§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Birmingham, King's Norton)
I do not suppose there is a Member of this House who does not deeply regret the fact that we need to discuss the question of Civil Defence today. I suppose it would have been almost unthinkable to most of us in 1945 to imagine that by 1950 this House would once again be debating the subject, but of course we all know, particularly after the statement we have just heard from the Prime Minister, that it is necessary to look to our defences, and although Civil Defence is essentially civilian and passive in its nature, it is an integral part of defence as a whole.
We are bringing this subject forward today, but I want to make it quite clear at the beginning that we are not doing so with the object of making a general attack upon the Government. Some 39 people may think that the Government have been slow in the matter, and that they may be in danger of being overtaken by events; but, to be quite fair to them, they have had serious difficulties, which I shall come to in a moment. But our object today is to elicit information and, indeed, to offer assistance and encouragement to the Government in preparing proper Civil Defence plans.
The Government, of course, must have the responsibility for making plans and for laying down the organisation for Civil Defence, but they need the co-operation of the civilian population; therefore, in my view, the Government have a right to expect from other parties support with regard to public opinion, and particularly in the matter of recruiting; and that we shall certainly give. I emphasise, however that it is for the Government to take the lead.
Now, I referred just now to difficulties. I think the greatest difficulty is the general revulsion from the whole idea of war. Everybody feels it. I suppose that it is felt as much by members of the Government and by Members of this House as it is by the ordinary members of the public; and that does constitute a pretty considerable difficulty. All but the very youngest children have experienced one war, and a large number of other people have experienced two wars; and it is not as if this country has had a very easy time since the war, what with austerity, and so on.
I think it is particularly difficult at this moment because, whatever economic difficulties are lurking in the background—and many there may be—there is at the moment a sense of progress, and, indeed, I may say, of great normality. Hon. Members opposite may possibly forgive me for thinking that the disappearance of their swollen majority, and the fact that we now have a more even balance in this House, has something to do with promoting a greater feeling of normality in the country. Certainly the concessions that have followed the General Election—for example, the de-rationing of petrol—and the more even balance have had a considerable psychological effect. I noticed that even the Minister of Town and Country Planning was to be found dancing in the coalfields of Durham over the weekend.
40 The fact is that it is, at this moment, particularly hard to turn one's mind from the possibilities of peace to the grim realities of defence, and particularly of Civil Defence, because Civil Defence, unlike the professional Fighting Services, whose technical occupation it is to prepare for war, involves the civil population, and involves turning their minds to the disagreeable subjects of casualties, decontamination, escaping from bombed buildings, and even now of atom attack.
Therefore, I think we ought to recognise this difficulty and face it. I believe the beginning of wisdom in this matter is to face this difficulty. Every person, from members of the Government down to Members of this House and members of the public, has to face it. As a matter of fact, we have certain advantages in facing it, and one of them—paradoxically, since there is a great revulsion from war because of the wars—is the fact that the population to a great extent have had experience of war. Therefore, they know in their hearts that if it did come, such a method of Civil Defence would be necessary and would save life.
Secondly, apart from an insignificant minority, I think that in this matter we have unity in all the great parties of the State. The last thing I want to do is to be controversial this afternoon, but some hon. Members may recall that that was not an advantage which we had in the Home Office in the early days of A.R.P. preparations before the last war, because one of our great anxieties, was that some Socialist-controlled local authorities would not co-operate. I can assure the Government today that they will have no difficulty in that respect with authorities which may be controlled by our friends in the country. We can therefore go forward with a greater sense of unity than we had in a similar period of preparatory work before the last war.
A second great difficulty is the psychological impact of atomic warfare on public opinion. I suppose that there has never been a weapon of war which has entered upon the world's stage with so much of drama and of mystery. The public knew nothing even of the existence or the development of the weapon; suddenly it was used with dramatic power, and a great war in the Far East was immediately brought to an end. 41 Well, since then we have had a great amount of information and of horrible details, and there has been created in the public mind not only, quite properly, a sense of the sinister horror of the weapon but also a sense of gigantic mystery in regard to this extraordinary weapon.
In addition to that, we have had a good deal of exaggeration, and I see that the egregious Dean of Canterbury, speaking yesterday, said that the effect of the atomic bomb would be that stones and rocks would melt 60 miles away from the explosion. I believe that the Home Secretary could probably assure us that that is not likely to be the case; but the point I want to make is that at the moment public opinion is shocked by the detail, the mystery and the exaggeration with regard to the bomb.
Now, I would be the last to deny the dreadful qualities of this weapon, but I utterly repudiate a defeatist attitude with regard to the defence of these islands in regard to it, and I should just like, if I may, to remind the House of certain instances in the air-raid precautions before the war in which we faced problems that were rather similar psychologically, although I admit not quite so great in scale. Hon. Members may recall how the menace of poison gas was treated in regard to public opinion in the years immediately before the war. Goodness knows, it is a terrible enough weapon: there was chlorine to choke one, phosgene to kill one quickly, and mustard gas which not only attacked the lungs but could injure and even kill by application to the skin. Scientists wrote horrific articles about what would happen in the event of war, giving the impression that no kind of defence at all was possible against such a weapon. I remember one article by a scientist in which it was said that a gas cloud would drift over the whole of Southern England, including London, and that life would be insupportable and impossible.
How did we tackle that particular problem? We had research; we got down to details; by intelligence and other methods we found exactly which were the gases to be feared; their chemical properties and their toxic qualities were analysed; gas masks were devised to deal with or mustard gas we had special masks and protective clothing; 42 as training for the people who would have to deal with contaminated areas—incidentally, contaminated areas not unlike in some respects, though different in kind from, the menace with which we have to deal from atomic warfare—and so on.
The sequel is rather curious, because it happened that at one stage, while I was occupying the office of Under-Secretary of State to the Home Office it was thought wise to send me on an air-raid precautions tour of the European capitals. When one thinks of it in retrospect, it is rather curious to notice that I was received in a very friendly manner by Goering, by General Milch, his immediate subordinate in the Air Ministry, and by General Stumpf, then Chief of the German Air Staff. I well remember the apparent sincerity with which they gave an assurance that they would never be the first to use gas.
I do not know whether it had anything to do with it, but we were already accumulating considerable retaliatory stocks of gas for use in case it was used by the enemy; and we had already by then accumulated a stock of respirators for the entire civilian population. Curiously enough, when I was allowed to visit a German civil gas-mask factory, it was perfectly obvious to me that they had not by then prepared for even a fraction of their civilian population. At any rate, in the event this terrible weapon, against which we made so many considerable preparations, was never used.
But I would remind the House that there was another tremendous scare in relation to the incendiary bomb. It was calculated by experts that they could be dropped in enormous numbers; that that would cause a chain reaction of fires, which would speedily cause whole areas to be completely out of control. Now this weapon was used; and, indeed, it turned out to be a terrible one, as we know from the bombing of the cities in this country and the incendiary bombing of Hamburg and Tokyo—and the Home Secretary has, if I may say so, very usefully pointed out that the loss of life and, in some respects, the destruction of those two raids was greater than that caused by the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
43 How did we tackle it? Again the thing was worked out. The experts decided that there must be fire pumps, and as a matter of fact I remember giving the first order for the auxiliary fire pumps when I was at the Home Office. Also, people had to be trained—and trained in what a way! I wonder whether hon. Members recall the joke, the laugh that spread over the country when all the clever gentlemen found it wise to make fun of Sir Samuel Hoare and Sir John Anderson when they first proposed that the incendiary bomb could be dealt with by air-raid wardens and Civil Defence personnel with the aid of buckets, sand and shovels? The clever cartoonists let themselves go, and we were shown all those ridiculous pictures of those right hon. Gentlemen making those absurd plans. Yet when we were up against the danger—and up against it in a great way—the plans worked.
Now I suggest to the House, with great diffidence, that that should be the method of approach to the menace of the atomic bomb so far as Civil Defence is concerned, always bearing in mind that, of course, that is not the only defence for us; there is also active defence, with which we are not concerned this afternoon, which may help at any rate to reduce the actual impact of this danger. Already we know something about it. When it is broken down from its mystery, there is the flash-burn, blast, and the radio-active effect. Now flash-burn—and I speak with great diffidence, because I know no more really than other hon. Members in the House, and we seek guidance from the Home Secretary—flash-burn, although serious, and I believe fatal, is in fact of very short duration; it is instantaneous; and I am advised that protection can be afforded by a relatively thin covering, and those who are taking proper shelter indoors away from the actual fall of the bomb have a very good chance of passing unscathed from flash-burn.
We are familiar with blast—unhappily familiar with it—and with the way in which the blast effect of bombs increased enormously during the last war, and how we had to adopt new methods of strengthening our shelters, and so on. Of course, the blast of an atomic bomb is enormously greater than the blast of any explosive we 44 have yet encountered. Still, it is not a mystery; it is something that we know about. I believe it is a fact that comparatively simple shelters of the earth type, in the ground but not deep, stood up extremely well to the atomic explosion. As to the radiological effect, we have something completely new on which we desire the complete attention of the Government. Here again, I believe—although I will not weary the House with it—we can break it down into various particular factors, and that at least against some of them preventive and protective measures can be taken, including our old friend the protective clothing of the mustard gas days.
May I suggest to the House that we are agreed that, on the whole, the right way to approach this problem is now, in a general programme, to revive the Civil Defence structure and plans which worked well in the last war, with certain important modifications for dealing with this new menace of the atomic bomb? From inquiries that I have made of local authorities and others, it is clear to me that the Government have already done a considerable amount of preparatory work. I assume that the planning of this work is done at the highest level by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and by the Chiefs of Staff.
I should like to ask the Home Office spokesmen today whether they can give us any details of the co-operative planning at a rather lower level. I believe there is a Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff already in existence, and I should be grateful if we could have some details of how it is working. No doubt there is also working with it, fairly closely, the Civil Defence College, which, when it was opened, was attended by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff; and I should like to express, on behalf of my hon. Friends, the appreciation that we feel of the cordial co-operation that the fighting Services are giving with regard to Civil Defence in various parts of the country.
Although this planning is going on at this level, I think everyone will agree that it is inevitable that the local authorities will still play an enormous part in civil defence. They must. I understand that, owing to the heavier scale unit attacks which we must expect under atomic warfare conditions, it is believed to be a sound policy—and I would agree with 45 that, so far as I am advised—to have a much larger area of local authority or much bigger local authorities responsible in general for the work. I understand that there is a system of zones—areas liable to special attack for their strategic and industrial importance—and that regions will be provided with mobile Civil Defence divisions of the new Civil Defence Corps. The Civil Defence Corps is, I believe, a Crown service, although it will be raised by the local authorities.
I should like to put to the Home Secretary one general question about cooperation with the local authorities. My recollection is that in air-raid precautions plans before the war, the general scheme in operation was for the Home Office to ask the local authorities to prepare their own schemes. It is true that the Home Office provided a model scheme as a guide, but the local authorities were asked to make their own schemes which, with the approval of the Home Secretary, became the official schemes for their areas.
There seems to be a change in the procedure. At present we appear to be operating under a series of codes issued by the different Departments. I have not heard of the same initial responsibility being put on the local authorities to prepare their own schemes; nor have I heard of any model scheme proposed by the Government and given to the local authorities as a guide. The right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary will see that in this matter I—I expect in common with a good many other people in this House and in the country—am in a state of some ignorance as to exactly what is proposed. What I am anxious about is that the change in procedure may reduce the willing co-operation of the local authorities, which is so essential to the success of the whole scheme.
In talking to people in the country who are connected with local authorities on this matter, I have found a sense of frustration. Whether it is justified or not, I cannot say. Our purpose is not to exploit it or to exaggerate it. Our purpose is to bring it forward, so that it may be allayed or removed by the Government. I think that to do so the Government will, as soon as possible, have to tell the local authorities what their plans should be, tell them what the Civil Defence establishment can do, and particularly inform 46 them what is the establishment of a Civil Defence mobile division, which is a very important new part of the scheme.
I believe that, in addition to the mobile divisions of the region which would go to the assistance of hard-pressed districts, the Army may help in certain circumstances. There is some confusion with regard to how much they can help and whether it conflicts with any other of the Army's rôles. I understand that the Civil Defence schools at Falfield and Easingwold, which I used to know in the days before the war, are operating again. We should like to have some information with regard to the output of trained instructors and whether these instructors are to hold schools or courses in the local authorities' areas.
With regard to shelters, I think that the Government must tell the local authorities and the country more about their shelter policy. I received a telegram from Edinburgh on this point shortly before I reached the House this afternoon. There is also the very important question of the warning system.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
Is it suggested by Edinburgh that the Government should proceed in making air-raid shelters?
§ Mr. Lloyd
No, it is suggested that the Government Departments are unable to advise concerning shelters, and I was asked to raise the subject in the Debate this afternoon. I do not know what is the information of other hon. Members, but my information is that certain counties and county boroughs have done a lot on the subject of Civil Defence, while others have done very little. In other words, the state of Civil Defence in the country as a whole is very patchy. But there is one thing which is universally bad, and that is recruiting. I have explained the difficulties with which I feel the Government are faced. We had about 1½ million people in the Civil Defence service during the war. Can the Home Secretary tell us, if he is not making any secret of the figure, what is the number at the present time, and whether it exceeds 30,000? I think that everyone would agree that that number would be plainly insufficient.
A good deal of work has been done by the Government, but the work in the local authorities' areas varies a great deal, 47 and this is the moment when we ought to take a decisive move forward in our Civil Defence preparations. In order to do that, we need to have a lead from the Government. We need a statement of policy by the Home Secretary with special reference to the method of dealing with atomic attacks, and the local authorities need to be given information about a model scheme, and the establishment of the various departments of Civil Defence. This also applies to industry. I am told that we can make a great deal of progress with reasonable speed.
Perhaps I may conclude by saying this. Our country was exceedingly lucky, not only in regard to active air defence but with regard to Civil Defence, that at the beginning of the last war we had the so-called "phoney war" which enabled the Civil Defence organisation to take advantage of the mobilisation of the people's will to defence. The Home Secretary himself has stated—and we would all agree with him—that in the next war the first month may be decisive. This is a thing we have always to bear in mind in making our preparations. Let us always bear in mind the essential importance of the unity of the three great parties when dealing with Civil Defence matters.
We know that in the last resort this work has to be done by the people. We know, as politicians and as candidates, that when we go around the country we find in any street a person in one house belonging to one political party and his neighbour belonging to another. In other words, we must all give a lead together. I heard the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) giving a most interesting, witty and objective account of the week in Westminster on the B.B.C. the other day. He referred to one of my hon. Friends—I am sure that he meant no offence; at any rate, I am making no complaint about it—rather wittily as someone whom he thought might be described as a younger and shrewder brother of Colonel Blimp. I think that far too many jokes were made about Colonel Blimps in the years before the war. When we come down to the point, it was the Colonel Blimps, the Major Blimps, the Captain Blimps, the Sergeant Blimps, the Private Blimps and the Mrs. Blimps who did the job of Civil Defence. 48 Therefore, let us make an appeal to some of our clever intellectuals that, although we need the "boffins," we also need the Colonel Blimps.
§ Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the difficulties the Home Office had with a number of Socialist councils, which may give a wrong impression. Is it not a fact that these differences were in regard to the depth of air-raid shelters, and that apart from that, when the attack came, there was no council in the country, whatever its politics, which did not work for Civil Defence?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I will try to answer in the least controversial manner possible, having regard to the subject and the great anxieties that the matter caused me in the days before the war. The reason some local Socialist councils before the war did not co-operate in regard to air-raid precautions in the preparatory phases is a matter which they must decide for themselves, but I think it was a question of general politics and not whether the shelters were to be deep shelters or not. Of course, when the time came, everyone was solid together. What I am saying today is that the Government have not got that anxiety at the present time, and it is vital that we should be solid together at the moment of preparation and not merely at the moment of danger.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas)
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) for the attitude he has adopted and for his approach to this problem. He is correct when he speaks of the ignorance of the true facts of atomic warfare as breeding a feeling in some places of helplessness, a feeling, in fact, of—"Well, what is the good of Civil Defence anyway?" Not for the first time in history we have reached a stage when ignorance of the nature of a national danger is even more dangerous than the danger itself.
The fact is that it is very difficult for men and women, even those directly concerned with Civil Defence, to get a balanced and objective view of this problem. Too many people have made up their minds about atomic warfare without looking at the evidence. Last month, 49 I spoke at a series of meetings of chairmen of Civil Defence committees and others, and after the first meeting I was surprised when one of my audience came up and complained that I was too complacent and another that I was too alarmist. I was even more surprised when after the next meeting in another city exactly the same thing happened. It is extraordinarily hard to find a balance between the two.
We have been asked, quite rightly, to give the facts of atomic warfare to the public. On Wednesday, we shall publish a manual on atomic warfare. It is a very important document. It is not a pamphlet dashed off over night, but a scientific statement of the study of the problem based largely on our Commission's work in Japan. It deals with just the points which have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman. In fact, it puts the atomic bomb into perspective. The manual estimates, incidentally, that the cause of death in Japan from atomic bombing, under the three heads the right hon. Gentleman gave, as being roughly 20 to 30 per cent. from heat flash, 50 to 60 per cent. from injuries and burns caused by blast, and 15 to 20 per cent. from radio-activity. As we were reminded, only radio-activity is new. It is important to understand this. It is not as if we have been suddenly thrust into a field of which we are totally ignorant. It is an unfortunate fact that Civil Defence is not a new problem. Certainly it has been a problem all my life. My earliest childhood memory is of an air raid in London during the First World War. But because the radiological effect is new it is inclined to be overstressed. We must strike a balance.
In the foreword to the Manual, the Prime Minister says this:We shall not … abandon our hope that an effective system of international control may ultimately be adopted by the United Nations and we, for our part, will certainly do all in our power to make such an agreement possible. In the meantime, we must proceed with our Civil Defence preparations on the basis that, in the event of war, we may be subjected to atomic attack …We all know the long sad story of the failure of the United Nations Atomic Energy Committee. It was in 1945 that the Prime Minister, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada signed the Washington Declaration. Ever since then, we have pressed 50 for international agreement to ensure that atomic energy shall be used only for peaceful purposes.
It is important in studying this problem to see where we have come. I start with November, 1945, the month of the Washington Declaration, when we put our Civil Defence into cold storage without a dissenting voice in this House. This was in the Civil Defence (Suspension of Powers) Act, 1945. Then there was the failure of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, and two years later the Prime Minister, on November, 1947, told the House at this Box that discussions would soon be started on setting up a new Civil Defence organisation. In March, 1948, we established both the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff and the Official Committee on Civil Defence. That was the first step, and these were the bodies which were to consider how far our Civil Defence system had to be modified in the light of the possibility of atomic attack. In the summer of 1948 came the standstill on the demolition of air-raid shelters and static water tanks, and later in the year the Home Secretary brought in his Civil Defence Bill, which gave the Government wide powers to make Regulations. It was a further step in our plan for developing a new Civil Defence policy to deal with this possible new method of attack.
In the summer of 1949 came the first of the general regulations. They gave local authorities certain administrative powers to carry out regulations which would be made, as well as the specific task of organising the local divisions of the Civil Defence Corps. In the autumn of last year, we went on to more detailed regulations, such as those concerning that important allied service—the fire brigade. Last week we had the Police Training Regulations? They went through without discussion, but afterwards I was asked whether it implied that the police had not been going ahead with their Civil Defence training. I wish to clear up that point, because that was not the implication at all. It was merely substituting an "order" for a "request" so that the police authorities could get grants for the training which is already taking place.
In view of what was said, I must make it clear that there is no question of imposing unwanted duties or methods of organisation on the local authorities. All 51 the circulars covering the regulations have been fully discussed with the local authorities' associations and, more than that, they have agreed to them. That applies not only to the regulations made by the Home Secretary but to those made by other Ministers, the Minister of Health, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the Minister of Food. In spite of the alteration in the position of local authorities caused by the changed conditions of modern war, and in spite of changes in the health organisation which, for instance, puts the first-aid units under the regional hospital boards, the central Government works very closely with the local authorities and will continue to do so.
Apart from the organisation and the training of volunteers, there has been administrative guidance given by the Departments; for instance, by the Home Office on the Fire Service, and by the Ministry of Health on evacuation and provision for the homeless. Tomorrow night there are regulations coming before the House in which the Ministry of Health are offering guidance on plans for the clearing of debris and first-aid repairs to houses. These regulations all follow an ordered pattern. They are part of the fruits of the planning organisation we set up right at the beginning, in March, 1948.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff. Its task is to define the Civil Defence problems which have to be resolved, to organise working parties of experts to study these problems and to submit recommendations to the Official Civil Defence Committee also set up at that time, and, of course, if necessary to the Ministerial Civil Defence Committee, over which my right hon. Friend presides.
The chairman of the Planning Staff is appointed by the Home Secretary and the link with the Services is very strong. The Services are represented by really senior officers: the Army by a major-general. The Staff is in close touch with the military Chiefs of Staff. This ensures that it works on the same assumptions, so far as they are relevant, as the military planners. On the technical side it works through the Chief Scientific Adviser at the Home Office from whom it can obtain all the technical information needed, whether from Harwell, the National 52 Physical Laboratory or the manufacturers of special technical equipment.
The Civil Defence Staff College is another necessary and important development in modern war. It has already become a national institution. Its five-week courses are attended by the leading men and women in Civil Defence. A fortnight ago when I was there, I was struck by the wide experience represented in each of the syndicates. We had Civil Defence officers, Service officers both active and retired—there was a Canadian general and an Australian brigadier—senior police officers, senior fire officers and W.V.S. regional organisers. When the Home Secretary opened the college, he explained that it was designed largely to serve as a "laboratory of ideas," and indeed it has done that and is doing it very well.
One of the dangers of talking so much about planning and staff work is that it draws the threads too much to the centre. This emphasis on planning and staff work is right, because it has been a necessary preliminary to the setting up of the new Civil Defence organisation. But it does not in any way mean that Civil Defence is not a local organisation. It is. It is an organisation of men and women coming together as neighbours to defend one another as neighbours. It is more. It is an organisation of local authorities coming together as neighbouring local authorities to give mutual aid one to another. It is indeed a local service.
Having said that it is a local service, I must say something of the authorities who organise the divisions of the Civil Defence Corps. They are the county councils, the county borough councils, the Metropolitan Borough councils, and a few county districts where circumstances are somewhat unusual, such as in the case of the City of Peterborough, which is a city in the middle of a rural soke. Working closely with this Corps are the three allied services, the A.F.S., the National Hospital Service Reserve and the Police including the Special Constabulary. In August of last year a Home Office circular drew the attention of local authorities to the importance of appointing Civil Defence officers. It is a post which is obviously of key importance in this organisation. At present there are in the country 44 whole-time Civil Defence officers; 29 Civil Defence officers 53 who are also general instructors, and 12 assistant Civil Defence officers, that is where the clerk himself is the Civil Defence officer.
London, of course, has a different organisation. Except in London, the local unit of the Civil Defence Corps is divided into six sections; headquarters, warden, rescue, ambulance, pioneer and welfare. I refer only to the purely local organisation, but it will be supplemented by mobile full-time forces, which will serve over much wider areas and will fit in with the regional organisation which worked so well in the last war. I would emphasise that for the time being we have concentrated on recruiting for the Corps on a local basis and for part-time service.
It is obvious that the new Civil Defence Corps will need not only equipment, such as we knew in the last war, but also new types of equipment. To find these new types of equipment, we set out on two forms of research; first, operational research, and then research into defensive measures. Operational research is the responsibility of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Home Office. He gives the planners the numbers on which to work; for example, an estimate of the number and type of casualties which might be expected in given circumstances if there were an atomic attack upon a particular centre of population.
In the case of research into defensive measure, the responsibility is not so clearly defined because it depends upon the matter which has to be gone into. A great deal of medical research is being done at the request of the Ministry of Health. Research into shelters and buildings is primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of Works. Investigation into the prevention of fire caused by flash in an atomic attack is being carried out by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research at the request of the Home Office and the Scottish Office. Research into instruments for the detention and measuring of gamma rays and other types of atomic radiation has been carried out under the Ministry of Supply. The instruments have been standardised with the Fighting Services. In the Atomic Manual which will be published on Wednesday are full descriptions of them. They include the quartz-fibre electroscope, the portable dose-rate meter, and the contamination 54 meter. They are already in use at the training schools.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the two schools that he knew so well before the war, at Falfield and Easingwold. Those are the two schools which have been reopened. When we decided to revive Civil Defence, it was clear that we needed up-to-date instructors, so we reopened these schools. They train instructors in Civil Defence generally—in such subjects as protection against high explosive bombs, incendiary bombs and gas—and in elementary fire fighting, and atomic warfare, as well as rescue work. Since those schools were opened they have turned out 700 fully trained general instructors and 450 fully trained rescue instructors. Those 700 general instructors have, in their turn, trained 2,800 instructors who are known generally as the "green certificate instructors." This training has been done locally. These instructors will go to the two schools for a very short course to ensure that their training is up to standard in all respects. Until now, Scottish instructors have come into England for training, but a school is soon to be opened at Taymouth Castle in Perthshire. I should like to add that if there are any questions on Civil Defence in Scotland, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is on the Bench with me to answer them.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
Are the instructors who have been trained part of the permanent officials of local county or borough authorities?
§ Mr. de Freitas
A considerable number, nearly one-third, are police. They take a long course—of three and half weeks. Most of them are employers of local authorities or public servants such as police, and they are seconded for this purpose.
Thus there is training centrally, and then the centrally-trained instructors train others locally. So we have a snowball effect, and we can give a complete course of training to far more people than we could accommodate at any technical training schools. Members of the Civil Defence Corps get their training in two stages, the basic training and the section training. The section training is specialist continuation of that basic training to suit the particular branch of the Corps and the type of work which will be done. What 55 the basic training covers can best be illustrated if I say that the Atomic Warfare Manual which comes out on Wednesday is the sixth and last manual covering basic training. The other five which have already been published are—Gas, Fire, Rescue, High Explosives, and First Aid. The full first-aid course is given by a doctor, the shorter one usually by qualified instructors of the British Red Cross and of the St. John Ambulance in England and Wales, and of the St. Andrew's Ambulance in Scotland.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about peace-time establishments. In May, the Home Secretary said that he hoped to let the authorities have this information in the autumn. The right hon. Gentleman also asked how far we had gone in recruiting. At the end of June there were between 47,000 and 48,000 volunteers in the Civil Defence and allied services. There were approximately 32,000 in the Civil Defence Corps, 4,000 in the Auxiliary Fire Service, 3,000 in the National Hospital Service Reserve and 9,000 in the Special Constabulary. The rate of recruiting is going up, but not nearly fast enough. It is our hope that as a result of this Debate and the publicity given to it we shall have more volunteers.
After 10 hours' training, a volunteer is entitled to the Civil Defence Corps badge and also to one of the uniforms which we will begin to issue in the autumn. This is not something which we have decided upon independently; the local authorities' associations have agreed with us about the uniforms, which will be a blue battle-dress, with slacks or skirt, a beret bearing the Civil Defence Corps badge, and a greatcoat. There will be badges of rank, and flashes giving the name of the place and showing the particular service.
I always get questions asking why certain people may join the Civil Defence and others may not. I therefore feel that I should summarise the six principles governing recruitment and the broad results of applying those principles. First, every effort should be made to avoid conflict between recruiting for Civil Defence and recruiting for the Auxiliary Services of the Armed Forces. Second, in any serious emergency the Armed Forces would have large-scale expansion from the so-called "Z" reserves, that is, the civilians who 56 served in the Second World War. Third, in view of this fact, the fit man under 30 years of age should be regarded as a "fighting man." His proper form of service would be in the Territorial Army or one of the other auxiliary services. He should not be in Civil Defence. Fourth, the man between 30 and 40 years of age should be regarded either as a fighting man or as suitable for a physically strenuous form of Civil Defence, such as rescue work. Fifth, the man over 40 should be regarded as primarily available for Civil Defence. Sixth, people in the Forces, Regular Reserves, and in the Police, Fire Services, and Merchant Navy, and doctors and nurses, should not be eligible at all.
If we apply those principles to the Corps we get the following broad result. First, people over 40 can join unless they have other definite commitments in war. Second, nearly all men and women between 30 and 40 can join, but men who are class "Z" reservists can join only the Rescue and Pioneer sections, that is the physically strenuous sections. Certain "Z" reservists in this group cannot join at all, because they have some particular skill or training of great value to the Armed Forces. Third, men under 30 cannot join unless they have been declared unfit for the Forces. Fourth, women under 30 can join the ambulance section. Lest it should appear that the regulations are unduly restrictive, I must emphasise that 16 million people are eligible to join.
§ Captain Waterhouse (Leicester, South-East)
Are there any provisions to ensure that we do not get active Communists in the Civil Defence system?
§ Mr. de Freitas
I can assure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that active Communists are watched but the much more dangerous person is the seemingly inactive, subtle Communist. The right hon. Member for King's Norton said that much of the service was patchy and that the recruiting was positively bad. It is certainly uneven. On the basis of recruits per thousand among the population the recruiting leaders are Exeter, Salford and Doncaster among the county boroughs; Kensington, St. Marylebone and Westminster among the Metropolitan 57 Boroughs, and East Suffolk, Dorset and Bedford among the counties.
We all know that there are tens of thousands of men and women who say "Do not worry. I shall be there when the balloon goes up." But we cannot say too often to them that that it is not good enough. In fact, it is no good at all. We just could not train those tens of thousands of people on the first day of a war, and however experienced they were in the last war they now need training in the new techniques. The time to come forward is now when we have the men and women ready to train them.
I have spoken a lot—I hope not too much—of planning and staff work, of the Planning Staff, the Staff College, and of the training schools and the Atomic Manual; of contamination meters and electroscopes. I run the danger of implying mat only a graduate of the Staff College with a doctor's degree in nuclear physics is wanted for Civil Defence. But all the scientific advisers, all the senior civil servants, all the Ministerial committees, all the contamination meters and electroscopes in the world do not add up to real Civil Defence.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
Is the Government advised by any scientist who was present at the last atomic bomb experiment conducted by the United States? Is there a scientist in this country who was present at any of the Pacific experiments?
§ Mr. de Freitas
Most certainly so. I was saying that I ran the danger of implying that Civil Defence consisted only of all these technical things. But it does not. It comes right back to men and women working together to defend their families and neighbours. We want ordinary men and women—Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Jones at the corner.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I would first of all reassure the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) that not only were scientists from this country at Bikini but also there were two hon. Members of this House, the present Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and myself.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Perhaps there is some misunderstanding. What I wanted 58 to know was whether any British scientist was present at the last atomic bomb experiment in the United States.
§ Commander Noble
I did not have the privilege of attending those further tests, but, as the Under-Secretary has just said, we had scientists there.
§ Commander Noble
I am sure that we are all very grateful for the information which the Under-Secretary has given us about what has been happening in the fields of planning, research, training and the like. It has borne out what was said by my right hon. Friend, that a great deal of work has been done by the Government. The Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff have obviously got through a very great deal.
I also visited the Civil Defence Staff College the other day, and I entirely agree with the Under-Secretary that it is reassuring to see the work which is being done there by a very interested and knowledgeable selection of students from all over the country. However, I feel that the time has come when we should see a little more of the results of all this planning and research. If I am a little critical in some of my remarks I hope that the Home Secretary and the House will accept it in the spirit that it is one's duty to make these criticisms if one feels them. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation will remember that when we were at Bikini we were asked how it was that we were able to share a double cabin for some two months without apparent disagreement. We said we thought that the atomic bomb was above party, and, in the same way, Civil Defence is also above party.
Everyone will agree that the scale of Civil Defence required by a country is very largely dependent, first, on the weapons of the enemy, and, second, on the ability of one's other forces to prevent the enemy dropping those weapons on our own country. Therefore, the scale of Civil Defence which we must have first of all is very dependent upon radar, then on air interception and the straffing of enemy bases. There have been some very disquieting rumours in the last few weeks about the state of our other forces, with 59 particular reference to the Royal Air Force. I hope we shall be told something about this on Wednesday. No doubt we shall, and though I hope that we shall be reassured I am not very confident on that point. Whatever the state of our other Forces, all hon. Members will agree that our Civil Defence in another war, should there be such a tragedy, has to be not only as efficient as it was before but much more efficient because, as my right hon. Friend and the Under-Secretary have said, it has to compete not only with atomic weapons and guided missiles but perhaps with a combination of both.
I am not at all happy, as I hinted at the beginning of my speech, that we have got quite as far as we should have done. In the "Christian Science Monitor" of 17th July there appeared a paragraph which discussed this country's difficulties about rearming. It was headed "Difficult Choices" and said:Is there to be a major rearmament move and a new enlistment drive? Will civil defence preparations against air attack be taken seriously in hand? In civil defence there is less mobilisation today than in 1939.Why is it that there is "less mobilisation today"?
I want, first, to say something about recruiting. The Under-Secretary told us that it was going up but was not fast enough. I am glad that he referred to part of my constituency as being among the good boys. I think everyone will agree that Civil Defence is really protection of the people by the people, but there has to be the co-ordination, the organisation and the co-operation of the Government.
If we are to get people to co-operate in Civil Defence, we have to assure them that they will get four things. First, an efficient warning system; second, an efficient dispersal and shelter system; third, up to date and realistic equipment, not only to work with when the time comes, but to train on now. In the case of shelters there has to be a daylight shelter system where people work and a night shelter system where they live. Fourth, people must be told what it is all about. That was emphasised most strongly by my right hon. Friend, and I was glad to hear the Under-Secretary say that a document is coming out on Wednesday. If it is in the right, readable form, I am sure it will prove to be 60 what people have been wanting. I hope that His Majesty's Ministers will lose no opportunity of introducing this document, perhaps by broadcast, and of explaining the position.
I think that one of the reasons why people are not coming forward is because of a defeatist attitude towards the atomic bomb, and, therefore, I welcome what has been said already on that point. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation will bear me out when I say that in the numerous talks and lectures we have given since we came back, while stressing the terrible nature of the atomic bomb, we have always tried to emphasise that it is strictly limited in its effects and that there is some adequate protection against the four categories of damage which it produces. At the same time, one must also emphasise the difference between our western cities, with their big, strong buildings, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where there were only light buildings and very little defence, with a resulting large number of casualties.
I will not go again into the four effects of the atomic bomb because my right hon. Friend has dealt with them, but I would emphasise the danger from fire from the actual flash when the bomb goes off. It has to be seen to be believed. When one considers that it could be seen at a distance of 20 miles on a brilliant tropical day through glasses so thick that one could not see the person standing beside one, it gives some idea of the intensity of heat which the bomb produces.
With regard to the radiated rays given off at the moment of explosion, it has to be remembered that they are much reduced in intensity by distance and by passing through mass. Therefore, although it is very dangerous to be at the centre mass may give some protection, and the danger goes down considerably as one is further away, and it may well be that somebody who meets this danger will not get a sufficient dose to be lethal. The same applies to contaminated areas by radio-active materials and by induced radio-activity. When talking about the atomic bomb it should be remembered that at the moment we do not expect—I hope we never shall meet that day—atomic bombs to be dropped in "sticks," as were conventional 61 bombs in the past. And it is difficult to drop a single bomb on a specific place from about 20,000 feet and have it set to exactly the right height over the right target.
Another point that must be remembered is that the damage done by an atomic bomb depends on the height at which it is exploded. If it is exploded very high up there will be a wide area of not so serious damage as if it were exploded nearer the ground, in which case there would be a highly concentrated area of serious damage. That applies also to the radio-active effect. If it is exploded high in the air, the contamination will be less serious than if the bomb were exploded on the ground.
I do not think the Home Office will get the recruits required for Civil Defence by public meetings and campaigns alone. First, let us tell everybody everything where possible. Secondly, I suggest that some great public figure, entirely divorced from politics, might be associated with Civil Defence, either to lead the campaign or to lead the Force. Thirdly, let this training be as imaginative as possible and not cut down by a shortage of equipment. If it is not possible at the moment to provide all the equipment required, why should there not be depots in the big cities all over this country?
For example, in London why should not the London County Council have a store of equipment which the London boroughs could borrow for the particular type of training they were doing on a given day? It is really rather silly to tell people all about Geiger counters and electroscopes and then train them only with photographs. It is not realistic enough. The moment has come when, perhaps at the expense of our economic recovery and even at the expense of dollars, we have to start putting money and production into this kind of equipment.
There are one or two small points to be made on recruiting. First, with regard to industry, I am told that recruits are not coming forward from firms or industries because the latter do not know the part that they themselves may have to play in the Civil Defence set-up. That could quite easily be overcome and I ask the Home Secretary to look at it. I have been told, for instance, that the railways 62 are recommending their employees not to join their local defence organisation because the railways themselves do not yet know whether they will have to call upon their employees. I have no confirmation of that statement.
With regard to the Class Z Reserve, many key men in local authorities, and therefore, key men in Civil Defence, are on that reserve. In the event of emergency they would all be called up and so perhaps the control room organisation would break down. I should say it is a matter for consideration whether some of the most important of these men should not be exempt. The question of uniform is important and has been dealt with already. It should be made easier for the local authorities to get their equipment. Do not let us haggle, at this relatively late hour, over a comparative small number of pounds. I know of one London borough which has been having the greatest difficulty in setting up an incendiary bomb hut at a cost of £160. They have been trying for many weeks and they have not got it yet.
We have not heard today, but perhaps the Home Secretary will tell us tonight, whether the Government have a shelter policy. This is one of the terms of reference of a Working Party of the Civil De-fence Joint Planning Staff. I hope we shall soon know what that policy is. I read in the "Daily Telegraph" on Friday, 21st July, that an official of the Civil Defence Staff College, I think it was, had said that the Government's shelter programme was well advanced on paper. The paper might protect us against the flash burn, but I would like to see something more going on in this country and people knowing a little more of what is to be the Government's shelter policy. What this official went on to say was very disquieting. He said:They have got some of the biggest experts on that job and have worked out the cost to the country at between £500 million and £600 million.Are we really going to be able to spend between £500 and £600 million on a shelter policy?
That brings me back to a Question which I put to the Home Secretary on 2nd December, 1948, when I asked him:what instructions or advice are now given to builders of large buildings with regard to cellars or garages and their possible future use as shelters,63 to which the right hon. Gentleman replied:None as yet, but the matter is receiving active consideration.After I had put a supplementary question, the right hon. Gentleman said:A draft technical memorandum is at the moment under consideration by the professional institutes involved. We are actively proceeding in the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 2160.]I do not know in what direction the Government have been proceeding, because last year in my constituency a block of some 214 flats was completed but no instructions were given that anything was to be done to provide some sort of cellar, garage, rooms, or other accommodation, which would not only be part of the daily life of the buildings, but could be of use as a shelter. Had a grant or instructions been given to builders of factories, flats and similar large buildings, a very great deal of the £500 or £600 million which I have mentioned might have been saved during the last four years. I hope that when the Home Secretary replies tonight he will tell us the result of the "active consideration" of which he told the House in December, 1948.
I wonder what is the position with regard to respirators? I understand that there are to be several different types. Are they yet in production? I wonder also whether there is any black-out material in the country? I do not believe that there is. We on this side have in the last few years repeatedly warned the Government against a "No war for a number of years" policy. Whatever may have been the Government's policy—and it has been a little difficult at times to see what it was—there is no doubt that they must have been very surprised, and probably their policy was rather upset, by the fact that Russia had the atomic bomb in 1949.
Many people who have been listening to the wireless lately may have heard a tune called, "Enjoy yourselves; it's later than you think." I should like to misquote that title and to ask the Government to say to themselves and to the people of this country, with regard to Civil Defence, "Employ yourselves; it's later than you think."
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
I hope that we shall not get 64 panicky over this business. I think that everyone in the House and in the country will agree that after five years of reconstruction—which is, after all, only a small span—it is distressing that we should be talking about destruction. Nevertheless, we have to face the situation.
I have read in the Press a suggestion that there should be conscription for Civil Defence. Let me say straight away that I hope that the Government will not resort to such a step. We are not starting Civil Defence this time under the same conditions as in 1938. I happen to have been an alderman in the city a part of which I represent, and I had a large part of a working-class area under my control during the heavy attack on Birmingham. Living right in the heart of that area and knowing something about the work of the men and women there, I am confident that, while we have nothing but praise for the older men and women who remained at home and took their part in Civil Defence, whatever might happen in future—which we all hope it will not—there will be a ready response by all men and women, irrespective of age, who are able to take part in the protection of the younger and the aged people and their homes and property.
There are still in existence in all our towns and cities a great number of the various sections of people who took part in Civil Defence, and no doubt they could be got together again in a very short time. While there is a new conception of Civil Defence as far as the atomic bomb is concerned, one knows very well that in any future emergency much of the work of the hospital teams, the auxiliary fire services and the rescue squads would be of a somewhat similar nature to that carried out in the late war. Many of the same people still remain and would make a ready response should the need arise.
I do not know what happens in other towns and cities regarding air raid shelters, but in the thickly populated district which I represent and in which I live we have been appealing to the Home Secretary for a long time. We have plenty of shelters, although many of them may need to be reinforced. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) that in the building of blocks of flats and new factories, as in the case of the new civic centre which has been partly constructed at Birmingham 65 and which was supposed to have had a car park beneath it, as did the new market, the underground space could well be used as an air raid shelter, as was done during the last war.
I say to my right hon. Friend and both sides of the House, "Please do not frighten the people." One knows what happened in 1938. At the beginning of the last war I was connected with a percussion band of 70 girls, who did their training in a school, but immediately there was a rehearsal for blacking out the streets and the schools were used for distributing gas masks, people began to get panicky. Far more good would be done by appealing to the people. While the situation in Korea may not be too bad, it is nevertheless bringing home to people more than ever the need for self-protection.
In my city we have a good air raid chief, already a number of people are coming forward, and we have many public-spirited men. Although I am 61 years of age, I can modestly say that should the time again come, or even before if I see the necessity coming, I will be at the helm to do my little bit. I can say the same for all those in Birmingham who are still able to do their share. They will be ready to respond in Civil Defence. But again I say, please do not adopt conscription.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
I wish to associate myself very strongly with the observations made by my right hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) on the subject of keeping this Debate essentially out of the realm of political controversy. I think I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that although support behind him may be a little thin he has a great deal of support on this issue facing him from this side of the House.
I wish to follow up a very important observation made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) on the subject of the possible prelude to the next conflict. Last time, I think with a good deal of reason, we all assumed that there would be an instantaneous attack on this country. We were not right; and it was very fortunate that we were not right. This time it would be most unwise if we were to assume that similar tactics would be employed by any 66 aggressor. In fact, I think it very reasonable to assume that quite the reverse tactics would be followed if that aggressor were in a position to deal such an attack on this country. Although I entirely agree with the observations of the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) about panic—no one wants panic in this country, nor are the people of this country given to panic—we must create conditions which ensure that the people take the necessary precautions to train to deal with any situation which might arise.
We must have the necessary qualifications and there must be the essential cadre trained to cope with any emergency. That is the reason why we on this side of the House have urged that this Debate should take place, because we want to see those precautions taken, and taken in good time. I hope those who, in a public-spirited way, have already come forward will not take it that we are in any way criticising them if we say that the situation today shows inadequacy. We are not criticising their efforts, but are deeply grateful to them for coming forward at a time when a great deal of public spiritedness is required to do so. We all realise, and I think the tone of the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department indicated it, that the Government have a very difficult task, psychologically, to deal with this problem after five years of what has been called peace. We all sympathise with that problem and it is our anxious desire to see it solved.
I was very glad that the Under-Secretary announced that a manual was coming out. As one who served in the Army I hope it will be a lot more readable than the Army Manual was. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that it is put across to the country in easily understandable terms. In particular, let us make it clear that the atomic menace is to be viewed in its proper perspective. I have discussed this subject with a number of people who have been most active in Civil Defence and I am given to understand that the atomic menace is only No. 3 on the priority list and that, from the point of view of Civil Defence, fire and H.E. are still regarded as more dangerous as a whole to the general safety of the community. That, of course, is a situation which may not remain but one of which we have to take cognisance at present.
67 I was very glad that the Under-Secretary said that Civil Defence is essentially a local service. I welcome this conversion on his part to the doctrine of decentralisation, but, as one who is associated, like the hon. Member for Sparkbrook—although not in so exalted a capacity—with local government, I think this is where one of the weaknesses arise. I do not think it has been decentralised in the fullest sense of the word, or that local government understands to the fullest extent exactly what is expected of it.
I would like the right hon. Gentleman to give some indication of how many local authorities have thought it necessary to create Civil Defence committees, because I would have thought that a prime essential. I understand, although I am very much open to correction on the matter, that guidance so far given to local authorities on the question of remuneration and the amount of money they are to get back is not clear. I understand it is 75 per cent. in principle, but we all know there is a great deal of difference sometimes between things in principle and things in practice. I am open to misunderstanding and misapprehension, and that misapprehension is shared by a lot of local authorities. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us an assurance on that point, because it will be of great assistance to local authorities concerned.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea said he would like to see a figure unconnected with political activities associated with Civil Defence. This is no criticism of the right hon. Gentleman, but I would like to see a Minister, or junior Minister, entirely committed to the task. I think it is a task which will be increasingly complex and, I am sorry to say, one that will become increasingly important, and on those lines progress will be made in the future. I am well aware, as is the right hon. Gentleman, that there are many former military chiefs of Anti-Aircraft Defence available in this country whose knowledge would be of very great assistance to him in his Department and I hope he will take some cognisance of that. I make no criticism of the gallant gentleman whose services are at present at the right hon. Gentleman's disposal, but I do not 68 think his military service was based in any way on service in this country during the last war, where a great deal of experience was to be had.
Reference has been made to the Civil Defence Staff College. I have heard nothing but praise for the way in which training is going on at that establishment, but I think we have to go a little further. Like the hon. Member for Sparkbrook, I do not want to see conscription for Civil Defence, but I think we have to go a little further than the purely instructional kind of training. I think we have to go a good deal further along the lines of getting together a basis of Civil Defence cadre. I refer to the way in which activities might break out and, from what I have seen on the military side—about which I hope to say something on Wednesday—there is no chance at all that the Regular Services will have a considerable amount of personnel to deal with civilian difficulties. Therefore it is imperative that Civil Defence should be self-supporting in essence, and I would like to see this conception of a mobile Civil Defence column, which seems a very sound one, developed, and a Civil Defence cadre made a regular and not a voluntary element in our Civil Defence Service.
Reference has been made to equipment. This, like all other aspects of Civil Defence, is patchy. In some quarters there is plenty of equipment and places where training can be carried out, but in other parts of the country there is little equipment and halls available for training are not there. The right hon. Gentleman should review that situation, because it is quite pointless to call on people to volunteer for this service if we have not the equipment and places where training can be carried out.
Lastly, I wish to refer to the publicity for this service. I should here declare my interest. In such leisure hours as remain to me when I am not here, I try to earn a penny or two in advertising. My attention has been drawn—and from the recruiting results I think it is only my attention that has been drawn—to the posters which are being produced under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that these posters are in themselves effective, that they are obtaining recruits or that they are based upon any particular basic appeal. In colour 69 they might be suitable for the coming jubilee activities of the Socialist Party but as recruiting instruments for Civil Defence, they fall very far short of the mark.
That is not primarily the fault of the people who were given the directive to produce these masterpieces; it is primarily due to the policy of the Government, which has unquestionably been a policy of soft pedalling. There have been quite good arguments in justification of that policy of soft pedalling up to now, but the arguments that are taking place in Korea are conclusive arguments for a rapid change in that policy.
We on this side of the House are prepared to assist the right hon. Gentleman all we can but we want a clear directive and a clear indication that the Government mean business in this matter. I am not entirely at one with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea in his suggestion that parades and demonstrations would be effective. A demonstration of the Government's intentions and their will to get the people together in self defence would be the most effective demonstration. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, to give us an indication that there is to be an acceleration in the tempo of his Civil Defence policy
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
No one deplores more than I do having to take part in a discussion of this sort because I feel that the need for Civil Defence should have departed long ago. We ought never to be in the position of having once again to go through the whole business which we have had to go through previously, and of being put in jeopardy and in fear—because there is no doubt that we are putting ordinary men and women, and particularly women and children, in fear.
Some of us who had the opportunity of dealing with Civil Defence during the last war in an active capacity saw some of the difficulties and some of the omissions of the Civil Defence organisation during that period. I was in Civil Defence for the whole six years and was out in every air raid in the Liverpool area, whether during the day or night. One of the difficulties I noted was the fact that people immediately moved from where they were, to the place which they 70 thought would be the safest. The position of the Civil Defence services and of those trained to deal with Civil Defence problems was jeopardised by the mass emigration of people along the roads, with the result that roads were completely packed and Civil Defence vehicles were unable to move along them.
That was mainly because very little provision for protection was made in the homes of the people themselves. I am certain that when there is a raid people would rather stay in their homes than go into mass shelters, where they are congregated together. I learned from them that no provision had been made for protection in their homes, where they would far sooner have stayed rather than take their children out of bed in the early hours of the morning and get them out on to the roads, to move them either into shelters or to the outskirts of the industrial areas.
We had some bad times in Liverpool, and as a result of those experiences I would say that that is one of the matters which those concerned with shelters ought to be considering—finding some way of making as safe shelter provision as possible inside each home. Dispersal is much better than having people congregated together. When a shelter full of people is hit, many more persons are killed than would be the case if a small locality area was affected in an area of houses.
Are the organisations dealing with shelters thinking about this matter? I agree that it would be more expensive, but we have to consider whether human lives or money are at stake. Serious consideration should be given to the possibility of making shelter provision in a room, or by building an addition to the premises of those people who happen to live in their own homes. That would be difficult in huge blocks of tenements such as we have in the industrial areas, but in those cases, provision could be made, communal shelters could be provided. Many such shelters have not been demolished because of the policy of the Home Office in not allowing certain shelters to be cleared away unless they were a public nuisance.
Secondly, and most important, I found a total lack of topographical knowledge-on the part of the people who had to deal with casualties. It is a peculiar fact 71 that very few people know the topography of their own areas. They may know the streets along which they go day by day to get to and from their homes but the majority of people are totally ignorant of the surrounding area and of the alternative ways of getting to places. If the Civil Defence organisation and the local authorities want to begin some work and to attract people into the service one of the things they ought to do is to arrange classes on topography so that those people who are to be ambulance, fire engine, or first-aid drivers will know how to get to places quickly if the area in which they are to operate happens to be dislocated and they have to find a way entirely different from the customary one.
I spent my first two years in Civil Defence driving an ambulance. I was called upon to direct people who had lived in Liverpool all their lives and who had not the remotest idea of the places to which they were called upon to go. These are simple matters about which those who are training do not perhaps think, being intent on learning to deal scientifically with the effects of a bombing attack, etc. They forget the fundamental points which mean so much at a time when none wants to get out to a job. That was a very important matter in the last war, and I hope that the Home Secretary will take note of it, and that when the local authorities are asked to do something about preparation for Civil Defence, one of the things they will do is to get those people who are to drive the vehicles to acquire some knowledge of the area in which they reside.
Thirdly, there is the question of the black-out. The warden service had perhaps the most difficulty or spent the most time in dealing with black-out infringements. Here, again, we are dealing with a matter in which simple preliminary precautions could be suggested. Here is one of the difficulties in connection with the black-out which I discovered as a result of my experiences. One noticed a slight chink of light that could be seen round the top and the side of a window or an inability to cover the area between the top of the curtain and the top of the window. These are small but important matters, but they take up much 72 of the time of people who have been trained to do a certain job and who have to divert their energies to deal with smaller matters.
It might be suggested to local authorities that, in the building of new houses there should be, between the top of the window and the top of the curtain, a covering pelmet of wood under which the curtain could go, so that there would be no possibility of light escaping from the top of the window and down the side. The difficulty was not that of getting the black-out material but the peculiar construction of house windows that made it impossible to cover the space between the top of the window and the top of the curtain.
I should like to refer to equipment. I do not want to talk about highly scientific matters. My business was concerned with people who were in difficulty, and the people who had to carry out the instructions of those who were trained. During the war the gas equipment, in which we had to drive an ambulance, was the most gruesome thing which could be found as well as the most awkward to deal with. One could hardly drive an ambulance when dressed up in this gas equipment. Surely there should be something easier to work in than the oilskin stuff presented to workers in Civil Defence during the last war. I should imagine that by now, those dealing with these matters have found some simplified form of protection.
There have been suggestions that people are not coming forward to join the Civil Defence organisation. The reason is they are sick and tired of the whole business. They had enough of it during the last war, and are hoping against hope that nothing will happen. The best way to prevent anything happening is to be fully protected and prepared to deal with anything that does occur. If we adopt some way of getting in touch with the people in their homes, particularly the women who are concerned about their children, and give them simple instructions—not the elaborate instructions that trained personnel need—as to what steps should be taken to protect themselves and their children, I am certain there will be more response than has been met with so far. The more methods of protection that there are 73 the less possibility there is of anything happening.
I believe that modern weapons are only useful if they can create panic. If we have defence plans and schemes, which prevent panic, it will be to the general advantage. One of the great difficulties in the last war was the panic that would happen when an air-raid had been going on for three, four or five nights in succession. By the sixth or seventh night the Civil Defence workers had the utmost difficulty in calming people, and stopping them moving out in masses as they did at the commencement of the war.
While we are discussing these matters, we are bound to touch on the scientific aspects, and the general training necessary in connection with them, but do not let us forget the people with whom those who have been trained have to be in contact. We should not leave them to the very last moment, as was the case during the last war. They were left until something happened, and then we wanted to train them. Let us take steps in a simple way to give them instructions, and the best way of doing this is to see that they are protected as near as possible to where they live. We want to avoid the necessity of moving them out far distances.
The last point with which I want to deal is the question of industry. In the circular that was issued I did not see any reference to industrial organisations taking part in the recruitment. If anything happens the life of the community has got to go on, and the industrial organisations ought to be included and their advice asked in anything with reference to Civil Defence. The industrial organisations ought to be able to arrange their business so as to have the least possible interference with the general local authority schemes of defence.
Those are my main points. They may not sound very important in the scheme of training, but my experience has taught me that those are the things that actually matter. If the people who cannot be trained because they have to keep to their ordinary daily job—particularly the women, who have to take their children to school, get their babies up and put them to bed again—can be kept calm, then we shall go a long way to ensuring that our Civil Defence organisation is as perfect as possible.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Marshall (Sutton and Cheam)
I am sure the nation will be very glad that we have been able to arrange this Debate, and we are also grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for the information he was able to give us this afternoon. This information should have been passed on a long time ago. The Bill concerning Civil Defence was passed 18 months ago, and when the proposition regarding the resuscitation of the Civil Defence force was put out, it met with a considerable amount of enthusiasm generally, and meetings were held over the country by the county and county borough authorities. A great deal of enthusiasm was displayed. I imagine that most of them, like my own county, went back to their various districts with a great deal of determination that we should make a new set-up in Civil Defence which would be as good at least as the old one was, and if possible better.
The Government have let us down. Months and months went by and we heard nothing from them. The people who had volunteered were constantly asking us when we were going to do something. My postbag has been filled for months now with letters from individuals, who had volunteered in a great burst of enthusiasm to do something for Civil Defence. They have heard nothing. I am sure that the Home Secretary will agree that we stepped off rather on the wrong foot, because the much-heralded start-off—I do not like to use the vernacular "flop" in this connection—certainly misfired a little. That was owing to some miscalculation on the part of the Government in regard to the launching of the scheme.
I feel that at that time we should have done much better had some further consideration been given to it. The Home Secretary will remember that when he was asked, he agreed to postpone his broadcast in order that a little more time might be given to those people whose duty it would be to carry out these functions. That two weeks' postponement was very good, but it is almost unnecessary for me to point out here that for a long time now we have received very little. Even the circulars which the Home Office have issued to councils have contained very little which could help or guide us, and what we are in need of 75 very badly now is more direct guidance and assistance. I know it seems strange that I, as one on this side of the House, should be asking for directions, having suffered from too much direction during the past five years, but this time we want direction and guidance in this matter.
We are very grateful that the Under-Secretary was able to give us the information that he did, and what he said has rather reassured us that they have not been letting the side down. We were not expecting that they were, and we knew that a great deal of new technical information and a great deal of research had to be done in regard to what Civil Defence duties there might be in the years that lie ahead of us. It is true that we could not expect to start from where we left off. We knew that that would not be the be-all and end-all of the new Civil Defence. We still wait for some much more mature directives to the county councils which they can pass on to the district councils. We have got as far as the county Civil Defence committees having decided how much delegation they will give to the district councils. I hope that delegation will be carried out to the fullest extent so that the district councils will have the satisfaction of knowing that they can carry out all these duties without any interference from the county itself or from the central Government.
We have certainly fallen down on recruiting, but I am not afraid because of that. We have fallen down because we have not been able to inform sufficiently about their duties those who want to join the Civil Defence Corps. That has been a common complaint. I am sure that when we are able to be much more definite and to make a definite appeal, we shall not lack recruits. One point about recruitment which I wish to discuss concerns the sections. The Under-Secretary emphasised that Class "Z" reservists are not able to become members of the Civil Defence Corps. Later he said that it was possible that some such men as these might be recruited for the rescue and pioneer services.
I hope that the Home Secretary will deal with this matter in his reply to the Debate. It is in these two sections that we find, and shall continue to find, the greatest difficulty in recruitment. It is 76 very heavy work and it is not attractive, like some of the other jobs. It is in these sections that we shall need full strength in the local organisations. If the Home Secretary, either today or later, is able to make some suggestion about getting Class "Z" reservists to join the pioneer and rescue sections, that will be most helpful. I will not suggest that some incentive should be given, but I repeat that the work in these sections is difficult and unattractive. From our experience in the last war—I expect that it will be similar if we are called into operation again—it is clear that there will be a big demand for the services of these men. I hope that some further directions will be given to local authorities about recruiting.
The position of women might be made a little more plain. The contribution of women, through their work in the W.V.S., has been immeasurable. I understand that the W.V.S., as such, is not part of the Civil Defence Corps. If women want to become members of the Corps, they must join in the ordinary way, though they can still remain with the W.V.S. That point might be clarified and perhaps some closer co-ordination might be brought about by allowing members of the W.V.S. to be regarded as members of the Corps. I do not know whether that would be possible. We are bound to get co-operation, but I think that we could have more co-ordination.
The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) mentioned expenditure. Some general principles have been given by which we are to regulate our expenditure, but I, for one, am still in the dark as to exactly how far we can go. One hon. Member talked about an incendiary hut which an authority was not able to buy. If my authority had wished to purchase a hut at a cost of £130, I should have thought we would have been able to do it forthwith. The exact method of financing the whole of the Corps should be explained in more detail.
The local districts which will carry out the work delegated to them by the county districts are not satisfied about their position if they incur expenditure. Direction should be given about what money they can spend on special officials in the district council who carry out the administrative work. I do not think that any separately 77 paid posts are required at the moment—certainly none of the highly paid posts—but there is no doubt that a lot of time will have to be given, as training develops, to the administration of the work even in the district councils themselves. We cannot expect that work to be done entirely voluntarily. It is possible that the whole time of an official might be devoted to Civil Defence work. In that way, a paid official of the council would be seconded to Civil Defence, at the expense of his own work for the council.
I feel rather strongly about the Metropolitan area. I am interested in a county which was split into two parts during the last war. I need not point out how difficult work becomes when one is only half of a whole and one has to consider two different headquarters in the same county. We fear that that arrangement does not lead to really successful work. Perhaps the Home Secretary might be able to give some advice to the Home Counties so that we can get the maximum result from our recruiting and training.
We might have been told earlier how far we had gone in basic training. That point has been left severely alone. I understand that specialist training, which the Under-Secretary said that we should hear about on Wednesday, must be given at a later stage; but we could have been told something about recruiting and basic training earlier. I hope that the Home Secretary will give us more details about the numbers we ought to recruit. One appreciates that he has set a very low target. I assure him, on behalf of most districts, that we should like to exceed that figure very much. Obviously, it is the intention of the Ministry and the Government to give us more explicit directions so that we can go ahead and recruit in a sensible fashion.
I could not help thinking this afternoon, when the hon. Member for Harrow, East displayed those wonderful recruiting posters, that one has the feeling that the enthusiasm which these posters are likely to engender is about equal to the size of the posters themselves, because they are very small indeed. It is not merely posters which will bring recruits. I, personally, believe that if the Home Secretary can give us some encouragement on these points which I have mentioned, he will be able to feel that the districts and the country generally will respond very readily, 78 despite the fact that it has been said that the people are tired of Civil Defence. Well, they have not got to be tired of it, and when they are appealed to they will not be tired, but will really jump to it and make a great surge forward in order to be ready for whatever eventualities may occur.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I have listened with great interest to the speeches made, and I do not intend to keep the House long, although I would like, as other hon. Members have done, to say a few words about my own personal experiences and about some of the lessons that may be learned from them.
In the first place, it would not be out of the way if I made some reference to recruitment and suggested that one of the reasons why it tends to be slow is because there is a quite natural, healthy and reasonable tendency on the part of the population not to wish to believe that these measures are necessary so soon after the war. Indeed, if any calamity develops, it would be essential for everyone, the nation as a whole, to expect that the Government in power had done everything they could to prevent war, that whatever mixture of firmness and patience was necessary had been applied, even if that meant almost unending patience, because the nation and the ordinary citizen believe that there could be nothing very much worse than total war of the type which they have read and heard about.
When France fell, there was a great stimulus applied to recruitment generally, because for the first time, after the period which has been described as the "phoney war" had ended, our people realised that they stood alone, and there was a great upsurge of feeling and determination to grasp the nettle and to show that, whatever else might befall them, they would not fail their neighbours in this dire necessity. I remember myself working in the streets day by day, together with the Conservative agent of my division, recruiting personnel. It was not an arrangement that we had come to by forethought; it was a spontaneous and natural happening. The response was excellent. It was good because, for the first time, we were able to tell people what they should do, how they should go about it, and satisfy them 79 that the need was urgent, whereas in the years before they had not been able to believe that this was so.
In a place like Stoke-on-Trent, we were not exposed to any heavy attacks at all. Perhaps 30 or 35 times bombs were dropped upon the city, though never in any such way as Manchester or Liverpool experienced. The enemy simply peeled off one or two, or, at the most, 10 bombers—and only on one occasion were there 10—to keep us quiet while they turned their real attention to places which they felt to be of greater importance.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) will remember that we were together on one occasion during an attack, and when we went to see where the damage had been done we found a pathetic sight in the bewilderment of a poor old woman whose house had been set on fire by incendiaries, and who could not understand why it should have to be hers. Those of us who went on with our work in the city discovered later that even a few explosive bombs could create very serious damage and disorganisation, but nothing can shock the morale of the people if they are determined and united to resist anything that attacks them, so long as they are satisfied, as a united people, that everything has been done to prevent war and prevent it with honour.
We must ask ourselves questions under three headings—protection, rescue and treatment. What kind of a war are we likely to have to fight at any foreseeable time in the future? For myself, I cannot imagine that atomic bombs will be used, either by us or against us. That does not mean that they will not be used, but that I do not personally believe it to be likely. Indeed, if it is so, as a medical man I would have to write the world off as completely insane, and, if we reach that phase of insanity, there would be very great difficulties facing us. We ourselves in our islands may be exposed to very severe attack and damage, but that does not mean that we cannot defend ourselves or cannot resist attack: nor does it mean that we are not capable of retaliating with such force as we can command against anyone who might be prepared, at any time, and from any direction, to move against us.
80 What sort of thoughts are coming to our minds in these circumstances? It is fairly apparent that the kind of atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima was not very much more destructive than some of the terrifying weapons which Germany had devised to fling at us, or those from which they had to suffer from us. I feel hot and bothered when I think about these things, and I try not to visualise them, for the thought of 30,000 or 40,000 people burning to death in one night is far from pleasant to contemplate, but that is the picture which is created.
I do not believe there is any Power in the world that can attack us by means of bombing aeroplanes and get away with it in view of the way in which world forces are aligned today. Yet if we are to think in terms of atomic bombs and guided missiles, we must be prepared for serious damage where they fall, and particularly from the heat and fire generated from them. Therefore, at the scene of such experiences, we would not be able to expect to bring about effective rescue promptly or easily, but in the zones round about all our technique of rescue must be available, and must be available more expeditiously than ever it was in the last war. It is in reference to these two zones that I would like to say a few words.
I found that we entered the last war, perhaps naturally, with rather mistaken and old-fashioned ideas; we did not know what had to come, and our ideas were proved wrong. We also held on to our ideas for too long, even when we knew that they were mistaken. Medical men were kept on reserve when I thought they should have been sent to every scene of an explosion. I think that at least one doctor should have been present even where only small explosions have taken place causing very few casualties. If there is no medical man present on the site of an explosion, I think we should insist on every casualty being sent, not to a first-aid station, but at once to a hospital, if there is one within reasonable distance.
In one explosion in which I was involved, and in which a number of people were killed and about 40 injured, those who, like myself, thought they had not been hurt later discovered that they had partially collapsed vertebrae. This was only a small bomb of probably half a ton or less. Such cases should all be sent to hospital where they can have a few hours' 81 rest with their clothes off, and after they have recovered from the effects of shock or blast they should be examined by X-ray and then, if they are found to be all right, sent home.
I feel that the whole system of mobile units which we tried to use for some time in the last war was quite mistaken. Nothing can properly be done for people on the site of an explosion; it only creates confusion. When a mobile unit arrived on the scene of the explosion to which I referred, I was under the debris instead of being in charge of it, and time was wasted in the most foolish way by an unskilled medical man trying to stitch up somebody's nose by the light of an electric torch while 30 or 35 other people were lying in the road in real need of prompt medical attention and removal to hospital.
§ On the question of rescue, we found that there was some jealousy between those who had been trained and wore uniforms and those who had only been partially trained, but who felt that they also could help. In the mining area in which I live, there were thousands of people expert in burrowing under debris and rescuing people, because any miner who has worked underground for several years knows how to burrow under debris and bring people out. When explosions have occurred and bombs have fallen, I have seen strong men literally crying because they were not allowed to help. I hope that in future we shall have a better liaison between those in Civil Defence who wear uniform and those who do not wear uniform, but who have a great knowledge and expert experience behind them, and want to assist.
§ I feel that if we are to make Civil Defence worth while, every street should have its unit, and that, if it is a long street, it should have two units. I am speaking on the hypothesis that the world will fall into this dreadful error of war, although I hope that hypothesis will never be realised, as, I am sure, does everyone else. But should it happen, then everybody must be prepared to help everybody else. Every man and woman not in the Fighting Forces, and even adolescents, should know that their neighbours are literally themselves, and they should be prepared to help in every way possible.
§ There is never any panic when people believe in the cause for which they are 82 fighting. If this nation believes in the struggle, there will be no dearth of people coming forward, but if the nation were divided, that would be a bad thing. The essential thing is for people to be assured that the greatest patience is exercised in negotiations in an endeavour to prevent a world war. The cheapest way of defending the civilian population is to see that war does not break out and involve this country, or, if it breaks out elsewhere, to see that the available machinery provided by the United Nations is used and that the war is brought to an end at the earliest possible moment, and that there is never another world war.
§ With regard to treatment, there is very little I need say. It depends on the kind of attack made. I suppose that in the last war, more civilians were killed on the roads than through direct enemy action. As a matter of fact, the numbers were not dissimilar. If, however, we were faced with another kind of offensive, either by the inhalation of radio-active substances, by the infestation of disease—an eventuality I very much doubt, because I do not believe it to be feasible—or by the dropping of atomic bombs, then we would have to be prepared for greater numbers of casualties than in the last war. I want to assure my right hon. Friend that if some of the horrors about which we have been talking, and which all of us hate so much, were to befall this country, and the people were given the assurances I have mentioned, we should find that they would resist any aggressor in such a way as to make it impossible for the war to last very long and to ensure that victory would be on our side.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. McAdden (Southend, East)
I have listened with interest to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), and I am sure that all hon. Members agree with him when he says that should such a testing time come upon this country, we shall find no difficulty in securing large numbers of volunteers anxious to play their part; but it is very little comfort to the Home Secretary to know that when the danger is immediately upon us the volunteers will be forthcoming. If Civil Defence is to be effective, they must be forthcoming now. Consequently, I feel that what is lacking in this matter is a real sense of urgency.
83 We on this side of the House are prepared to assist the Government in awakening the people of this country to the sense of danger which faces them. We should not just hope that should the danger materialise, the recruits will be forthcoming. Even if they are forthcoming, they will be untrained, and there will be no time in which to train them. We are prepared to give all possible support to the Government in an attempt to awaken the people to a sense of urgency, but our willingness is surely worthy of being received in the proper spirit. When we seek to awaken the people of this country to those dangers and to the importance of every effort possible being made now to build up our Civil Defence services, it is not very pleasant to hear ourselves described as "baying like hounds at the smell of blood."
The time has come when the people of this country ought to be awakened by all Members of Parliament. It is unfortunate that on the very day that we are discussing this question of Civil Defence, there should appear upon the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) a Question in which he asks the Prime Minister frankly to inform the people that there is no means of protecting them against atom bombs. If such nonsense is to be found in the heads of Members of Parliament, it is no wonder that such ideas are gaining a certain amount of ground among the people of the country. Surely we are entitled to expect a somewhat higher standard than that from Members of Parliament.
I feel that it is the duty of hon. Members on both sides of the House to pay a tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for the excellent description he gave us of the very careful groundwork which the Government have done in the preparation of Civil Defence. I am sure it is a consolation to all to know that, despite the fact that we have not heard much about it, a great deal of work and a great deal of research has been going on, and that in a few days' time we shall receive a quantity of literature which will be used in an attempt to inform the people of the protection which will be available to them. We were glad to hear this; but I am sure the Under-Secretary will forgive me if I say, as other hon. Members have said, 84 "It has been a long time a'coming," and if we feel—as I certainly feel—that a sense of urgency might have been aroused more easily, and earlier, if there had been more push about this before.
I mix with members of a number of local authorities in this country. I was speaking to my own town clerk a day or so ago and I asked his views about what kind of things ought to be said about Civil Defence. He told me—and I am sure others will have told other hon. Members—that what was needed more than anything else was to awaken people to the gravity of the situation. I do not want to try to instill panic amongst the people, but I think that hon. Members on all sides of the House will be wanting in public duty unless they tell people about the gravity of the situation at the present hour.
While I realise how easy it is to try to play down and to placate people's fears, I think it is necessary for us to be quite frank with the people of this country and to appeal to them now, in their own interests, to rally in those numbers which the urgency of the situation ought to demand to build up the Civil Defence services of this country. I believe that with the co-operation of all sides of the House, and given the right kind of leadership, we shall get those people. We have not got them now. We shall get them if the problem is tackled with sufficient drive; and it is most important that they should be usefully and actively employed and not just be recruited.
Those who remember the early days of Civil Defence in London during what has been described this afternoon as the "phoney war," will remember the derogatory remarks passed about the Civil Defence and Fire Services, and the suggestions that were made that they spent most of their time playing cards. The time came when nobody had praise high enough for those boys. But it was wrong that they were not kept more constantly active than they were. People should have been given a job of work to do and a feeling that there was something important to get on with. Let us have some kind of drive and organisation in the Civil Defence service. Let us see that when the people are there, they are actively and usefully employed, and are not just large numbers of recruits which exist only on paper.
85 I was interested in the information given by the Under-Secretary on the division of the population into certain groups. I was a little worried when he said—if I understood him correctly—that, in his view, people over the age of 40 should regard themselves as being primarily available for Civil Defence duty. If he is right—and he may well be—it is important that that should be proclaimed from the housetops, because that was not done in the last war. I am sure the Under-Secretary will agree that there are many men who served in the Home Guard during the last war who would like to serve in it again if there should be another war. If they are to be told that the man over 40 is, primarily, one who should be in Civil Defence, that ought to be said now. If we want them in the Civil Defence service, and not in the service they would otherwise seek to enter, it will be a long time before they get into Civil Defence unless it is made clear to them now.
I do not wish to take up too much of the time of the House because many hon. Members wish to speak, including those representing the country from which my ancestors came. I am sure they would like to say something about Scotland. I should like to hear from whoever is to reply to this Debate, some clear indication of what financial restrictions are being imposed on the efforts of local authorities in building up their Civil Defence organisation. It may be that they have been told they can spend as much as they like, provided the job they perform is a good one. I rather doubt it. I should like to have that information in order that we may judge whether, in their assessment of the economic needs of the country, the Government have placed undue emphasis on the needs of Civil Defence or over-due emphasis on other aspects.
Another question is whether there has been any change in the view of the Government on the need to disperse the population in the event of a conflict, which none of us wish to see. We know what was the policy last time. Is it to be the same kind of policy next time? Will the same areas of this country have the same function? If not, are they going to be told now, or later, what their function is to be concerning dispersal? These are problems which might be considered usefully now, and on which local authorities ought to be given information.
86 If hon. Members on both sides of the House will play their part, not only here but in their constituencies, in arousing the people of this country to the sense of great urgency which ought to prevail, then recruits, so far conspicuous by their absence, will be forthcoming in greater numbers, and will give a greater sense of security to the Government in the conduct of our affairs.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) made a certain reference to Scotland, and I want to begin my remarks with some questions about Civil Defence in Scotland. The right hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd), who introduced the Debate in a very moderate and very reasonable speech, mentioned that today he had received a telegram from Edinburgh asking exactly what was the policy regarding shelters.
Surely, if that is the state of affairs at this time, if the capital city of Scotland does not know what proposals the Government have in mind about shelters, there is obviously something very much wrong with the state of Civil Defence in this country. What is the Government's policy towards shelters? I presume shelters have to be built by building trade workers. Is it proposed that the state of emergency has now become so alarming that the Government are to advise the City of Edinburgh and the City of Glasgow upon a policy for air-raid shelters? What kind of air-raid shelters are to be constructed? Where is the labour to be obtained for these shelters? Is it proposed to call up into the Army, for other services, the only people who can make these air-raid shelters? Are we going to take away from the deplorable housing needs of Scotland people who are building houses? Are we going to stop building houses and put these people to build air-raid shelters?
§ Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is that what my hon. Friend is proposing—that we should stop building houses?
§ Mr. Hughes
No, I am not proposing that. I am asking a question about the Government's policy, and my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) knows very well what my attitude is.
87 There is another aspect of air-raid precautions. What is the policy on dispersal in Scotland? I put a Question to the Secretary of State for Scotland a few weeks ago; I asked which were the evacuation areas, which were the neutral areas and which were the areas to which the population of Glasgow and Edinburgh were to be dispersed. I received a little document which was marked "Confidential," but which nevertheless gave certain information about dispersal and evacuation. I gathered from this document that an area of Ayrshire is to be the dispersal area. Presumably we have to be prepared to recognise our part of Ayrshire as a dispersal area but—and I do not want to over-state the case—we simply have not the houses in Ayrshire to take the 10,000 or 20,000 or 100,000 or 250,000 people who, presumably, might have to be evacuated from Glasgow.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
The hon. Member refers to Ayrshire as a dispersal area. Is it not, in fact, a reception area?
§ Mr. Hughes
That is so. In Ayrshire there is no room for that number of people; so that we have proposals to remove people to a county where there is no room for them. I do not want to go further into the strategical position, but I would point out that in Ayrshire there is one of the largest munition areas in the country. We are proposing to remove the population of Glasgow to an area which could not possibly cope with them. It is ridiculous to imagine that it could.
We have a right to have some answer to the question: What is the policy for Edinburgh? Do the Government contemplate building air-raid shelters? If the Government have any policy of building air-raid shelters, how do they propose to obtain the men and material to carry out that policy? As I shall point out later, according to some of our greatest authorities there is only one safe policy in the event of war, and that is to remove the population underground. I ask hon. Members to realise what kind of economic burden that would impose upon the country. Is it possible? Is it practicable? If not, we are left to assume that there are very inadequate remedies, very inadequate proposals and policies, for dealing with the problem in Scotland. 88 I shudder to think what is likely to happen in the event of an atom bomb dropping in Glasgow, with its crowded tenements, with the worst slums in the world; and I cannot see the local authority of Glasgow, in any conceivable space of time, being able to produce any practical policy of air-raid precautions likely to give anyone in that city any sense of security at all.
The right hem. Member for King's Norton referred, in an aside, to a Socialist town council which did not help with air-raid precautions during the preparations before the last war. I was a member on a Socialist town council and the position I adopted was this: it is the duty of everyone, whether they agree with war or not, to help the innocent victims of war. Certainly we did our utmost throughout the war to help the victims of war, whether they were evacuees from Glasgow, or Poles or German prisoners-of-war. We did our utmost to help to succour the wounded and help the distressed. That, I believe, is the outlook and hope of all of us.
I thought that in his desire to avoid panic the right hon. Member tended to under-estimate the grim facts of what is likely to happen in the event of a raid with atom bombs. No one can say that I have not tried to warn the House on this matter. Three years ago, I remember, we had a Debate on Defence, when it was considered almost indelicate and indecent even to mention the atom bomb. Now we are agreed that the atom bomb is here. This Debate is just as important as the Debate which is to take place on Wednesday. This is a Defence Debate, and the defence of the civil population, of the people in the crowded tenements of Glasgow, Manchester and London, is as important and as essential as anything which may be discussed on Wednesday when we shall have prominent strategists discussing the movement of armies and general strategy throughout the world. After all, if our defence does not give protection to the great majority of people in the country, then surely it is no defence at all.
What is the problem that we have to face? The right hon. Gentleman made a reference to the Dean of Canterbury who, I presume, made a speech yesterday about rocks melting 60 miles away when an atom bomb is dropped. I have not read 89 the Dean's speech. I do not profess to agree with him. I do not even agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I do agree with the Archbishop of York who, a fortnight ago, urged the Government to consider anew the whole question of atomic warfare. The Archbishop of York adopts a fundamentally different point of view from my own. I believe I am a greater Christian than is the Archbishop of York. He puts forward the view that atomic warfare has now become so dangerous that it is time the Government made a new approach to the United Nations Security Council in order to see whether new negotiations could take place.
I should be far more convinced that the Government were acting on the right lines if they supported the Archbishop of York and said, "We realise that the dropping of the atom bomb in any part of the world would be a universal catastrophe and it is up to all of us, whatever different ideologies we may hold, to do everything possible to re-open negotiations in order that this problem might be placed on an international footing."
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
The hon. Member says he would support the plea of the Archbishop of York. I hope he would also support the plea made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on exactly the same issue.
§ Mr. Hughes
I make no apology for saying that I agree with the Leader of the Opposition on this point and that I believe direct contact should be made. I concede that point entirely.
The right hon. Member for King's Norton talked about stirrup pumps and buckets and, when he did so, I thought he was minimising the danger. If the Dean of Canterbury made a mistake in overemphasis on the one side, I believe the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake of under-emphasis on the other side.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am sorry to interrupt again, but I must point out that when I was discussing stirrup pumps I was dealing only with the menace of incendiary bombs. I was not suggesting that one could deal with atom bombs by means of stirrup pumps. What I was suggesting was that when the Government had made the requisite research, they might be able to produce other detailed methods of attacking this new menace.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am glad that that point has been cleared up. It is quite fallacious to argue as if the incendiary bomb, to which the right hon. Member referred, is in any way analogous to the atom bomb. As I understand it, the atom bomb is more analogous to a small earthquake.
I ask the Ministers concerned to deal with that aspect of the matter. I wonder whether it is realised that if the atom bomb were dropped on the cities of this country, we should be faced with a universal catastrophe. We know what happened when atom bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. We can find that out from an official report. In the light of that, and of the catastrophe that would follow if atom bombs were dropped on our cities, I submit that what has been said in this Debate has been largely irrelevant.
Let us forget about the Dean of Canterbury. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, I have never met the Dean of Canterbury. The Dean of Canterbury moves in a different stratosphere. I do not deal with deans and bishops. Let us, instead, turn to what can be considered the views of an expert. What about Lord Trenchard? Lord Trenchard is regarded as one of the greatest authorities on aerial warfare, and in another place he made this assertion:Is there any doubt whatever in any man's mind that the atom bomb could probably destroy anything from 10 million to 20 million people in a month? I am not overstating the case"—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Were those remarks made in another place?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If they were made in this Session, it is out of order to quote them. If they were made in a previous Session, it would be permissible to quote them.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that if the hon. Member were to tell us the date, that would solve the problem.
§ Mr. Hughes
I have the date here, but if you will allow me, Sir, to finish the quotation, then I can look up the date.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not see why the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), who is so anxious to get the latest information on military matters, should be so anxious to suppress—
§ Mr. Hughes
Let us agree that Lord Trenchard went on in another place to say that it was his estimate that an atom bomb—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman really must try to find the date when that statement was made. He may not quote from a speech made in another place in this Session. He has already quoted the Archbishop of York. He must remember that the Archbishop of York is also a Member of another place, and his speeches there during this Session may not be quoted here now.
§ Mr. Hughes
My memory is quite good, and it is against the memory of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
May I assist the hon. Gentleman by saying that the Archbishop of York said the same thing outside of another place?
§ Mr. Hughes
I am very grateful to the hon. Member for assisting. The main point is that Lord Trenchard gave it as his opinion that in the first month of an atom war there would be at least 10 million and possibly 20 million casualties.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am prevented from quoting what Lord Trenchard said, but I can give the hon. Member the full facts later. I submit that, if Western Europe is to be faced with casualties of anything between 10 million and 20 million, all 92 these air-raid precautions that we have heard so much about today are infinitesimal for dealing with this great problem. If a city like London or a city like Glasgow or Manchester were to have two or three atom bombs dropped on it, that would make nonsense of all the defence strategy, and make comparative nonsense of all the air-raid precautions.
§ Mr. Hughes
Why should the hon. Member answer "So what?" If the hon. Member waits, he may have an opportunity of answering my argument, and I shall listen to him patiently.
I have been trying to find out whether Lord Trenchard was exaggerating a little, and I turned to a book by one of the greatest experts on modern warfare, Captain Liddell Hart. Captain Liddell Hart wrote a book called "The Defence of the West." He said in it that Lord Trenchard's assumption of the possible casualties was reasonable and that 20 million killed would wipe out half the population of England or France or the whole population of Belgium and Holland combined.
So I want the House to look upon this matter in this way, and not as a matter to be dealt with merely by means of air-raid precautions as we had them in the last war. I want the House to look upon the matter in the light of the tremendous possibilities. I do not say for one moment that the people of this country should not do their very utmost to prepare so far as possible, but let us realise the tremendous catastrophe that will confront us if we go on in this way.
I want to quote from opinions in America. I think some hon. Members have recently had circularised a very interesting compilation of views called "The Atom Era" compiled by the New York "Nation." One thing said in it is:There is a belief that our giant cities like New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles can be defended. They cannot.If it is impossible to defend New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles, how are we going to defend Manchester, Glasgow, London, and Oxford?
In the "New Statesman" a few weeks ago there was an article explaining that the B.29s were located somewhere near Oxford. If they are located near Oxford, 93 then I presume that it will be legitimate to regard Oxford as a place that may be bombed during the next war. If that is so, if we are to be faced with this mass destruction, then let us not talk in terms of stirrup pumps, let us not talk of sand, let us not even talk of air-raid shelters: let us face the fact that huge areas of this country will be uninhabitable, and that in face of all this our air-raid precautions that have been discussed today are more or less irrelevant.
If we are to face the reality of this, we have to keep out of war, and if we go to war with our eyes open, in face of all the warnings that are being given to us by the best-informed scientists all over the world, we are not defending the people of this country: we are helping to destroy, and acquiescing in destroying, the civilisation which has been built up with tremendous energy and care over hundreds of centuries.
I regard this Debate with great depression. I do not see that any reasonable policy is being brought forward, and this House must make up its mind to tell the Government to pursue a new line of policy. I therefore hope that this problem will be looked at in its proper perspective, and that it will be realised that, in spite of all our illusions, in an age of atomic warfare this country cannot be defended without a huge loss of our civilian population. The Americans realise that. Hon. Members may have read about a month ago a statement drawn up by 12 of the most eminent scientists, strategists and physicists in the universities of America, who said that the present policy of the United States in regard to atomic warfare must inevitably mean "the obliteration of our nearest ally"—and "our nearest ally" is us.
So, while I entirely agree that we should take every possible precaution to save wrecking, to help the suffering and to help the people who remain, let us not be under any delusion that, if we enter an atomic war, what we do can be by any means said to be a defence of this country.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) into the respective merits of himself, the Archbishop of York and the Dean of Canterbury. But I do think that one thing aligns his speech very closely with almost every other speech we have heard this 94 afternoon, and that is that, today, in Civil Defence we face a problem of immense magnitude and very great seriousness.
I have listened to a large number of the speeches made today, and I was particularly interested in what the Under-Secretary said about training the general staff. That was helpful, and I am sure that out of what was left from the last war, he has been able to build up a very good staff. But I assure him that no war has ever been won by a staff; not even the War Office has been able to win a war without soldiers. I, and I think a large number of other people feel seriously perturbed that the great difficulty which faces us today is not the lack of staff, or of exceedingly able people at the top, or any lack of will of either the Government or the Opposition to help in this matter. The great difficulty is that we have not been able to get anything like an adequate number of recruits. That is the only point upon which I wish to speak this afternoon.
If we are to get those recruits, it is not merely a question of appeals. I have a suspicion that the majority of our people are sick of appeals of every sort and kind, and I believe that the only way to deal with this is to put forward a simple proposition of what is expected, and to do everything possible to encourage local patriotism, especially where that has been so well demonstrated in the past. My experience is that that is exactly the reverse of what is being done at present. The Under-Secretary said that there were special areas of unusual character, and boroughs which do not come under the county council. I fully agree, but I believe he is being far too inelastic—if I may use the expression—in my particular area. A county council, wherever it may be, is an excellent body, but it handles villages and small towns of up to 10,000 or 20,000 people. Not even Devon County Council, which is admittedly by far the best county council in the country, has the experience needed to handle a great block of 90,000 people in a small congested area.
In Devon there are three adjacent towns agreed about one thing: that they do not want to be united, although for once in their history they were completely united on the fire service, and worked well together in the last war. They are completely separate units, with a great river north and south cutting them off from the 95 surrounding countryside, with a comparatively small bottle-neck, and the sea. As the Home Secretary may know, in the last war they were bombed very many times, and had a death-rate approximately double that of the average constituency. Nevertheless, they are completely separate units with a total population of over 90,000 people, and evacuation alone will put that figure up to well beyond 100,000. In the summer there is probably double that number. That is just one illustration to show how impossible it is for this to be worked from the local authority in Exeter, which is completely out of touch. It simply is not a practical proposition.
In the last war it was admitted that they had the highest standard of organisation, and the whole machinery is there, ready to go into action tomorrow, if only it is used in the way it has been used. I have no doubt that that simple illustration could be multiplied throughout the country. There is no feeling against being under the county council, but we know the sort of minutes they will get about expenditure, which are quite out of keeping with the defence of populations of 100,000. I naturally appeal for this particular area, although there must be many others, and I ask that this aspect should be carefully considered. Where there is in a comparatively small area, a big block of 80,000 or 90,000 people who have worked these schemes together before, and who have done it well, let them get on with it along the lines they know.
I realise as well as anyone that a greater danger faces us today, and that wider areas must be unified, but that must be done with some geographical knowledge and on some sort of population basis. I ask the Government, in dealing with this matter, to get on very much more speedily than they have done so far in letting the local authorities know what they are doing, to adopt an easier attitude, and not to think that a particular form of local authority such as a county council is necessarily right, but to try to use these smaller authorities so as quickly to get the largest number of people working a scheme.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, Northfield)
The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), in common, I think, 96 with every other hon. Member who has spoken except my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes), has undoubtedly supported the general proposals of the Government and has asked for a strengthening of our Civil Defence. In any remarks that I make on one limited subject—namely, atomic energy—I do not want to appear to be disagreeing with the general view of the House. I entirely accept the view that if war comes, we have to defend ourselves to the hilt, and that must include the most efficient Civil Defence possible. I say in all honesty that in my view there has been a considerable air of unreality about the speeches made today, and may I, with the greatest good will to the Under-Secretary, whom I admire very much, say that of his speech as well?
The general tendency of the Debate has been to decry, to some extent at any rate, the atomic bomb. From any point of view that is a very silly thing for anyone to do in this country. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has pointed out, over and over again, that it is our superiority in respect of the atomic bomb that has so far been responsible for the whole of Europe not being overrun. The Russians have more tanks than we have and more aircraft than the Americans and ourselves combined, and immeasurably more men. It is in technical superiority, and, above all, in superiority in respect of atomic energy, that we are ourselves far ahead of them.
Another reason why it is silly to decry the atomic bomb is that it is contrary to the facts to do so. I hear that an atomic manual is coming out on Wednesday. I am glad to hear that. I would, however, point out that we have had an official document on this subject, which was in the Vote Office in 1946, and I think the Under-Secretary will agree that it was compiled by the very experts who have special responsibility for atomic matters, namely, those who conducted the inquiry in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That report shows that on the average—and this is subject to Civil Defence—the atomic bomb killed 50,000 people outright and rendered 400,000 homeless. I agree that we want to improve upon that. Unfortunately, other people are improving upon the atomic bomb as well and are not running away from the need to improve on it.
97 It is utterly stupid to talk about the atomic bomb as if it were just another weapon. It is a quite different weapon. I think that my hon. Friend quite rightly started his speech by saying that the responsibility for the failure of the Atomic Energy Commission, on the whole, rests with the Soviet Union. I do not personally deny that, although I venture to say that it is a matter which should not be glibly asserted without careful research into the whole of the circumstances, and that such research does not make quite as plain a case as many people believe. After all, the Soviet Union has accepted the need for inspection in certain circumstances. The simple point that I want to make to my hon. Friend is that it is high time that the Government published a White Paper to show where the responsibility for failure to control atomic energy lies.
How ridiculous it is that we should be told that we are to have a atomic manual before we have a White Paper which clearly shows where the responsibility lies. This is not an academic matter. As the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) has asserted, the main problem is: How we are to get recruits for Civil Defence? One of the most important ways of getting recruits for Civil Defence and in relation to other matters of far greater importance—I speak as an advocate of a voluntary expeditionary force for Malaya and Korea as well—is by enabling the man-in-the-street to know where the right and the wrong lies, and on this subject of atomic energy, I think that it is vital that the Government should make a further statement.
Let me come to the most important point, which I am trying to put before the House. It is that we have not yet given the public the facts, as the Government know them, on this matter of the atomic bomb. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) made a speech with which I found it very difficult to disagree in particular, but about which I would say to him that it was very different from the speech which he made shortly after coming back from Hiroshima. In general terms, I agree with the point which the hon. and gallant Gentleman made. He said quite definitely that the Russians developed the atomic bomb last year.
§ Commander Noble
I was merely taking up the information which this House was given by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Blackburn
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will read the information, he will see that the statement made by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister was that an atomic explosion occurred in the U.S.S.R. in August of last year. I am hoping that a clear cut statement on this will be made by the Government. In order to show that I am perfectly willing to come forward on the matter, I will with your permission, Mr. Speaker, give the information which I possess, and about which I think it is very important that there should be a Government statement.
In the first place, the explosion that occurred last year was detected by certain devices by the Americans and ourselves into which it is unnecessary to go. All that was detected was that an atomic explosion occurred. It may have been the explosion of an atomic bomb, or, alternatively, the premature explosion of an atomic pile which "ran away." We do not know for certain which of those two theories is the correct one. But this is the important point: if my information is correct, we have at our disposal—the Americans and ourselves—the devices which would enable us to know of any atomic explosion which has taken place at any time in the Soviet Union. More important still, we should know whether any explosion has taken place in the Soviet Union since August of last year. I think that these facts should be told to the public to enable us to form a proper judgment of this matter. If that is correct, it is a matter of some significance that 11 months have gone by and only one atomic explosion has occurred. I may be wrong, and I am expressing a personal opinion, but I doubt whether the Soviet Union is very far ahead with the production of atomic bombs.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
What conclusion does the hon. Gentleman draw from the fact that there was only one explosion last year?
§ Mr. Blackburn
I find it difficult to form a definite conclusion, but it seems to tend in the direction of the belief held in some quarters, although not generally, that a premature atomic explosion had taken place. I think that one atomic 99 explosion alone, would hardly have been enough for various purposes. Incidentally, we have had a statement recently from a Soviet scientist that atomic bombs are used in the Soviet Union for blowing up mountains and enabling rivers to be driven through obstacles which otherwise could not be removed. My main point is that I hope that whoever is to reply to the Debate will try to give up-to-date information on this subject, because I think that the people are entitled to have it.
I have two further points that I wish to make, but perhaps I had better finish with the subject of atomic warfare. I say with great diffidence that the speeches which have been made appear to me to have been unrealistic. I do not think that the main danger lies in bombing raids on this country in a future war. The great danger lies in the surreptitious use of the atomic bomb. General Groves, who is entitled to be regarded as one of the greatest authorities on this subject in the world, as he was responsible for the whole effort from 1946, said in an interview that the most vital way in which the atomic bomb could be used in a future war would be at night, and that it could be dropped over the side of a neutral ship in a harbour.
Surely, the No. 1 target in a war would be the ports, and I would agree also the location, although it is definitely not Oxford, from which the B.29's would go. That being so, it is surely obvious that the way in which an atomic bomb would be used is surreptitiously. It would be quite a simple thing for an atomic bomb, or the material of an atomic bomb, to be put into a neutral ship, or some other ship, and at night to be dropped over the side at Southampton, London, or any of our main ports. The authority of General Groves is not lightly to be disregarded. I want to know what steps we are taking to see that events of this kind do not occur. The tragedy of Portsmouth has raised a certain amount of misgivings. It seems to me to be absolutely vital that we should protect ourselves in every possible way against the surreptitious use of the atomic bomb. There may be technical methods by which that can be done, by the use of very sensitive geigercounters and things of that kind, which can prevent that danger.
100 I agree that bacteriological warfare has been considerably exaggerated as a means of warfare by some experts and in the minds of the public. Nevertheless, that kind of warfare still remains. I hope we shall be told that proper steps are being taken to safeguard our reservoirs and general centres of food against the surreptitious use of bateriological agents of one kind or another. Let it be remembered that so far as we know, the technique of an aggressor nation today is not openly to declare war. It always uses agents, maybe a satellite state or an individual who can be repudiated. It is for that reason that I still believe, while accepting the general view that Civil Defence is important, that the most vital and immediate need is to protect ourselves, by counter-espionage and every other way, from the surreptitious use of atomic or bacteriological methods of warfare.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn) in his disquisition on the potentialities of the atom bomb. I think we are all agreed that it is a very terrible weapon, but I venture to remind the hon. Member that the object of Civil Defence is the protection of the civil population against enemy weapons and the mitigation, so far as it is possible, of the effects of enemy weapons.
The Civil Defence Act was passed in 1948, and it is now late July, 1950, but, in spite of the time that has passed, I submit that we have not got as far as we ought to have got in the organisation of Civil Defence. No establishments have been approved, no organisation has been set up, and in spite of what the Under-Secretary said, very few personnel have been recruited. It sounds a large number to say 48,000 for the whole of the United Kingdom, but when it is brought down to counties and county boroughs, it works out at a very small average indeed. In fact, no organisation has been even laid down, although there has certainly been a lot of discussion about it.
Beyond general instructions to the effect that volunteers are required for the Civil Defence Corps and the auxiliary services, county, county borough, and county district councils have only the most sketchy information as to how they are expected to proceed with the recruiting organisation and training of personnel. One thing 101 can be said—and in this I cordially agree with everything said by the Under-Secretary—and that is that the training staff at the War Office, with their staff college and schools of instruction, has been functioning really well. A considerable number of instructors have been trained, including part-time instructors, who in many cases were A.R.P. instructors kept together by the voluntary associations that were very wisely formed for that purpose.
In other respects, progress has been desperately slow. We have the experience of the last war. Surely more use could have been made of it to bring into being a really sound organisation by this time. I would remind Members that under the old A.R.P. organisation, county and county borough councils, as well as certain other large authorities, were officially termed "scheme-making authorities." It was their duty to prepare and submit A.R.P. schemes. This resulted in the production of workable schemes, and I should like to know why this system has now been dropped. If it had been again adopted, I have no hesitation in saying that by now we should have had workable schemes based on past experience, and that both recruiting and training of volunteers, as well as the shelter policy, which has hardly been considered, let alone settled, might have made good progress, as well as the evacuation schemes.
Evacuation schemes cannot be done on paper. I will give just one example from my own county. The suggestion was made from the Home Office to the effect that certain parishes, because they form part of a rural district, should be part of an evacuation area, whereas these parishes are directly on a tremendous target area, and it would be absolute madness to make them evacuation areas. This was all done over the heads of the county council. I and others associated with local government welcome the fact that the Home Secretary is what is termed in the Act, "the designated Minister"—I wish that he were the only Minister concerned, because I do not believe in having too many cooks—because of his great experience of local government which gives members of local government bodies confidence in him.
We recognise that he cannot go into every detail of Civil Defence, but I suggest he should make it clear to the civil servants in the Home Office that the 102 county and county borough councils are responsible authorities with a due regard for economy; that they have no desire to spend more of their ratepayers' money than is necessary, and that they recognise, when it is a question of grants, that the ratepayers are also the taxpayers and that the taxpayers' money, like the ratepayers' money, must on no account be wasted. I do not think that is always recognised in the official quarters of the Home Office.
I suggest that the county and county borough councils should again be constituted "scheme-making authorities," and that in the preparation of their schemes they should be given, not only leadership and encouragement from the right hon. Gentleman, but also latitude, both administrative and financial, with powers to spend reasonable sums without prior approval from the Home Office. It is recognised by everyone in local government that where the State makes a substantial financial contribution the State must keep a close watch on how its money is spent. But, admitting that, I am quite sure there might be far greater latitude allowed to the county councils and far less querying and vetoing of the spending of comparatively small sums than is the case at present.
The Under-Secretary said that the central Government was working very closely with the local authorities. That, if I may call it so, is a half-truth. There is far too much preparing of schemes, which very often are not very sound ones, and throwing them at the local authorities; then taking a long time about considering the replies, and in the end getting little or nothing done. I would suggest that regional staffs especially should model their functions on those of staff officers of the Fighting Services. Those functions, briefly, are in the first place to assist their own immediate chiefs, and in the second place to assist the subordinates of those chiefs. If they would remember that second function it would be very valuable.
Regional staff officers, who are Home Office officials, usually have very much to learn about local government, and if they work on the lines I have suggested, and which are worked on by staff officers in the Fighting Services, things would often go more smoothly and quickly. I remember that the Lord President of the Council, 103 who was Minister of Home Security during the war, and, if I may say so, a very good Minister, stated in a war-time Debate that civil servants were best for some parts of A.R.P. work, but other people were better for other parts, or words to that effect. I doubt that the part for which they are best suited is working at regional headquarters, where they are in close touch with local government officers and affairs, and where among their principal functions should be the function of advising and assisting local authorities. Few of them know much about local authorities, and some—I do not say the majority—do not seem very anxious to learn.
Most civil servants find it difficult to drop Civil Service methods of, for instance, scrutinising, querying, minuting, delay—anything but taking prompt action which is what is required. I would say that what is required is, first, a strong lead from the right hon. Gentleman and the Government generally in stressing the necessity for Civil Defence organisations and recruitment; telling people, who in many cases I am afraid do not believe there is any need to worry very much, that it is necessary for them to set up these Civil Defence organisations; and to call on councils to submit schemes which, no doubt, will be considered by the Home Office. I believe we should get a very long way if we asked councils, as they were asked during the last war, to be scheme-making authorities. There are too many people who are apathetic and who do not realise the necessity for Civil Defence. They can be greatly encouraged and given a lead by the Government.
I hope there will be no crises such as that of Munich and Dunkirk. But in each of those cases, not only did it wake up the people of this country to realise that there was danger, and to take part in Civil Defence, but it woke up the Home Office very much indeed. I shall never forget that in each of those cases there were a lot of things hung up by the Home Office by little queries which were obstructing what the local authorities thought it necessary to do. But when the crisis came the Home Office said, "Get on and do what you think is necessary." If we had not done so we should have been very much behind in 104 the preparations which in due course we did make reasonably in time. Let us hope there will be nothing of that kind again or that there will be any necessity for it.
I think I am correct in believing that a system of zones is to be established and that those zones are to some extent to be co-terminous with, or to include, at any rate, important target areas. Each zone is to be under a zone controller. This has not been settled definitely; it has merely been talked about. The zone controller will be the operational controller of mobile columns which will not be included in county units but which will be independent units. I do not know whether any of those columns have begun to exist, even in embryo. There should be regional conferences to decide the constitution and arrangement of zones, and those regional conferences should include, as a matter of course, the local commanders of the Fighting Services.
In my county there are very important target areas which I need not specify as they are well known. To simplify the organisation I suggest that the zone should normally be the geographical county. It would prevent any cross purposes of, for instance, staffs. The same area would not have a county staff as well as another independent staff, but the zone commander should have all the resources of the county at his disposal, including the county staff. This would avoid duplicating staffs in the county. I suggest the zone commander must be a person of such standing as to cause him to be accepted and respected in the county. Assuming that he will be such a person, in the event of his mobile columns being sent out of the county he should remain in control over all the county Civil Defence services—rescue, ambulance, pioneer and so forth. His position would have to be settled as regards the training of county personnel and administration.
There is finally the question of providing assistance for the clerks in the county districts, or at any rate, for local authorities, for Civil Defence recruitment and other work, which will have to be faced. It is no use thinking that if recruiting assumes considerable proportions the existing staffs of county districts will be able to cope with it. Once recruitment commences on a large scale it will be 105 more than they can manage. A small county staff, comprising three or four county districts, to deal with recruiting, organisation and training in each area might meet the case.
Another thing which is holding up recruiting, I am informed, is the doubt whether there is to be a Home Guard. I wish that that doubt could be settled definitely in one way or the other. Quite a lot of potential recruits would like to be in a Home Guard if there is to be one, and will not commit themselves to Civil Defence. Some decision ought to be taken in this matter. In conclusion, I would again beg the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to give us a strong lead and, above all, to make it clear to the public that there is a real need for Civil Defence. They should impress upon everybody concerned the truth that we cannot improvise and that if we are to mitigate the effects of enemy attack we must be ready in time.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Brigadier Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
If bombs had started to fall during September, 1939, we should have been in a pretty mess, because we were not prepared with our Civil Defence. As the war went on, things improved and the Fire Service and other services under the Home Secretary made progress. If war were to come in the near future—Heaven forbid it should—we have nothing in the way of preparation at the moment suitable to defend us against the atomic bomb. This is the bomb to which everybody has been referring during the Debate, but I think there are worse things than the atomic bomb. I am not trying to frighten hon. Members, but there are things just as bad as the atomic bomb.
I would ask the Home Secretary what he would do if gas were used. Has he adequate gas masks for the civil population? I do not think that the Germans were squeamish about using gas. I think they would have used it, if it had been to their advantage. I do not think that we have seen the last of that weapon. We should be very foolish if we were to sit back and think in terms of the atomic bomb only. We must be assured that there are adequate gas masks for the civilian population. Perhaps we might have an answer on this point later on. If the Government do not want to answer it, 106 I say, "Don't, but let us have some gas masks."
The morale of the civil population will remain good as long as people know that we have an adequate and efficient Civil Defence. If they know they have shelters to go to and that someone will come along and pull them out if a building collapses on top of them, their morale will be high. They will respond and go to work happily day after day. If the people believe that they have not adequate protection against anything that may come, they will not put their backs into their work and they will be frightened to stay in the towns. We shall have difficulty in keeping people at work. If the morale of the civil population goes, it will be extremely difficult for this country to continue at war, no matter how good our Fighting Services may be. The first thing we have to look out for is the cracking of our civilian morale. We were lucky in the last war in having "Mr. Churchill" to raise our morale at any moment when it looked like flagging. He did it better than anybody else in this country would be able to do it even at this moment.
There is an immense amount of training to be done for Civil Defence under present conditions. A lot of people think we have only to call back the men who were the heads of the Civil Defence in the last war and everything will be all right next week. I went on an exercise last year lasting the best part of three weeks, when the town clerks and the heads of the police forces of south coast towns were present. We went into the question of the military and civil people working together. The town clerks and the police were fully aware what their duties would be, and the military were aware of how they would work if we were once more attacked. There is a different technique which is well understood and applied by a small number of people.
We have now to get down to the task of training large numbers of people to the understanding of this new technique, as worked out at the Civil Defence staff college by Sir John Hodsall and other experts of the Home Office. It is absolutely essential that this should be done as soon as possible. It is no use hanging up little yellow posters in the underground and other places.
The Government must go all out in a full recruiting campaign. Without frightening 107 the country, they have to impress upon us that it is for our own safety that we should learn how to look after ourselves, because we never know when this new type of press-button warfare may start. As long as we are well prepared, and have gas masks and shelters, we have very little to fear. Shelters will not stop thousands of people from being killed, I admit, but they will prevent many thousands from being killed.
Many months ago, when I first came to this House, I would have suggested to the Ministry of Health that every new house they put up, should have a suitable shelter. It is easier to build a shelter when building a house than afterwards. As the Minister of Health is so slow and so extremely bad in building houses, I refrain from asking him to slow up an intolerably slow process. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about cement"?] Do not worry about cement. We can definitely put an underground shelter below a house if we want to, but it should be done now. It has to be done now and I suggest that the Home Office should think about it now.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Can the hon. and gallant Member estimate how much would be added to the cost per house by carrying out his suggestion?
§ Brigadier Clarke
I am not a building expert, and I shall not go into the cost per house. I do not think that cost comes into the matter. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) very carefully and I did not know whether he was talking about bishops, or bombs, or housing in Scotland, or the atomic bomb. All I knew was that the hon. Member seemed to think that it was not much good to protect the population, because an atomic bomb would blow them to pieces, so therefore, let us get on with putting up houses. I say that it is no good having the best welfare service in the world if we are to blow it all to smithereens with an atomic bomb.
Civil Defence is the fourth defence—the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and Civil Defence—and it should come under the Ministry of Defence and be integrated with the other Defence services. I suggest that, before that, we should have 108 a new Minister of Defence, one who does not go round—
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
It is a tragedy that we should be having a Debate like this five years after the end of the war. It is a tragedy because we do not really want to put our minds to Civil Defence, but it is a regrettable necessity. Sometimes we have to do things which we would rather not do, in order to prevent even worse tragedies and calamities befalling the country. The last war proved that it is a necessity.
An hon. Gentleman opposite referred to the time when the Lord President of the Council became the Minister of Home Security. I can assure the House that many people, particularly people in the East End of London, were pleased when the Lord President took control of Civil Defence because they were disappointed at the way the then Government had, in their opinion, let them down previously. I, too, am pleased that the Government are now getting on with the job. It is a regrettable one, but I am convinced that it is one which we must tackle. If we are to have another war—God forbid—I do not think it matters much to my constituents whether they are blown to smithereens by an atom bomb or by a high explosive bomb. All they are concerned with is to have protection against the atom bomb and the high explosive bomb.
Whoever may be responsible for the present tragic circumstances in the world, no one can point the finger of blame at the Labour Government or the Labour Party—
§ Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)
Did not the Labour Party, in 1945, promise us good relations with Russia?
§ Mr. Lewis
Yes; the Labour Party and the Labour Government have done everything in their power to bring about a smooth and happy relationship, but, regrettably, the other side have not taken the hand of friendship. Hence, we are discussing Civil Defence.
I believe that there are several reasons for the poor response to the appeal for 109 recruits for Civil Defence. Basically, the reason why we have not had the desired response in recruiting for Civil Defence is the same as that which applies in the case of recruiting for the three military Services. That is that in their hearts men and women hope and pray that there will be no necessity for Civil Defence or the Armed Services and, therefore, do not see why they should enrol. I agree with the Under-Secretary that it is not much good hoping and praying unless we ourselves do something about it, and I am pleased that he, supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd), called upon all people of good will, irrespective of their political opinions, to come forward and do something in Civil Defence.
I believe that many people would join even now, but they are a little worried whether they will be properly and fairly treated. They have bitter memories, unfortunately, of not being treated as generously as they might have been in the last war, particularly in the early stages. They include civilians who suffered injury and had difficulty in establishing their pension rights. Having eventually got their pensions, they often had difficulty in retaining them when attempts were made to reduce or stop them. The same thing happened with military pensions. It is true that since the Labour Government came into power in 1945, there has been a big change, but I should like the Home Secretary to make it quite clear that those who undertake this service and their dependants, will be properly, adequately, and generously looked after in the event of injury or loss of life.
I will give another example of the kind of thing that happened to many people who volunteered for Civil Defence duties in the last war. It happened to me. In the early stages I volunteered for Civil Defence duties and used the bucket of sand, the shovel and the stirrup pump. While I was away looking after someone else's property my house went up in smoke. That happened to many people. People were engaged night after night in Civil Defence duties, but when the question of claiming for damage to their property came up they were often told, "You cannot get any war damage payment because you did not make your claim in time." Or, if they did get the claim in, 110 it was treated not as fairly as it might have been. Mr. Speaker, I see you looking at me, but this has a relationship to Civil Defence in so far as I do not believe that recruits will come forward unless they can be sure they will be properly dealt with in the event of their property, home or loved ones being destroyed or injured while they are serving.
In other cases, while Civil Defence workers were out on the job, their relatives were bombed out, many of them being left with nothing at all. They had to go to the Assistance Board, which treated them shabbily and meanly in many instances and argued whether they should be given £1 or £2 or £3. I am speaking of the period from 1939 to 1945. I know there has been a big change since. Therefore, I am hoping that if any Civil Defence workers encounter difficulties of that description in the future, they, together with any other voluntary service, will be treated by the Government as generously as possible.
The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) mentioned Exchequer grants for Civil Defence and said that these amounted to 75 per cent. in some instances. I understand that local authorities can claim 100 per cent. grant for certain Civil Defence expenditure but, in other instances, only 75 per cent. Does the Home Secretary think it is right that a local council, and thereby the people living in that area, should have to suffer both the destruction of their borough and their homes by bombs and, after the war, pay for that damage and also a quarter of the cost of Civil Defence? I believe that Civil Defence should be a national charge. For instance, no one expects Aldershot to pay for the whole of the troops stationed there. That is met out of an Exchequer grant. I ask the Home Secretary to look again at that difficulty, which confronts many local authorities.
I suggest that many old age pensioners are fit and capable of giving service to Civil Defence if called upon to do so. If anyone thinks that a person at 65 is too old for Civil Defence, I would refer him to this honourable House, where there are many over 65 who carry on Parliamentary duties.
§ Mr. Lewis
I would not suggest they could do demolition work, but there are many jobs an older man could do. For instance, being the one in a street who could give information and have the necessary material available in an emergency. Everyone in that area would know that this old chap in that street, was the man who was acting, if only temporarily, as the street warden or until proper arrangements could be made.
Mention has been made of the atom bomb and bombers. When in the last war the balloon barrage was put up around the London docks, I wondered whether it would be a practical proposition to have a similar system of balloon barrage around the coast, those balloons perhaps being treated with radio activity to affect incoming planes. I am no expert, but I still wonder whether that would be possible. If it is not, could they be electrified so as to emit an electrical ray to prevent the bombers coming in?
My last word is to ask the Home Secretary, when dealing with Civil Defence, and when taking the local councils into his confidence, to treat them as generously as possible from a financial point of view.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) said it was a serious matter that we should have to discuss Civil Defence only five years after the greatest world struggle in history. I consider that we should have discussed this matter much sooner than today; that we should not have waited for the flare-up of open war in Korea before having this full-dress Debate. In 1948 we had the new arrangements regarding Civil Defence, yet this is the first chance this House had had to discuss this matter. People are chary of discussing Civil Defence because they say that to make public all the information on atomic energy would frighten the people. But surely to have knowledge is to give confidence? It is only ignorance that breeds fear, and if one has knowledge one is not afraid.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North, also said that he thought the reason for bad recruitment in the Civil Defence today was that the people of this country hoped so desperately for peace. Surely the hon. Gentleman must 112 realise that the people are quite awake to the fact that we cannot have peace through weakness, that it is only because a country is strong that it can command any authority in international councils, and that we cannot have peace at any price. It is just because we on this side of the House have such a deep disquiet over the state of our defences today that we have asked for a full-dress Debate on the subject on Wednesday.
Indeed, I find it extremely difficult to talk about Civil Defence without making some mention of general defence, because the crux of this Debate today has been the atomic bomb. We know perfectly well that germ warfare and gas were not used against this country in the last war for any humanitarian reason but because we won the Battle of Britain. It was because we had a strong Air Force and could command our own route in Europe that the enemy did not seek to exploit those weapons. It is exactly the same with the atomic bomb, and it is for that reason that Civil Defence and general defence must be discussed together in one picture.
Civil Defence is the fourth arm of our general Services. However brilliant an Army, Navy or Air Force which goes into action, the war, although going well overseas, might quite well be lost at home if the civilian population are untrained and inefficient and do not have steady morale to stand up to heavy attack. Any war of the future will be of the kind wherein every man, woman and child will have to play a part, and they will be glad at last to do so instead of having passively to stand by while their men are out in the fighting field.
When it was made known that we were to have this Debate on Civil Defence, people said to me rather cynically, "What is the use of talking about Civil Defence against the atom bomb?" That is the crux of the problem. If people have confidence that we have scientific knowledge to combat the effects of atomic bombing, if they know that we have sound Defence Forces and that the Government are pursuing the whole organisation of Civil Defence with energy and conviction, then we shall get the recruits for Civil Defence. I am quite convinced that man will never be deterred by retaliation or self-destruction in the use of the most modern weapons of war. It is the duty of us here in 113 Parliament, therefore, to tell the people now what are the really constructive and practical proposals that we have to offer for combating atomic warfare. I believe that if the fear of the effects of atomic bombing is largely removed, the recruiting situation will be completely different.
The only other Member who comes from a Scottish constituency and who has had the opportunity of speaking in the Debate today—the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes)—made a speech which, in my opinion, was more calculated than any other I have heard to raise fear and despondency throughout the country. Furthermore, it was blatantly a pacifist speech. It is just that kind of speech which does more harm than any kind of rumour or fifth column. I am not in favour of conscription for Civil Defence. I believe that if people are confident that the whole programme has been well handled, we can rely on voluntary recruitment.
I should like to ask some questions regarding the position of Scotland, and I am very glad to see that the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is on the Front Bench and is, I know, prepared to give any information which she can. I recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Scotland to ask what was the position of Civil Defence north of the Border. The right hon. Gentleman very courteously replied, but the paper concerning the Civil Defence arrangements in Scotland covered only two pages and merely laid out the general plan. There was nothing in it which really got down to the real problem of the number of recruits and of the target which is expected for Civil Defence north of the Border. I understand, and I trust that this is not true, that to date the Government have no target for Civil Defence because the recruiting figures are so deplorable that they cannot, in fact, make a target. If we are to have a plan, particularly from a Government who believe in planning, surely there must be some idea of the number of recruits who must be trained, especially as the training involves a period of 18 months. I ask the hon. Lady, therefore, if she will give to the Home Secretary, who is to reply later, information as to the position in Scotland.
I wish to query also the position of local authorities, who at present have the 114 responsibility of organising Civil Defence. I should like the Home Secretary to say what pressure he can bring to bear upon those local authorities who fall behind others in their conviction, their drive and their energy to gain recruits to build up their services.
The whole question of Civil Defence should receive greater national publicity. Even if we obtain the maximum number of recruits, there are millions of people who may never come into close contact with any Civil Defence worker and who will not understand the real problems of Civil Defence. In order to allay public anxiety, it should be made quite clear, through the medium of both the Press and the B.B.C., what are the elementary facts regarding atomic warfare and the elementary precautions which should be taken in the home.
Civil Defence, after all, means organised self-help. A feeling which people hated so much in the last war was that if they were forced by circumstances to be at home because of their home obligations, they had no real hand in tackling the war while others were away at the front. People often say, "I do not want to become an expert on atomic energy. I do not want to discuss all these technical matters." There are, however, many aspects which the ordinary person can study to very great advantage in his everyday life, and one of the first of these is first-aid. I have been closely associated with the Red Cross movement and nursing services generally, and I feel that as an average occupation for the ordinary citizen, a sound knowledge of first-aid and home nursing would be of the very greatest benefit in Civil Defence.
It would be illuminating if the Home Secretary were to give a clear indication of the effects which the proposals for Civil Defence will have on our general economic position. We are already told that our resources are already stretched to the utmost. Indeed, having seen the record of the Government during the last four and a half years, I should say that there is very little slack to use up. I have never heard of a Government which has used so much money for so little effect.
This, however, is a non-controversial Debate, and I will not pursue that aspect except to remark that the whole of Civil 115 Defence depends primarily on the confidence which is given to the people that the Government are really concerned with the whole issue and treat it as a matter of extreme urgency, not to cause alarm, but merely to give confidence. After all, nowadays war is not declared—it happens overnight; and if we look at events in the world since 1945, any thinking person will realise that although hostilities were officially ended in that year, they but showed the start of a new war in other parts of the world. Whether it is a cold war or hot war, the battle has been waged constantly during these five years, and I consider it a very serious matter that this should be the first real opportunity which the House has had to discuss this great question.
We must also impress upon the people of this country that Civil Defence is not only a mere passive matter. It means, above all, constructive and positive action. People who are well prepared, who are confident and who have adequate equipment, will not be afraid. However bitter may be the battle in the future, we can be sure that with sound Civil Defence the armies in the field will be supported by people who are heartened and confident at home.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)
What brought me to my feet was the speech of the right hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) who opened the Debate. He said that in the preparations before the last war Socialist councils did not help in many instances. That is true in many respects, because at that time the right hon. Gentleman's Government were only giving a 50 per cent. grant to local authorities. Those who lived in big seaport towns had to find the other 50 per cent. to give their people shelters, and when war broke out they had to get retrospective payment. I am pleased that in the preparation this time my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is not making the same mistake as the Conservative Party made in preparations prior to the war, in 1937 and 1938.
There is a big fear in this country that it is no good building up anything against the atom bomb. I think that is sheer defeatism. I remember that in my home 116 town, a large seaport town, which is represented in this House by the Home Secretary, it was urged that nothing could live against the high explosive bomb.
§ Mr. Blyton
I like peace, but I do not believe in peace at any price. We derided the Anderson shelter, but when high explosive bombs were dropped, Andersons saved thousands of lives in my home town. People who went into those shelters at least had confidence that they had some protection against blast from high explosive bombs. I think the Government have to start a campaign to say to the people that while they know this bomb is devastating, by Civil Defence it is at least possible—maybe not at the spot where the bomb drops, but in the outer area—for people to be saved.
It is quite true, as the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), said, that people are asking "What is the use? You cannot protect yourself against the atom bomb." The Government have to start some propaganda on this issue, because it is essential that we should have huge numbers of men in our demolition squads. I know that in the last war demolition squads saved many lives when people were trapped in buildings which came down. The volunteer position is really bad. I addressed a meeting in my town. It has a population of nearly 100,000, and there the total number of volunteers is 80. It is a large seaport town, heavily industrialised, and has not even a nucleus for building Civil Defence in that area. We have to ask the Government to go to employers and trade unions in the great workshops of the country, and place before the men in industry the necessity of learning Civil Defence so that they can help their neighbours if disaster should ever come upon them again in war. No one wants war, but I am one who believes that if it should come we should be prepared, so that our people can be saved to the greatest possible extent.
Are plans being prepared for the evacuation of children from vulnerable areas? As vice-chairman of the education committee in South Shields, I remember the town being divided. While one part was regarded as vulnerable and the children evacuated, the other half was not 117 so regarded and the children had to stay there. It is silly nonsense to let some go from one side of the street, while kiddies on the other side are regarded as safe and cannot be evacuated. I would like to know if they are going to evacuate children, and whether plans are ready now. Last time we had a good space of time in which to organise evacuation and get the children away, but this time we may not have a week, a fortnight, or three weeks. I believe plans ought to be put into readiness by the Ministry of Education determining for each area where its children shall go in the event of hostilities. All the necessary arrangements should be made so that from the word "go" the children will be evacuated, and I hope the silly nonsense of dividing towns into two as in the last war will not operate if war should come again.
In large towns an appeal can be made in regard to first aid, and particularly to those interested in the St. John Ambulance Brigade to come into Civil Defence and help in the work which will undoubtedly arise in the event of war. They should be asked to help our hospital services which are a part of the scheme. From practical experience I hope the Home Secretary will see that things are so allocated in different areas that if one area is isolated by bombing, it still has food on which to live. I hope these matters will be considered and that we shall not have the mess we had to face in the A.R.P. arrangements of the last war.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Macdonald (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
Perhaps I have not a great deal to contribute to the Debate, but I speak on behalf of the vast number of rural constituencies throughout England, Scotland and Wales. Those are the constituencies which, in the event of total war, would be looked upon to give, rather than to receive, for the benefit of the country as a whole. This war, if it comes, will undoubtedly be the most terrible we have ever faced, but that is no cause for defeatism, and the rural areas of the country in such a war would have a very big part to play.
I am sorry that occasionally the Debate on this vital matter has lapsed into the pettyness of party politics. I am very sorry to say that, because this is something above party politics. We must all pull 118 together to produce the best Civil Defence we can. That will increase the morale of our people and, in its way, by our resolute preparedness may be some contribution towards preventing a war ever occurring. Country districts must give help to the crowded areas, and I ask the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland to ask all local authorities to persuade their citizens to come forward and volunteer for Civil Defence.
I understand that volunteering to date for Civil Defence has been very poor, but are we sure that those members of the Government responsible for this, have gone about it in quite the right way? I believe there is an immense fund of local pride and local competition between county areas and county towns on which we could call. I suggest that the Government, with a view to helping local authorities in their recruiting drives, should agree to allow 100 per cent. to local authorities for the cost of training schemes in rescue squads, auxiliary fire brigades, repairs to roads, railways, gas mains, electricity services, in auxiliary nursing and in the use of mobile canteens. That cost may seem a big item, but it is nothing so great as the cost of building a number of permanent structures in rural areas as part of the defence scheme. Every one of the items I have mentioned would be of benefit in peace-time to the citizens who trained in these spheres of Civil Defence.
I believe that if the local authorities were called upon and were helped financially in that way, they could organise competitions between areas as to who had the best auxiliary fire brigade, the best mobile canteen service, the best auxiliary nursing service, etc. In my constituency the friendly competition between the various towns is very keen. If that spirit were spread throughout the rural areas on a national scale we could get together a vast number of volunteers who would be ready to assist the more crowded areas in their time of need. They rendered valuable service in the last war, and they can render more valuable service if a still more terrible war comes upon us.
Because of the housing shortage the rural areas will not be able, much as they will wish, to give a tremendous amount of housing space to people evacuated from the crowded areas. 119 Theretore, we must prepare sites on the edge of small country towns and villages, and connect them with running water, where the evacuees would be under canvas for the period of their evacuation. That might sound pretty horrible to a number of people, but if we have not the building labour force today to meet the requirements of our housing schemes how are we suddenly to find the building labour for a lot of emergency houses for evacuees from the cities? I suggest, therefore, that we should prepare sites which can be used for future housing schemes in peace-time but which are available as sites on a vast scale for camping accommodation under canvas should we need to evacuate people.
I also urge the Government to look very carefully into the supply of those items which will most be needed for Civil Defence of this character. I remember a horrible experience I had about two days after the last war broke out. I was sitting in a large hairdressing saloon where someone in the next chair was lying back and boasting of the vast profit he was making out of sandbags. Because none of these had been ordered beforehand local authorities and hospitals were in so great a hurry to get them filled that he was supplying only 900 for every 1,000 he was supposed to supply. He thought that was clever business. I hope that that kind of thing will not be allowed in the event of an emergency coming upon us.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Did the hon. Member report that breach of law to the authorities at the time? If not, surely he was lacking in his duty as a citizen.
§ Mr. Macdonald
I felt so annoyed that I went up to the man and let him know exactly what I thought of him. I walked out with a view to reporting the matter. When I returned the man had gone. That was as much as I could do. It left an indelible mark in my memory. I am sure that kind of thing went on in connection with supplies of a great many materials required to meet an emergency.
In looking at Civil Defence we ought to try wherever possible in our schemes to use things which in peace-time, when the danger has passed, can be used for the further development of our country, our housing estates and our people generally. 120 I hope that the Home Secretary will call into service that class of the community which an hon. Member called the old age pensioners. I again call them, as I have once already called them, the long-service people of this country. A great many of them are not physically fit to remove people from bomb-damaged houses, but they are able and willing and have the time to do a good deal of training in many other of the aspects of Civil Defence.
Finally, I would urge that an observer corps should be trained in rural areas—it may be that it can be done voluntarily, I hope that it can—not only with a view to spotting hostile aircraft but also with a view to guarding our reservoirs and rivers against the dropping of bacteria into them. There is a vast field of activity in which the rural areas of this country can do much within the next few months towards making the whole country safer in this emergency. I hope that the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland will spare no effort to use that grand feeling which exists in rural areas for coming forward in a national emergency of this kind.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Miss Herbison)
There have been very few specific Scottish points raised in this Debate. I wish to make it clear that all the information given by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department applies equally to Scotland as to England and Wales. The Home Secretary will be replying to the general points raised by all hon. Members, whether Scottish, English or Welsh. My task now is to deal only with those few points which are specifically Scottish.
The right hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) referred to a telegram which he had received from Edinburgh today. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) wished for some information about that telegram and about the shelters to which it made reference. I find that the telegram came not from Edinburgh Corporation but from a private individual in Edinburgh. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire also asked about Government policy on the dispersal of population—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The fact that the question was asked by a private individual surely does not mean that it does not deserve an answer? Could we have an explanation of the Government's air raid shelter policy?
§ Miss Herbison
I intended to- say that my right hon. Friend will be dealing with the whole policy on shelters, which applies equally to the United Kingdom as a whole. I wished to make clear in the House that the telegram had not come from Edinburgh Corporation.
As I was saying, my hon. Friend asked what was the Government's policy on the dispersal of population. Then, in his speech he told us that he had already received that information as a result of a Question which he had addressed to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Since he received that answer and information there has been no change in the Government's policy. My hon. Friend referred to Ayrshire as a reception area. Only some parts of Ayrshire would be reception areas, and the part which contains the Ardeer explosive works is certainly not among the parts which will be used as one. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be glad to hear that.
The only specific Scottish point raised by the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) was a query as to how many recruits we had so far been able to obtain. Here are the figures in each category: for the Civil Defence Corps 1,746, Auxiliary Fire Service 300, special constabulary 800, and national hospital reserve 720. These were obtained mainly as a result of the recruiting campaign launched in November, 1949. We hope in the autumn, possibly in October, to renew this campaign with both national and local publicity.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend again, but could she give the figures for Aberdeen?
§ Miss Herbison
I should have to have notice of that question. I have given the figures for which the noble Lady asked. She suggested that the reason why recruits were not coming forward in the numbers desired was this fear of the atom bomb, which, I am sure, is general among our population. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said that on Wednesday of this week 122 a booklet would be going out dealing with that matter. I hope that booklet will be widely read in Scotland as in the whole of Great Britain, and that, having been widely read, it will, to some extent, allay this fear in the minds of our people, and will help in the recruitment campaign which we hope to have in the autumn.
Finally, I wish to make it clear that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for Civil Defence inside Scotland. The general responsibility for the administration of Civil Defence, apart from training and research, lies with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. These activities are organised on a United Kingdom basis by the Home Office. On all the committees mentioned by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, Scotland is very adequately represented, and there is the closest liaison possible between the two countries.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)
I speak in this House as the Member for Hampstead, but I am also a member of the committee of the London County Council which is charged with Civil Defence responsibilities, and I believe that no member of that committee would demur to anything I am going to say about Civil Defence planning. I assure the Home Secretary that anything I say is intended in a constructive and not in a hostile spirit. Speaking on 26th October, 1948, the Prime Minister said:The main purpose of our plan will be to ensure the creation of a reserve in peace of trained personnel to deal with the consequences of any hostile attack, and the establishment of the framework of an organisation which can be brought into operation at short notice."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 30.]But 21 months have passed, and we are still far short of that aim; and that, in the smallest possible compass, explains the anxiety with which we have approached this Debate.
We grant that the Government have embarked on a long-term plan for building up Civil Defence. We have no quarrel with that but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) said, we do not yet detect the requisite sense of urgency. If our Civil Defence preparations are not to 123 keep in step with our military preparations for the defence of this island, then we might almost as well have no Civil Defence at all.
At the present time, local authorities have the impression that they are expected by Government Departments to go forward with Civil Defence, but at the same time to go forward with the very minimum of expenditure. I agree that there is a difference between now and 1938. Then there was a dispute between the local authorities and the Home Office about the allocation of the expenditure. Now there is a feeling among local authorities that the Treasury are very strongly against any expenditure of any magnitude at all.
Civil Defence does not appear to be given any particular priority. It seems clear that up to now the Government have made their Civil Defence plans on the basis that there is to be no diversion from the country's main economic effort. I think that comes out most strongly of all in the information given to local authorities in circular after circular, telling them that they are to take on no additional senior staff in order to fulfil their Civil Defence responsibilities. In my opinion, it is impossible adequately to implement those circulars without a larger staff at the top. I will read to the House a sentence from one of those circulars. It says:It may be necessary that this assistance should be provided by making a full-time appointment, but in any such case the local authority should closely examine the possibility of rearranging the duties performed by the existing members of its staff so as to release one of them with suitable qualifications for the work without replacement.In other words, if they find somebody on the staff who is not too busy and who is reasonably qualified, they should transfer him to Civil Defence. That seems to be entirely out of keeping with the sense of urgency which both sides of the House, I believe, desire to convey with regard to Civil Defence.
Local authorities have received guidance on evacuation, on the care of the homeless, on rest centres, and a little, though not enough, on emergency feeding, but as yet they have heard virtually nothing about what they are to do in respect of shelter policy. It certainly seems surprising that the Government have not yet revived Section 33 of the 124 Civil Defence Act, 1939, which empowered the Minister to make regulations regarding materials and construction of I buildings in order that they might be more secure against hostile attack. The Section also empowered the Minister to make regulations regarding the provision of shelters for the people in the buildings. I cannot help feeling that in London we have already missed opportunities in that respect.
The hon. Lady the Joint Under-I Secretary of State for Scotland spoke of a new recruiting drive. I trust that the Home Secretary will assure the House that that drive is coming, that the t publicity will be better, and that this time the local authorities will be given rather longer notice of it, because they are keen about this and wish to co-operate to the full and make the greatest possible success of it. It will be a tremendous advantage if the recruiting drive coincides with the arrival of uniforms.
At the beginning of the Debate, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department referred to Kensington, Westminster, and St. Marylebone as the three London boroughs showing the largest numbers of recruits. I also know which boroughs show the smallest numbers, and the unevenness of recruiting is a serious factor to which, I think, too little attention has so far been paid in this Debate. I trust, too, that local authorities will not be encouraged to enforce too rigidly the restrictions on the acceptance of Class "Z" reservists for Civil Defence training so long as there is a shortage of recruits. During the time that we have more instructors than recruits, the more people we can train the better, provided, of course, there is a clear understanding that the "Z" reservists may, as the war proceeds, be quickly required for other purposes. We have to envisage the possibility of sudden attack, at which time we shall need the maximum number of people who know something about Civil Defence.
We were told this afternoon of the new manual on atomic warfare which is to be produced. That is of the utmost importance, and I would add my voice to those of other hon. Members who have asked that it shall be explained in simple, forceful language by Ministers and others, and not only in the technical language of a manual. Let us make no 125 mistake about it—the Communists having now had prior information of this, we shall have announcements by Wednesday from those whom the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes), described as the best-informed scientists, telling us that what is contained in this manual has no scientific basis at all. I have seen this in my own constituency. An authoritative speech was made by a well-informed expert on Civil Defence requirements and the measures of defence against the atomic bomb. Straightaway, what I might call the forces backed by the Communists swung into action. Letters appeared in the local papers. I have a copy of one of these letters here, signed by four gentlemen who have the initials of various academic degrees after their names. It says:Talk of a Civil Defence force in a Third World War is not only unrealistic but dangerous. … There is no defence against the new weapons of war, except the prevention of war itself.That kind of thing has been given a start. There has not been much official knowledge available to the ordinary public. There has been little about atomic warfare, and people, often connected with the Association of Scientific Workers—that Communist-permeated, if not Communist-dominated, organisation—have been coming forward and have been endeavouring to persuade innocent people that there is no defence at all.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Does the hon. Member believe that only Communists are saying there is no defence against the atom bomb?
§ Mr. Brooke
I think a number of idealistic pacifists and others with the highest motives are saying that, but unfortunately they and everyone are exposed to a lot of pseudo-science put out with a good deal of money behind it from Communist sources.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Will not the hon. Member go further and agree that there are a great many Conservatives who say there is no defence against the atom bomb?
§ Mr. Brooke
I have not met them yet. As I have been challenged, I may say that I have a copy here of the petition circulated by the so-called British Peace Committee, and I am informed that in Hampstead over 15,000 signatures have 126 been obtained already. As I know of one boy who has boasted that he has signed 14 separate copies, I do not take that very seriously. This petition is being presented to everybody in the streets and elsewhere to sign. It invites people to express their approval of:(1) The prohibition of all atomic weapons, with international control and inspection;(2) A declaration that the first government that will use atomic weapons shall be branded as a war criminal.Many innocent people do not detect in that the Communist plot. If one signs that document, what one is saying, in effect, is that anybody can commit aggression against this country with impunity, but this country will be a war criminal if it defends itself by using the atomic bomb. The idea meanwhile is most insidiously being built up that we shall have no defence against atomic bombs dropped on us, and that therefore it is better for people not to believe that Civil Defence will accomplish anything.
I am not exaggerating the Communist strength, but I am asking all those concerned with Civil Defence policy not to ignore it, because all this propaganda has a weakening effect. The only successful way of countering it is by positive information; and it must be made clear that that information has the backing of yet more distinguished scientists than those who can be claimed as allies of the Communist side.
In conclusion let me revert to the Councils' problem. In these last five years, the local authorities have been subject to an intense pressure of legislation, which falls most heavily on the chief officers. They have to make innumerable adjustments and arrangements, even when powers are being taken away from them, as there is so much clearing up to be done. Either the Home Secretary must cease to impose his ban on the appointment of new additional senior staff to fulfil Civil Defence functions, or else the Government must fix some kind of scale of priorities and give Civil Defence a place in it. We who, from the local authority standpoint, have to try and carry out what the Government Departments wish us to do must know what we should drop or what we should subordinate if we are to put through the Civil Defence programme and yet are not allowed to enlarge our staff.
127 The more information the Government can convey, both to the local authorities and to the general public, the better. We are going to need courage, and the finest producer of courage is preparedness. When the London blitz started in September, 1940, the warden service was prepared. It knew its job and it was able itself to transmit confidence to the ordinary members of the public. It is that confidence which is the strongest barrier against panic.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
It is one of the prime purposes of any Government to ensure the safety of its citizens at all times. Therefore, I believe it is a matter of considerable significance to us in this House, that the campaign for Civil Defence recruits has proved so disappointing in this country. There is something very appealing about an organisation which is established to save life, and the Civil Defence movement is such that normally it ought to appeal to the highest instincts of our people.
It is fitting, therefore, for us to ask why it is that large numbers of decent men and women in our country are just turning their backs to the appeal to join in the Civil Defence organisation of our country; for we have to concede that it is a dismal failure, indeed. I believe that the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) is right when she says that fear is playing a very significant part it this. We have to recognise that every war is worse than the one which went before it, and the people of this country know that. It is no use any Member of Parliament trying to pretend to the people that it will be easier next time than it was last time. The people know from their experience that the next war will be ten times worse than those which went before and that the destruction in any war is always worse than the destruction of the war which preceded it.
Gentlemen who are by no means Communists or fellow-travellers are making their own pronouncements concerning the weapons of destruction, now in the hands of the big Powers, in a way which must give concern to us all. Nobody would now accuse a gentleman holding office in America of being a fellow-traveller, but the professor of physical chemistry 128 at the University of Chicago has warned us that we might find the hydrogen bomb a thousand times as powerful as the Nagasaki bomb. Mr. Liddell Hart has warned us that there is no real protection against that weapon, but the theory seems to be advanced that, as gas was not used in the last war, so the atom bomb will not be used in the next. But, as has been said by a number of hon. Members, gas was not used because of the fear of retaliation.
I would remind the House that it was not the totalitarians who used the atom bomb in the last war; it was the Christian democracies who used the atom bomb in order to ensure victory for our side. There is no guarantee that the atom bomb will not be used in the next war. Indeed, the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), said that we must keep our hands free to use the atom bomb in given circumstances, while the hon. Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts) cried out instinctively the other day that we, or the Americans, ought already to have used the atom bomb in Korea.
Let us not delude our people. It is more than likely that the atom bomb will be used. Let us, therefore, seek to build up our Civil Defence in the knowledge that this dreadful weapon is within the bounds of possibility. It was dropped on the Japanese last time; it might be on the British or the Americans or the Soviet Union next time. I ask the House to remember that Professor Blackett, who, again, would hardly be accused of being a fellow-traveller—although I know that anyone left of the Liberals is a fellow-traveller so far as hon. Members opposite are concerned—has pointed out that defence against the atom bomb is economically impossible. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be able to satisfy the House that we have a defence or, what would comfort us all, that there is a possibility of some great scheme whereby defence can be provided to the citizens of this realm in the dreadful contingency of a war breaking out.
I promised not to speak for long, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and in the few minutes which are at my disposal I want to try to make at least a few suggestions. I believe that the high idealism of Civil Defence can appeal to the mass of the citizens of this country if it is presented in the right way and by the right people. 129 I know that the teaching profession, with the Ministry of Education, is already considering plans in connection with evacuation.
§ Mr. Thomas
I wonder whether the Home Secretary will try to link up Civil Defence with a useful peacetime service so that people will feel that they are not wasting their time in preparing for a war which they trust will never occur or which, if it does occur, will be one in which they do not feel a tin helmet will give them much protection. Will he try, through his officers, to offer some way in which the work which is done in the Civil Defence organisation will also be useful in peacetime? The deep shelters, for which some people have been asking, could be very useful in peacetime as car parks and great underground experiments could be useful to industry in our great cities at the present time.
On the general question I want to say this to the House. It must not be a charge, as though it were a sin, that we are peace-mongers on this side of the House. I confess quite openly to the House that the idea of war to my mind is un-Christian. It is revolting; it is a negation—a complete negation of the way of the New Testament. My constituents, at least, know my attitude well on this question. But to save life is a privilege and a responsibility. We, whatever be our shades of opinion in the House, must be anxious to see that as much life as possible is saved if destruction be let loose upon the people. The Home Secretary cannot be satisfied that the course taken so far is satisfactory. Let him link it to some constructive peacetime work, and I believe the response will be much greater.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I think the House will agree that a Debate on Civil Defence was long overdue. Since the Civil Defence Bill of 1948 we have not had a Debate on this subject in this House. That Bill, as the House will remember, was an enabling Bill. In other 130 words, it was a skeleton on which various sinews and muscles were to be fitted and into which organs were to be placed; and the object of the Debate today, very largely, is to discover how far that has been achieved, and when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the Debate I hope he will be able to give us an encouraging report.
Total war demands the total effort of every man and woman in the country. This great pattern of Defence, which will be further debated on Wednesday, is a jigsaw puzzle, into which various pieces have to be fitted; and today we, on both sides of the House, are endeavouring to assist in the completion of the picture by fitting in a few pieces. In my view, there are still too many pieces lying on the table for which homes have not yet been found. One of those pieces, of course, is recruitment. I was very glad that the Under-Secretary of State, in his opening speech, did not regard that with any complacency. I was interested in his figures as to the total number of recruits to date. I think I am not wrone in suggesting he said 48,000.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am very much obliged. I am not endeavouring in any way to catch the hon. Gentleman out, but I did have a letter signed by the Secretary of State dated 17th July in which the figure was given of 38,000. The Under-Secretary of State said recruiting had been proceeding rapidly of recent weeks. If in seven days he has recruited 10,000, then he is doing very well indeed!
§ Mr. de Freitas
The figure I gave was that at the 30th June. I do not want to make too much of this point. I said there were between 47,000 and 48,000; and 32,000 were in the Civil Defence Corps, and the rest in the A.F.S., the Special Constabulary, and so on.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
It is a minor point, but I just wanted to get it clear. As the hon. Gentleman himself said, the figure is by no means satisfactory, and everything must be done to improve it, because we did have no fewer than 1,500,000 people engaged in this task in the last war.
The hon. Gentleman was enlightening about age groups. That is just the sort 131 or thing about which local authorities have been worrying, and they will welcome that additional data. But why is the age 40 in the case of men? After all, men in the last war were called up to the age of 45, and 40 seems to me somewhat low. Women were called up to the age of 42. I think he may find that there will have to be a revised figure in the course of time.
He has said in reply to a Question of mine and on other occasions that the best ambassadors in the recruitment for Civil Defence were the Civil Defence volunteers themselves. That is only partly true. It has not been the case altogether, because many of those volunteers who joined up found that there was no instruction going on and that there was no equipment with which to instruct. They have, as people do on these occasions, formed themselves into Civil Defence clubs, but that is as far as it got, and although there are very pleasant places to go to that does not make for very good ambassadors. The ambassador is the man who finds a real live show going, with everybody on the top line. That is what the Home Secretary must attempt to achieve in the very near future if he is to get any more recruits. Another deterrent to recruitment has been the condition of enrolment wherein volunteers are not released from liability to service in the Forces. It is essential that these people should know exactly what is required of them.
That brings me to one of the most important points in my speech tonight, namely, the question of the reserved occupations in the unfortunate event of another war. On that hangs the whole future of voluntary recruitment to the Territorial Army, the Observer Corps, the Home Guard, and all other voluntary bodies. It is vital for the Minister of Labour to make up his mind on this issue, and to let industry, the Forces, local authorities and the country at large know his decision. There are many people on the "Z" Reserve who do not know whether they will be called up again into the Forces, and they will not volunteer for Civil Defence; naturally they want to join their old unit. If any of them discover that they are in a reserved occupation and will not be called up, there immediately are potential recruits 132 for the Home Guard, the Observer Corps, or the Civil Defence Corps.
It is almost equally important for the nationalised industries to give a lead in these matters. There the Government have control. I agree they have not got control over private industry, but they can give encouragement. With the nationalised industries, the Government have got control, and they should give a lead. After all, the spirit of competition is what gets things done in this world. Everybody knows that to get a high standard in anything one encourages the competitive spirit. If the nationalised industries give a lead and private industry sees what is happening, they will follow suit, but neither can do anything until they get a little more direct lead from the Government themselves.
The Home Guard is not strictly under Civil Defence, but I do want to say this. There has been much talk about the military mobile columns which will come to the assistance of the Civil Defence authorities. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that he is in grave danger of counting heads twice, because, in my view, those military mobile columns will not be available when the time comes. They will be exercised in a vast expansion of a new national Army; very large numbers of them will go abroad at an early date. The Home Guard was formed, admittedly rather late in the day, in order to repel invasion by sea.
Let me say straight away that in all probability there is no grave danger of invasion by sea in the early days. Therefore, the Home Guard will be available for other duties, and I suggest that they should be formed into these military mobile columns which are part of the Civil Defence scheme. I do not suggest that they should be part and parcel of the Civil Defence Corps; I am sure that would be impracticable. But I do suggest very seriously that the Home Secretary should consider this matter, because it would be very dangerous for any of us to put out of our minds the possibility—I put it no higher than that—of airborne attack. These things happen extremely quickly. As we know, our potential enemy is equipped with vast numbers of troop-carrying aircraft. Their's was the country which initiated parachute landings long before the last 133 war. I suggest that the formation of the Home Guard, although it is not the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman, is of vital importance. It can be that mobile military unit which can be called upon in an emergency to come to the assistance of Civil Defence.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman: What is to be the position of the Observer Corps, and what is going to be done about fire watching? Is it to be made compulsory or not? This again raises the question of reserved occupations. I entirely agree that the local authorities are the right people to deal with Civil Defence as they did in the last war, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the assurance of most hon. Members who have spoken today that the local authorities are extremely short of directives. They have not yet been issued with an establishment, which is vitally necessary. I do not know what the Joint Planning Staff have been doing—no doubt very hard work—but they have not yet worked out a chain of command or, if they have, it has not been issued to the local authorities. We ought to be beyond that stage. The people who are to operate the chain of command should be designated by now, made familiar with their tasks and training should have begun.
So far as the Defence Estimates are concerned, we are spending at the moment £780 million on Defence of which only £6½ million is going to Civil Defence. What is even more alarming is that the cost of training has been reduced from £472,000 to £191,000. I hope that I may be contradicted about that. I hope that some of the weaknesses which appeared during the war and which went on for most of the war will on the next occasion, if it comes, be eradicated. There was far too much duplication and overlapping between the various Services. One heard again and again complaints of two sets of people doing the same job in different Services. That is bad planning and muddled thinking. It may arise, as I know from my experience of the Service, through bad orders from the top—complicated instructions which no one can understand. I implore the right hon. Gentleman to see that the instructions are clear, explicit and simple, so that there can be no question as to who is responsible for carrying out any particular task, and so that the same instructions 134 are not issued to two different Services, resulting in overlapping and duplication taking place.
I am a little disturbed to see that there are no other Ministers on the Front Bench who have a vital interest in these matters of Civil Defence. I should have thought that the Minister of Defence would have been here, but it may well be that he is busy with other things. The Minister of Health is not here, but I am glad to see that he is represented by his able Parliamentary Secretary. On this local government point, I would ask the Home Secretary about section 12 of the Civil Defence circular, in which it is laid down that officers shall be permanent officials of the local authority and not members of the Civil Defence Corps. It seems to me that there is something wrong here. Surely there must be some of those who bore the heat and burden of the day during the war whose experiences as instructors would be invaluable. It is not surely necessary for an instructor to be a permanent member of a local authority.
I was disturbed by some of the figures the Under-Secretary gave in regard to the number of people who have been trained at these colleges. I think I am right in saying that he told us there were 44 whole-time instructors and 29 part-time instructors.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Those figures were for the number of full-time Civil Defence officers. It goes into hundreds in the other case.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I think there are some 180 local authorities in the country, which means that 49 is not a very large number. Every local authority should by now have a fully qualified Civil Defence officer. I hope that something very urgent will be done about this in the very near future.
The emphasis of this Debate has been on the atom bomb, and I am not going to recapitulate all that has been said. We 135 have had a very enlightened and informative speech from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) who has made a study of this. I should like to emphasise his plea that something more should be done in regard to the shelter policy. We have been told that it is a policy on paper, but it is high time it became a policy in fact. Although paper may have some protection, it is not really protection against the atom bomb. We welcome the fact that the manual is about to be issued. It will do a great deal to assist local authorities in their task of recruitment, and also, I hope, do a great deal to allay some of the exaggerated fear existing in the minds of the people, some of it stimulated, no doubt, by the enemies of this country.
I should like to know what is the Government's policy in regard to factories, large office buildings and so on. I was very surprised, when in Stockholm last year, on visiting one of their new hospitals, a vast building, to be informed that the hospital was duplicated underground. I suggest that it is high time instructions were issued in regard to new constructions on the incorporation of shelters in these buildings. We have also heard speeches from Members who have at the back of their minds the question of bacteriological warfare. We had an interesting speech in this connection from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). Without wishing in any way to continue in the vein in which he spoke, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will give us in general terms some reassurance that this matter is being gone into on a high scientific level, that some results are coming from these resources and some policy and plan is being formulated.
I was in agreement, I think almost for the first time in six years, with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) when she stressed the importance of training in topography, that is, in map reading. It was one of the most obvious faults in the old system of Civil Defence training that so few people seemed to know their way about the area in which they were supposed to operate.
I would carry that still further. In what vehicles are these people to operate? In what vehicles are the mobile defence 136 columns—which are not in existence at the moment—to operate? Are they to be requisitioned vehicles—which is obviously what they will be—and are they already earmarked, or has anyone considered the question of earmarking them? Do these training courses include instruction in driving and instruction in moving about in column? As one who in the early part of the war had to try to train soldiers, I know how long it takes to be able to train a column of vehicles to move from A to B at a slow speed, let alone when they are in a hurry, or when there is a blackout.
I would like to know if the Government have decided on a policy of blackout or not? I do not necessarily want an answer tonight; it is a rhetorical question. But I think it is time they made up their mind. I would like to see no blackout, because I believe that it did far more harm to the morale of the people than would have been the case if lighting had been normal. But that is not for me to say, and I am not an expert. I put it forward as an idea.
I hope I shall have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this, my final point, because, like the point I made just now on the question of reserved occupations, it is a most important part of my speech. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an indication as to who is to be the designated Minister? There are many Departments in the Government connected with Civil Defence. There are the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Works, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Supply so far as I know, and there are probably others. It is perfectly obvious that we have to have one Minister to coordinate the activities of all those various Ministers.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is at the moment Chairman of that particular Committee. I think I am right in saying that. But that is not quite the same as being the Civil Defence Minister. Is it proposed that there be a separate Minister for Civil Defence or an Under-Secretary of State for Civil Defence? Or will the Home Secretary be Home Secretary and Minister of Defence combined, as it was in the last war? We must be enlightened upon that point at this stage. We asked the same question a year and a half ago and we did not elicit a clear 137 answer. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give that answer tonight.
This Debate has ranged far and wide and, with a few deplorable exceptions has maintained the non-controversial atmosphere encouraged by my right hon. Friend when he made his most excellent and well-informed speech at the beginning. There has been criticism: we say there has been a lack of clear insistent directive from the top to local authorities. We believe there is an urgent need for an establishment and an urgent need for a chain of command in the Civil Defence Corps as there are in other services. We believe there must be a Minister designate who is responsible to this House. We believe that local authorities are experiencing great difficulty in extracting from the Government any clear, authoritative information. We believe that until the reserved occupations have been decided upon, nobody can do anything.
There is an urgent need to stimulate in our people a sense of urgency. We must not be afraid to tell them the truth. We cannot frighten the British people. They have far too great a sense of humour but they like respect, and react to leadership and information. Knowledge dispels fear. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us information tonight and that during the course of the next year he will provide stimulating leadership. We hope that the Debate will act as a stimulus to recruiting and will allay some of the exaggerated fears in regard to the atomic bomb, putting the vision of that dreadful weapon more or less into its true perspective. Let this Debate go out as a call to the country to people to come forward in the cause of humanity and in the cause of self-help.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I would like to thank hon. Members who have participated in the Debate for the frankness with which they have put forward their suggestions for the improvement of this service and for the moderation with which they have expressed their criticism. From the moment that the right hon. Member for King's Norton, Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd started his speech there has been recognition of the great trouble that this service causes to all those who are associated with it. I know from my association with it before the recent war, when I was one 138 of the representatives of local authorities who used to see the right hon. Gentleman and the head of his Department, how difficult these things can be. As one who has sat at both sides of the table I hope I can appreciate some of the difficulties which confront local authorities as well as those which confront the Government.
Throughout the speeches we have had recognition that in this matter we should be very foolish indeed to indulge in party warfare or in recrimination. Just before the last war we were dealing with a service for which there was no precedent in the history of the country. Today we can profit by the lessons we all learned during that conflict. We have to recognise in addition that we are confronting in the future, if hostilities occur, some phases which will again have no precedent and that we shall have to rely upon such forethought as we can take and upon a ready adaptability to meet the most unexpected circumstances. I am grateful, therefore, to hon. Members on both sides of the House for the spirit in which this Debate has been approached.
The right hon. Member said something about normality. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said that normality for him was a life which commenced with a recollection of a bomb falling. Those of us who are older and whose minds can go back to the days before the Agadir incident—from which I trace a good deal of the history of the times in which I have lived—think of a country in which fear was unknown, where the things that have haunted all of us ever since that date were right outside our comprehension and nobody took any account of them in any calculations they made either as to their personal affairs or as to the affairs of the nation. I recollect the shock it was to me as a comparatively young man to read the speech which Mr. Lloyd George made on the occasion of the Agadir Conference, for at that time Mr. Lloyd George was not regarded as among the most bellicose of the Members of the House of Commons. I do not associate normality with the kind of things with which the hon. Gentleman associated it, but let us be quite certain of this, that we do not go back to normality; whatever normality is going to be, it is something to which we are going forward, and we have to shape our lives in a spirit of realism and of recognition of the harsh and 139 unpalatable facts with which we are surrounded.
It is a pity that the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) did not hear the right hon. Gentleman because I am quite sure that only the fact that a statement made in this House is completely privileged would have saved him from a serious slander action for calling my hon. Friend "an intellectual." I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that not merely Colonel Blimp and Private Blimp but also the privates who expressed their views in forcible language about the "blimpish-ness" of Colonel Blimp were the people who entered this service during the last war and who served the country well.
I think the most important note which could be sounded in this discussion was sounded by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), who said that if Civil Defence is to be effective recruits must come in now. I want to make my point of view on that quite clear. I agree with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), that recruits who are real recruits to the service and not re-enlistments have been disappointed to find that there has been no instruction. I came to the conclusion that it was quite useless to make a wide and dramatic appeal for recruits before I had trained the instructors who could deal with the people when they were recruited, and the figures which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave indicated that we can now claim that we have a sufficient number of trained instructors to make recruitment a reality.
I want to give the House my own way of looking at it. I believe that it will take about 50 hours' instruction to give a man or a woman reasonable proficiency in whichever branch of this work they choose to join. If they are willing to give up two hours a week—after all, that is a big sacrifice to ask from men and women in successive weeks—it will take approximately six months before they can regard themselves as being completely fitted to undertake their duties. Of course, they will acquire some measure of proficiency in the meantime. I would therefore urge on all to whom this call appeals that they should not delay now in joining this service because in the greater part of the country we 140 can now provide them with adequate instruction which will justify their time and will equip them in what I hope may be regarded as a moderate space of time to take their appropriate place in the service. I hope that now we are in a position to provide them with appropriate instruction, any hanging back from the fear that they would not be immediately helped in equipping themselves will have vanished.
I also want to deal with that other topic which has bulked so largely in our discussion this evening, the problem of the atomic bomb. I regret in one way that this Debate should have taken place today instead of later in the week, because I am quite certain that had this booklet which I hold been in the hands of hon. Members, they would have realised the amount of care and attention which has been given to this matter by very skilled people in putting the whole of the facts—both the dangers that are to be encountered and the steps that can be taken to minimise them—into a form that will be readable, as I was asked by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) that they should be, and not in the form of Army manuals. Far be it from me to start any trouble with the Army on this matter but, having had to study infantry drill since 1899, I agree with him that most of the manuals dealing with it are amongst the best cures that have been invented for insomnia.
No one will find that criticism justified with regard to this volume. I hope it will be widely read, not merely by people who are in the Civil Defence service, but by all those who wish to get a balanced and well-proportioned view on the subject of this Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) quoted Professor Blackett. I want to read a couple of sentences from the notorious pamphlet issued by the Association of Scientific Workers headed "Can Britain be Defended?" They come after the word "Conclusion"—It is true that passive defence preparations, some of which are at present lacking, could enable Britain to survive a war in which a few atomic bombs were spasmodically dropped. The defensive measures involved would probably not be insupportable; lack of them might be a decisive factor.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
May I remind my right hon. Friend that the hon. Member 141 for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) was quoting from Professor Blackett's introduction?
§ Mr. Ede
I am like most other people; as a rule, I read the introduction after I have read the volume. I am not to be scared by the fine writing in an introduction when I have the practical advice given in the body of the volume.
Let us be quite certain of this; no one promises anyone immunity from any weapon. Harold the Saxon was killed by an arrow, and I have no doubt that the first soldier who in battle met an arrow after being used to fighting with short-range weapons, thought it was an ungentlemanly and diabolical weapon to use.
§ Mr. Ede
Of course, the cross-bow. That is like the hydrogen bomb coming on top of the atomic bomb. There is no protection against high explosives in certain circumstances. I do not know what the modern Army thinks, but I was taught in the 1914–18 war that if the bullet had your number on it, it would get you; and most of us have recollections of things that almost proved the truth of that soldiers' saying. What we have to do when we are faced with any weapon is to devise as good an answer to it, and a protection from it, as we can.
The first answer to any form of attack of this kind is an effective active defence on the part of this country. That must come first. It is not for us to discuss that today. That will be a matter for discussion on Wednesday, and the House will not expect me—[Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Members opposite should smile, because dealing with anything of this kind is not a laughing matter at any time in the history of any country. On Wednesday that matter will be debated at greater length.
Also, we must have regard to the economic resources of the country when we have to deal with the scale in which either active or passive defence can be carried on. We have to balance—and we are doing it with the utmost care—between the three needs of active defence, passive defence, and the economic resources on which in the long run both the others will have to depend for their financing and carrying through.
142 We are, unfortunately, not in the position which we were in in the earlier days of which I was speaking, when the economic resources of the country appeared to be inexhaustible and were one of the great factors on which victory was achieved in the First World War. We live in a different world. We have to take account of the circumstances in which we live and, according to the resources we have available, to provide the maximum that we can. I believe that we shall be able to prove that we are doing that in this case.
I do not share the view that the atomic weapon need be decisive in the conflict, provided that we know what we have to meet and that we have made reasonable precautions towards meeting it. After all, the greatest weapon in the arsenal of any country is the element of surprise that it can spring on its enemies. I speak as one who served in the First World War in the gas and liquid fire brigade of the Royal Engineers. We had to meet the surprise that had been inflicted on our people by the use of gas by the Germans. I have no doubt that in any future war there will be surprises on both sides. Fortunately, we know enough of this weapon to be able to take some steps towards meeting what it can do.
I share the view that I have quoted from the book of the Association of Scientific Workers that we can take steps that will minimise the effects of this weapon, and I do not believe, on any information that we or anyone else has at the moment, that a large number of atomic bombs can be dropped by any country. We must make our preparations with that in our minds.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), said that we have got to keep out of war. I am quite sure there is not a Member in this House who does not hope that we may keep out of war. I believe that we are the most pacific of all the nations of the earth. We have a very long and glorious military record, but we do not desire war. Peace is always the best interest of this country, and will, to my mind, remain so for any period to which we may look forward tonight. But let us be certain of this; we stand for a way of life that cannot tolerate the world being run by force and by threats of force. Twice in 143 the lifetime of all of us we have seen this country pick up the challenge in a quarrel which was not directly its own because it believed that an effort was being made to rule the world by force and by the threat of force.
Let us be quite certain of this; if in our desire to keep out of war we betrayed the rest of the world into having to submit to force and the threat of force we should very soon find that the way of life for which we stand would have perished from the earth. Therefore, while I am quite certain that everyone desires to keep out of war, we have to face the grim fact that we are not the only arbiters of the decision whether there shall be war or not, but that if there is any use of force or threat of force we are not likely to start any movement which would justify any nation taking action against us because we have broken the rules I have just laid down.
May I say a few words about some of the technical points which have been raised? The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall) complained that we had not given direction and guidance. When I think of the complaints that are usually made aganist this side of the Committee with regard to our relationship with local authorities, I am glad to know that there are occasions when we are not accused of being dictators. I think we must leave a very large measure of discretion with the local authorities.
The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) spoke about the schemes of last time. Let us place this on record; no scheme last time was ever approved. When the time came we had to act—I was then a member of a local authority; in fact, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam and I are two of the surviving chairmen of that local authority—and we had to deal with the situation as it developed. We applied the scheme where it fitted, and where it did not we just forgot about it. I hope members of local authorities will give just as much attention to framing their schemes on this occasion as they did on the last, and that they will see that they are made in such a form that no surprise shall throw them out of gear, but that they shall be adaptable when the occasion requires.
144 The hon. and gallant Member also asked me about the question of women in Civil Defence and the Women's Voluntary Services. No tribute I could pay would be too high for the work which the Women's Voluntary Services did in the last war and which they have done in all sorts of national emergency since. We welcome the Women's Voluntary Services. We think it would be a good thing that the women who are anxious to work in connection with Civil Defence and are members of the Women's Voluntary Services should formally enrol in the Civil Defence Corps and thereafter be able to deal, I hope very often, as members of Women's Voluntary Service groups, with various things that will come more particularly within the women's sphere.
I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) that we share her view that shelter in their own home is certainly the best form of shelter for people where it can be provided. I was a little surprised to hear of the ignorance of local topography which she claimed was shown by some members of the Civil Defence Force in her own locality. I have lively recollections of taking part in exercises in which we were told that most of the important roads which were well known had been rendered unusable, and the drivers of ambulances and other Civil Defence vehicles had to find their way without using the usual roads, to some point about which they were told.
That points to the need for recruitment before the time for action comes so that complete and thorough training can be undertaken by those willing to devote themselves to this great service. I hope that what I said earlier will re-inforce in people's minds the need for that. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), that I can well understand men weeping because they found themselves unable to help in dealing with an incident. That is another reason for them having enrolled beforehand so that they should be known. After all, the advent on the scene of a number of well-meaning people whose activities and qualifications are unknown to the person in charge may not be a help but a great hindrance. While I share their feeling of disappointment, I hope that that example will also be used as a means of assisting in recruitment now.
145 The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) said that he felt that there was no sense of urgency. I hope I have given a sufficient reason for withholding until tonight a general appeal for recruits. But let there be no doubt from now onwards that His Majesty's Government and all those who have the welfare of our country at heart should an emergency arise, feel that there is now the greatest urgency that recruitment should be stepped up and that training should be undertaken.
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said that volunteers were not released from other forms of service. I do not want Civil Defence, important as it is, to be the soft option for people who ought to take a more active share in the defence of their country. That is why I have said "No man under 30." If a man is under 30 years of age his proper place is in the Territorials. That is why I have had to make the arrangements which I have made in regard to the Z Reservists and other people. But to meet cases where there is doubt as to what the real duty of a person is, we are now engaged in trying to settle which of the various options should be put to a man as being the appropriate one for him.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt with one matter which I should like to mention. The training figures he quoted were those dealing with the capital expenditure on the schools. More training is actually taking place this year for the smaller sum than took place before for the larger one. In conclusion, may I thank the House for the way in which this Debate has been conducted, and assure hon. Members that the Government will not be wanting in seeing that this important branch of our defence is adequately manned and financed.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being Half-past Nine o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 16 (Business of Supply) to put forthwith the Questions, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolutions reported in Classes I to IX of the Civil Estimates and of the Revenue Departments Estimates, the Ministry of Defence Estimate, the Navy Estimates, the Army Estimates and the Air Estimates.146
§ [For details of the remaining Resolutions, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 950; Vol. 477, c. 2602–2618.]