HC Deb 04 December 1952 vol 508 cc1746-9
41. Sir I. Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the progress of recruiting for the Civil Defence services.

49. Mr. F. Maclean

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made with recruiting for the Civil Defence service.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

On 31st October, 1952, the number of volunteers in England and Wales was approximately: Civil Defence Corps, 222,000; Auxiliary Fire Service, 13,200; National Hospital Service Reserve, 27,200. The Civil Defence Corps has reached 48 per cent. of its provisional peace-time establishment and the Auxiliary Fire Service and the National Hospital Service Reserve 21 per cent. and 27 per cent.; the decrease in the National Hospital Service Reserve percentage since I answered a similar Question by my hon. Friend on 15th May reflects an increase of 20,000 in the target figure.

Since mid-summer there has been an encouraging upward trend in recruitment: the increase during the third quarter of 1952 was 14,835 compared with 9,298 in the third quarter of 1951 and the figure for October, 1952 (9,900) was nearly twice that of the preceding October. These figures do not include those engaged in Civil Defence in industry or in the special constabulary.

Sir I. Fraser

When will my right hon. and learned Friend be able to say whether the suggestions in a recent report are to be implemented by Her Majesty's Government? Will he bear in mind that the more people know the better they work, and will he give them all possible information about atomic dangers and risks?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

The report came out on Monday and I have already said that I have accepted the recommendation to appoint controllers designate. At a meeting of local authorities this week I tried to indicate the latest position with regard to atomic matters after the Monte Bello experiment. I would add that the figures I have given relate only to England and Wales. The figure for the whole of the United Kingdom, taking into account the special constabulary, the staff of local authorities, and those in industry engaged on Civil Defence, must be over 400,000.

While that is no figure for complacency, it is no figure for despondency. I do not think that this country has ever made a greater effort in time of peace and I do not think any other country has made an equal effort. I hope it will continue.

Mr. Usborne

Does the Home Secretary realise that there are many people who think that it is more important to recruit to the Police Force than it is to emphasise recruitment to Civil Defence?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I hope we shall get recruits to both; and any assistance which the hon. Gentleman can give me in recruiting to the Police Force I shall be glad to receive.

Mr. Gower

Is the Minister aware that the severe age restrictions are possibly preventing willing men from entering both the Civil Defence and the Auxiliary Police Services, and that possibly those restrictions on the bottom age limit might be amended?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

There are various increases and improvements with regard to that, but I will willingly take into account any suggestions anyone may make.

Mr. Lee

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that last year some enjoyable competitions were organised in some parts of the country between various towns, but that this year, apparently, they are not being organised? They were very welcome, and if the Home Secretary could resurrect them it would be helpful.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will look into that suggestion.

Mr. Porter

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the meeting to which he referred would have been more successful if the platform had been more representative of the people interested in Civil Defence, and if representatives of experts on this side had been on the platform instead of having a completely party organisation?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

With respect, I do not think that that is quite a fair reflection of the idea. The idea was to tell local authority representatives what the various Departments required of them. All the meetings I have addressed have been of a completely non-party character and I hope that will continue. The general policy on Civil Defence, and support for it, has been entirely irrespective of party differences.