HC Deb 30 November 1948 vol 458 cc1863-6
Mr. Peake

I beg to move in page 2, line 25, to leave out "exempt," and to insert "exclude."

This is merely a drafting Amendment. Clause 2 provides for the exemption of certain functions and we think the right phrase to use is to exclude certain functions.

Mr. Ede

I think the word suggested by the right hon. Gentleman is the better word for the purpose of the Bill, and I have much pleasure in accepting the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. C. Williams

Would the Home Secretary give us an explanation of this Clause? It is a Clause of considerable importance and, dealing as he does with the functions of the police and matters of that kind, I feel that we should benefit from such an explanation, especially one or two hon. Members who sit behind the right hon. Gentleman. It is clear that there are a number of hon. Members who wish to be in a position to understand the Bill, especially those who are on the other side of the Committee. We on this side understand the Bill, but I feel we' should like, on the authority of the Home Secretary, a real explanation of this Clause which was not fully explained on Second Reading.

The Deputy-Chairman rose

Mr. Williams

But I did ask the Home Secretary for an explanation, Mr. Bowles, and I feel sure that he was prepared to give it to me.

Mr. Ede

The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) should not assume that he is the only person who may wish for information on any particular Clause and that when he sits down the whole business on the Clause is finished. I was anxious to see if any other hon. Member wished to speak before I replied. As a matter of fact, I had just risen from my seat when the Deputy-Chairman rose.

This Clause deals with the Civil Defence functions of local and police authorities when the Bill comes into operation. With regard to the Amendment that was not called, namely, in page 2, line 7, to leave out from "for," to the third "the," in line 8, which was a similar Amendment to that on the first Clause, I am not at all proud of the words that are in the Bill. I recognise the force of some of the criticisms that have been urged against them, and between now and the Report stage I shall try and find some words which I can put into the Bill to make the meaning possibly clearer, and which will not be quite so ugly in their construction.

6.15 p.m.

This Clause deals with the position of police authorities and local authorities under the Bill, and empowers the making of Regulations to ensure that the various functions of the local authorities shall be carried out under regulations made by the Minister in such a way as to conduce to the most effective Civil Defence that is possible in the circumstances. I wish to make it quite clear that in all these regulations we shall, before making them.

take into consultation the recognised associations of the local authorities. If we are to get effective working in this sphere it will have to be by willing cooperation, and not by the imposition of duties on local authorities where they feel that those duties are imposed in circumstances which will not enable them to do full justice to them.

Under Subsection (2, c) if there should be a local authority or a police authority which fails or refuses properly to discharge the functions, it will be possible for the Minister who is designated for that particular purpose either to perform the service himself or to get someone else to do it—possibly some neighbouring local authority or some commissioner—and to charge the local authority with the expense of carrying out that service.

Here again, as I said on Clause 1, we shall endeavour, in consultation with the local authorities, to have regard to the possible nature of future wars and not merely to be bound by what proved to be more or less efficacious during the 1939–45 war. As our joint planning staff evolve ideas we shall consult with them as to the most effective way of bringing those ideas into operation in the various localities.

Mr. C. Williams

I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman, but may I say in reply to what he said in the first place that there was no question of my thinking that after I was replied to, that was all. The last thing I would ever do would be to try to prevent any one speaking on matters of this sort which are of such wide interest to the nation as a whole. I was a little afraid that the right hon. Gentleman might not get his speech in, and that was the only reason why I did rather encourage him.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman very sincerely for the reply which he has given and I particularly welcome what he said about Subsection (2, c) where the Minister, in certain circumstances, can have the power to operate a method of doing the work for the local authorities. It will not be necessary in most of the local authorities which are well administered. It will certainly not be necessary anywhere in the West of England. But from one or two speeches which we have heard today it is conceivable that Socialist authorities might make trouble over this matter, and I am glad that he has taken the bold line and put this in the Bill so that he may be able to deal with any recalcitrant authority. I feel sure that the authorities which he must watch most closely are those which are Socialist controlled, for those are the real danger because of what is known as the Communist trouble.

Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)

What is the position where the area of a local authority and the police authority do not combine? Would there be any conflict in such a position?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. The local authority will discharge functions as a local authority and if it is not a police authority it will not be called on to discharge police functions. In the counties the police authority is the standing joint committee which is not a local authority at all but is one of the amazing hybrids that, somehow or other, get into English local government. That is why it is necessary to distinguish between the local authority and the police authority. Over the greater acreage of England and Wales, the police authority is not a local authority at all.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.