principal point on which I have been questioned and I want to devote a few minutes to it. There have been certain rather brief Government statements by the Prime Minister in November last year and by the Minister of Civil Aviation in another place as recently as 17th March this year, and of course the Home Office Memorandum to local authorities with which many hon. Members have shown in this Debate they are familiar. As regards the central machinery of planning, the principal inter-departmental committee is now called the Civil Defence Committee which is the successor to what used to be the Home Defence Sub-Committee of the Defence Committee. Its name has been changed for purposes of slightly greater accuracy, because the Defence Committee might be taken to include the defence of this country by the Armed Forces; therefore, the term "Civil Defence" has been employed. This Committee has been enlarged. It includes all the departments which could possibly be concerned in this problem, whereas the Sub-Committee of the Defence Committee was rather smaller in its composition.
At the next level there is the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff to which reference has been made. That is centred 2699 upon the Home Office, and its chairman is Major-General Irwin, whose name has already been mentioned, formerly Chief of Staff to the i4th Army, who has recently been appointed for this purpose to the Home Office. Upon this staff there will be representatives of all the civilian and all the Service Departments. They are not all at this moment appointed—at least I do not think they are—but most of them are, and the staff is expected to meet very shortly after Easter. All Civil Defence problems, both those directly related to the Civil Defence Service and the wider ones of co-ordinating interdepartmental activities over a very wide field will come within the purview of this staff, and we believe that this machinery will prove satisfactory for central planning. I was particularly asked whether there was a division of responsibility which has led to confusion. I do not think that is so. It is clear that the chain of responsibility runs from this Joint Staff up to the Civil Defence Committee, and from there to the Cabinet, and I do not think that any greater unification in that matter is called for.
After all, the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities laid it down as one of his principles that responsibilities for particular parts of the Civil Defence programme should continue to lie with the appropriate Ministry. If we accept that, the problem is one of co-ordination and not of bringing all the immediate responsibilities under a single body. The way in which all our joint planning staffs are appointed in our system of government is through committees, and I think it will be agreed that the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff and the Civil Defence Committee above it seem to meet the case in this particular sphere.
§ Brigadier Head
I apologise for interrupting and I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I quite agree with the importance of having a committee to co-ordinate all the many Departments concerned with this matter, but I want to ask—and I believe the House will be interested to know—if the Civil Defence organisation is a mess and nothing goes ahead as the Home Secretary directs, how are we to know whose is the fault? We cannot blame the committee. I am only asking that somebody should be in 2700 charge of Civil Defence in the same position as the Prime Minister was in regard to defence in the war; that it should be somebody's fault and somebody's responsibility.
§ Mr. Younger
There is no doubt whatever about the Cabinet responsibility in this matter. The responsibility is on my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. If the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton remembers, there was a discussion, I think in the Defence Debate which followed the first White Paper on Defence, whether it should not have been on the Minister of Defence, but it was quite clearly stated, and the reason explained, that it was to be on the Home Secretary. It is all very well for the hon. and gallant Member to suggest that my right hon. Friend is too busy to deal with it; many Ministers are busy—I believe they are all busy—but that does not alter the fact that there is a completely clear and completely undivided responsibility in this matter.
May I pass to the Home Office Memorandum to local authorities to which there has been much reference? Some hon. Members clearly had copies, either because they themselves were members of local authorities or otherwise had obtained them. It was issued to the Press at the time——
§ Mr. Younger
I think a very brief summary was given quite correctly by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) who sits behind me. In that Memorandum, as has been stated, three main categories were mentioned—the military mobile column, the local mobile service, and the local static forces. A good many questions have been asked about the military mobile columns and their role. In the Home Office at the present moment steps are being taken to work out, in conjunction with the War Office, a programme which we hope will ensure that proper Civil Defence training is given to military personnel. That is a matter which is only in the process of being worked out and I cannot give precise details as to what is likely to emerge from that training programme, which in the Home Office is in the control of Sir John Hodsoll, whose name is very well known to all those who have engaged in Civil Defence.
2701 The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities asked whether it was now the idea that the military should have primary responsibility or whether they should be only considered to have duties to come to the aid of the civil power. Of those two alternatives, the latter is undoubtedly the more correct, as it is fully appreciated that in circumstances of war, the precise details of which it is difficult to envisage, there will be a great call on military manpower and there will be a great strain on the Regular forces, as the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton said, and also on the Territorial forces which will be mobilising, or just mobilised. It is appreciated that in certain circumstances they may have to be called away from the Civil Defence duties, maybe because of an actual military threat and, therefore, they have to be regarded in Civil Defence generally as reinforcements, someone to help in emergency——
§ Mr. Younger
We hope they will be available in many instances, but certainly there may be occasions, in some areas of the country, when they would not be available and, therefore, everything possible has to be done to have an adequate system without them, if it can be managed. The mainstay of the civilian side of this system is to be the local mobile service. In peace-time they would be part time and largely voluntary. In war, inevitably, they would have to become mainly wholetime Civil Defence workers. It has been stated in the Memorandum that these will be based upon existing services, notably upon the police and fire services as a nucleus.
I was asked what precisely would be the role of the police. I would emphasise that this Memorandum, setting out the plan which I am now describing, is specifically put forward for discussion; what is in it is not absolutely rigid, and it is open to modification in the light of discussion and argument. It has been pointed out that one of the great difficulties of the whole of this Civil Defence problem will be shortage of manpower, and that is a compelling reason why the Home Office, in the first instance at any rate, put forward a proposal that the existing services—notably the Police Force and the Fire Service—should form the nucleus of all the other 2702 services. Under this category of local mobile services would be included almost all the services generally associated with Civil Defence, such as the ambulance and rescue services.
Thirdly, we have the local static force which again would be voluntary, and would certainly include the old wardens and fire guard services, but might—and this is put forward in the Memorandum for discussion—involve a much wider proposal for the enlistment of the part-time help of every able-bodied citizen. In the last war, in some areas the Civil Defence service was not far from involving every able-bodied citizen. That may have to be further developed, and Civil Defence training may have to be extended to everybody. It is proposed, at any rate for the peacetime phase, that this, too, should initially be organised by the police; but that again is a matter for discussion.
§ Mr. Keeling
Could the Under-Secretary say something about the proposal of the Home Office to make local authorities pay half the cost of the local static force? That proposal will certainly arouse strong opposition, and will hold up arrangements.
§ Mr. Younger
I had hoped to come to that in a moment. I can assure the hon. Member that that is a matter which local authorities have not overlooked in the comments they have already made to the Home Office upon this Memorandum.
There are a number of other very important services which do not fall strictly within these three categories, such as the Emergency Medical Service, special Civil Defence units for factories, public utilities and other possibly isolated installations, and organisations for the restoration of public services. All those will have to be included, and will be very largely departmental responsibilities. For instance, obviously the Emergency Medical Service will have to be based largely upon the National Health Service, with the cooperation in certain respects of local authorities. For all the despondency shown by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton, I think that is fully in accord with what his right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities laid down as a principle when initiating the Debate.
In peace-time all the local services will be recruited and administered locally.
2703 There are training schemes which, I confess, have not actually begun yet, but which will be devised centrally under Sir John Hodsoll. It is not really surprising that at the moment there should not be training schemes and training schools in existence, and I feel that I need make no apology for that. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton himself pointed out that, on the whole, people are bored stiff with Civil Defence, and this would not be a good moment to try to start voluntary schools and classes—when the problems are still in a somewhat undigested state, when they could be given no up-to-date equipment for meeting the new dangers which would have to be met in a new war, and when, as he said, they are not predisposed to take an interest in the subject.
In the course of this Debate, not much has been said about the functions of the regional organisation, the regional commander, or the regional controller. In order to meet any possible criticism by local authorities, I would say that it seems that, with the greatly increased power of destruction of modern weapons, destruction might very easily not be isolated within a local authority area, but might cover virtually the whole of a local authority area. Therefore, it seems that, operationally, it is vital that the area to be covered should transcend the area of almost every local authority in the country. It is this fact of the greatly increased destruction which has to be envisaged that dictates the proposal that there should be a regional rather than a local-authority organisation.
The finance proposals are specifically put forward in the financial paragraphs as the basis for discussion. The proposal is that the Exchequer will pay all major capital expenditure, and that local Civil Defence services will, as far as possible, be attached to existing services and attract a grant on the same scale as the parent services. We are now awaiting comments on these proposals. Most of the comments have come in from local authorities, and we are expecting very shortly to have meetings with local authorities on many aspects of this Memorandum. I can assure the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare), who seems to think that there has been great delay, that, in fact, there has not been any delay. Local authorities 2704 were asked to make their comments only by mid-March. It will be seen, therefore, that the time has only just passed when these comments should be in, and conversations are about to begin.
§ Mr. Younger
I think that it did, but this is a matter which requires a certain amount of cogitation, and it does not seem that the delay is unreasonable for the digestion of an extremely important subject. That is all I can say about the organisation which has been set up. I have dealt with a central planning organisation. I have not added much which could not be gathered from the various Government statements which have already been made, but I hope that I have made it plain that there is a well-defined responsibility, with a committee and a joint planning staff below it, and that above all there has been and is research continuously into all the things which Members would wish. It is quite untrue to imagine that research has not been prosecuted very energetically merely because the results have not been, probably quite rightly, made public.
The Government and their advisers are fully alive to all the problems which have been raised in this Debate. Before this Debate began, I knew that many questions would be asked to which I should probably be unable to give concise answers, but I can assure hon. Members that the views they have expressed will be a contribution to this matter, and will be taken fully into account by the Government and in the conversations which take place. Inevitably, there are many unknown facts which still defy assessment. It is very understandable that there should be impatience, particularly among those who gave such good service in the war, and who are anxious to see that the personnel and the organisation do not fall away.
I must ask for some further patience. We are very anxious to retain their goodwill, but there must be some further time before there can be any voluntary recruiting and training undertaken. We welcome very much the activities of the Civil Defence clubs which have been set up and are helping to retain many former members' interest in this subject, and 2705 enable members to come together and in many cases hear lectures giving information about the results of the analysis by the Government staff of the experience of the war. It would not contribute to morale to start training prematurely when there is altogether too vague a problem for them to handle. I do not think that it would be any contribution to efficiency to equip them until rather more is known about the precise equipment which will be needed. I ask the House to accept my assurance that research is going on in no leisurely manner but with great energy, and that there is now, in being, appropriate machinery for the co-operation of the many agencies inevitably involved in this problem. His Majesty's Government while giving way to no ill-founded panic, have in no way under-estimated the importance of proper preparation in this important sphere of defence.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Would the Under-Secretary say that the Government accept the principle that if Civil Defence is in a proper state of preparedness it can, in fact, act as a deterrent to war, and have an effect before war begins? All that he has said tonight seems to suggest that the Government are regarding Civil Defence only as being of use after a war has begun.
§ Mr. Younger
I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot have been listening to any of the things that I said about training. I devoted part of my speech to the peacetime organisation, and if he had been following my argument I think that he would have realised that that must of necessity apply to a period before war has broken out.
§ Mr. Howard (Westminster, St. George's)
We have had a great many references to the Memorandum. Could that Memorandum be made available to hon. Members?
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.