HC Deb 30 November 1948 vol 458 cc1902-4
Mr. Burden

I beg to move, in page 5, line 20, to leave out from "brigades," to "are," in line 23.

On Second Reading I found it necessary to refer to the position of local authority staffs who were affected by this Clause. Since then the Home Secretary has received representations from the National Association of Local Government Officers and has, I know, given them most careful consideration. It is my hope that it will be possible to meet the substantial representations made about the wording of the Clause as drafted while ensuring that my right hon. Friend has the efficient Civil Defence services that are so necessary today. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to deal with the matter on Report in a way which will be satisfactory to all concerned.

Mr. Ede

I have received representations from the National Association of Local Government Officers that they regard these words with some misgiving as placing them in a category different from the rest of the civilian community. It must be clear that there are certain functions with regard to Civil Defence which can only be discharged by the employees of local authorities and that it is desirable that such employees should undergo an appropriate training in order that they should be fitted to discharge those functions in time of war.

I am exceedingly anxious, since we have decided to make this Clause as voluntary in principle as possible, to meet any reasonable misgivings of the National Association of Local Government Officers I can, consistent with having full preparation made to deal with emergencies, should they unfortunately eventually arise. I understand that these negotiations will be continued tomorrow. I will undertake to give full consideration to the points of view that are put in front of me. If it should be proved that legitimate misgiving can be found in the words that my hon. Friend has moved to leave out, I will endeavour to find more suitable words that will not make the local government officers feel that there is any invidious comparison made between them and the rest of the community. At the same time, I must expect that effective preparations can be made.

I am sure that everyone who was connected with Civil Defence during the war has nothing but praise for the way in which local government officers carried out duties that they never expected to have to bear when they first joined the service. Everyone recognises that they discharged those duties in a highly patriotic way, often in circumstances of great risk and danger, and that there was quite an appreciable number of casualties among them in the course of the operations. I have no doubt that the spirit that animated them then animates them now. Should they unfortunately have to undertake those duties again, they should be fully equipped to discharge such functions as fall to them.

Mr. Burden

In view of what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, in page 5, line 29, to leave out Subsection (2).

This Amendment is intended to fulfil a pledge which was made by the Minister of Health, on my behalf, upon the occasion of the Second Reading. If we are to make a concession we may as well make it as fully and as graciously as possible. The best thing to do is to delete the Subsection. There are some Amendments on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) which would entail the retaining of the penalty for failure to come up on embodiment. I rather think that embodiment is the first stage when we get beyond the proper provision to be made in this Bill. We should make it clear that there are no threats used and that people who undertake the engagement as volunteers will be expected to live up to the obligations they have undertaken. We shall hope that there will be sufficient mutual pres- sure brought on them by their comrades in the service to ensure that they adequately discharge the obligations they have undertaken.

Sir J. Anderson

In view of the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman has given, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee are content to concur in the Amendment, although it goes further than what we had ourselves proposed in our Amendments.

Mr. Burden

I hope that the Committee will allow me to express my appreciation of the Home Secretary's action in moving the deletion of the Subsection. I called attention to the matter in the Second Reading Debate. It is very gratifying that the Home Secretary has responded to what I believe was the almost unanimous wish of the House upon the Second Reading.

Amendment agreed to.

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