HC Deb 18 July 1952 vol 503 cc2473-560

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I beg to move, That this House, recognising the vital importance of an effective and comprehensive system of Civil Defence in the United Kingdom, urges Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the appropriate local and other authorities, to take such further steps as may be necessary to increase the flow of recruits, in order to improve their training and develop new methods of defence in the interests of home security as a whole. I am grateful for the success in the Ballot which has enabled me to call attention to this important point, on which the fate of any one of us here may some day depend. I am particularly grateful because I had some little personal experience of the organisation of Civil Defence both before and during the early stages of the last war.

Civil Defence is one of those subjects about which most people have a vague sentiment but very little knowledge. If any one of us here was to go into Whitehall and stop the first man we saw and ask him if he thought that Civil Defence was a vital matter, the probability is that he would answer "Yes," but the probability would also be that he knew very little about it and was not himself taking any part in Civil Defence.

It is true that if he were a Londoner and had lived in London during the last war, he would probably have very vivid recollections of the great value which wardens were during an air raid. He would probably also remember what a nuisance wardens were when there was not an air raid—during blackout. But he probably would not know a great deal more about Civil Defence or have any more than a vague sentiment that it was a good thing. I do not think that many people realise just what a difference an effective Civil Defence force can make, and it is on that particular aspect that I should like to open my remarks.

There must have been few people except those in high command in this country who really had the facts available to enable them to judge what a difference it made to have a Civil Defence force in any particular place which was the subject of a raid. That was so because for reasons of security the Press naturally only published information which the enemy could see for themselves, and a great many things happened during the war which the ordinary public did not know about because they never appeared in the Press.

It so happened that, although I never held any high command, I was in a position to be able to get quite a lot of information about things that were going on in the country; in fact, I could not help getting it because, being attached to the headquarters of a large railway company covering a large section of the country, one heard many pieces of information which never appeared in the Press.

Everybody heard of the raid on Coventry, of the bigger raids on London, such as the raids which the Civil Defence force always described as "the Wednesday" and "the Saturday." Everybody knew about the raids on Glasgow, Bristol. Plymouth or Swansea, but they never heard of the multitude of small incidents that happened throughout the country. There was scarcely a district anywhere from Orkney to Penzance or from Broadstairs to Londonderry in which there was not, at one time or another, some incident. Very often these were quite trivial but frequently an incident, though isolated, was of quite a serious nature. It was then that the value of Civil Defence could be judged.

One of the things that forced itself on my attention, perhaps more than anything else during the war, was the difference in damage and casualties that might be caused by those isolated incidents. Very often it was a pure matter of chance, but I am afraid that it was not always so. I knew of one or two instances when an incident caused quite a lot of damage and casualties, apparently unnecessarily. Owing to the inexperience of willing hands effecting a rescue, more than once lives were lost and more than once fires which could have been kept under control got out of control owing to the inexperience of the people handling them.

On the other hand, there were very many instances of places remote from any likely bombing target which got a stray attack for some reason or another, maybe even by accident, which caused a lot of damage or started a serious fire when no professional skill was available to deal with it. In such cases where an effectively trained Civil Defence force was available many of those incidents were dealt with most efficiently and just as effectively as they could have been dealt with by the battle-trained Civil Defence forces in London or Liverpool.

The vital importance of having and maintaining a Civil Defence force was thus fully proved during the war, and it would hardly seem necessary to labour the point but for the fact that the same sort of criticisms as we met before the war are still being levelled at Civil Defence. I mentioned earlier that I had had some slight connection with Civil Defence before the last war. At that time we were told a number of things. First, we were told that there was not going to be a war. Secondly, we were told that it was hoped that there was not going to be a war. Then we were told that, by being prepared to meet a war, we were in some way war-mongering and urging the war forward.

I was never able to understand that argument. There seemed to be in it some sort of belief in magic, a belief that by making preparations we were provoking Providence, like the theory that if one goes to sea with a parson one is inviting a wreck or that if one sits down 13 at a table one is inviting death. Nevertheless, the argument most frequently put forward then was the argument which Civil Defence is being told now, namely, that Civil Defence is a futile organisation which cannot possibly compete in modern warfare. In those days we were told that it was futile for a small group of civilians to spend their time playing about with buckets and stirrup pumps and that any major air attack would be so frightful that the people would be powerless and death would be inevitable.

The bogey held out to us then was mustard gas; now it is the atom bomb. The mustard gas attack never developed; mustard gas was never used. I cannot help thinking that one of the contributory factors which caused a gas attack never to develop was that it was obvious that the country had taken steps to prepare against such an attack. One of the first things that happened during the Munich crisis was that the civil population were issued with gas masks.

In passing, I would remind hon. Members that that was done by the Chamberlain Government, which is sometimes accused of not having taken adequate preparations. Nevertheless, gas masks were issued. It may be that the organisation behind them was not perfect. I know of instances where considerable numbers of gas masks without valves were issued and they would not have been of any use if there had been a gas attack. However, the civilian population had the appearance of being prepared for an attack, and when the war subsequently developed all were to be seen walking about with gas masks.

I always think that the vision of a countrywoman in a rural bus clutching a small cardboard box tied round her neck by a piece of string must have been most depressing to any enemy agent and must have been a contributory factor to his advice not to use gas, although it may be that the cardboard box contained nothing except a luncheon pastie. But the appearance was there and there was an organisation to counteract the use of gas. Thus passed the terror of the gas attack. It may be that it is too much to hope that the terror of the atom bomb will come to the same anti-climax.

Just as it was untrue that nothing could be done about gas so it is untrue that nothing can be done about an atom bomb attack. The Government have issued a number of pamphlets on what can be done to minimise the effect of an atom bomb. Some of them are extremely good and should appeal strongly to anybody who has had practical experience in action of Civil Defence. I hope the leaflets will be given greater publicity than they have had up to now.

Before we leave the atom bomb, I want to mention another point which the public do not seem always to appreciate. It seems to be assumed that atom bombs will be broadcast wholesale over the countryside in any future war. An atom bomb is a very expensive weapon which takes a long time to develop and manufacture. It does not seem at all likely that it will be broadcast wholesale over the countryside like a farmer sowing dredge corn, in the manner in which some of Hitler's bombers cast bombs here and there over the Home Counties in the early days of the attack on this country.

I should think it much more likely that many of the attacks in a future war, which we hope will not take, place but nevertheless might, will be with more conventional weapons than the atom bomb, and in Civil Defence we must be prepared to meet them also. In any case, it is likely to be a concentrated attack and saturation bombing, and something which we shall have to be prepared to meet and which cannot be dealt with by the willing hands of untrained neighbours.

I am not suggesting that we could all emulate the example of the White Knight in "Alice Through the Looking Glass", who carried a mousetrap on the back of his horse in case there should be a mouse there, but any reasonable preparations that we can now make will have the greatest effect. But to be really effective our Civil Defence service must be comprehensive and must cover the whole of the United Kingdom. Some places are more liable to attack than others, but damage may be suffered in any place, and, therefore, to be a success the service must be comprehensive.

The present Government, like their predecessors in office, have made strenuous efforts to devise a service which will be comprehensive and will cover the country, but I do not think it can be said that the results of that attempt have been wholly successful. I shall not attempt to give a lot of facts and figures. For one thing, I have not the most up-to-date figures, and secondly, any analysis of the figures that I attempted to make would not be as effective or have that degree of inside knowledge as would an analysis from the Front Bench.

However, broadly speaking, it must be agreed that the total number of recruits for Civil Defence is insufficient and, moreover, they are unevenly distributed. Many of the best recruiting areas are those which are not the most liable to attack. I do not think this has anything to do with funk or despair on the part of the people who live in the target areas; curiously enough, two of the very best recruiting areas of all are two places which received the heaviest bombing attacks in the past, one being the City of London and the other the City of Bristol.

I think the fact that recruiting has been better in many of the areas which are not so liable to attack, such as Dorset, Devon or Westmorland, is that in those country districts life is not so hectic and people have more time on their hands and are not so preoccupied. What is more, local leadership in those places counts for more. In the big cities nobody knows his neighbour, or at any rate the tendency is not to know very many neighbours, but in country districts everybody knows everybody else, and it is easy for somebody with initiative to go round and pick out the right men to get on with the job. Somehow or other that difficulty has to be overcome.

I would suggest that one of the first ways of increasing the flow of recruits would be to make an examination of the chain of command. I think that a good deal of apathy about Civil Defence is due to ignorance as to who is responsible for what, and what is going on. I find among elected members of local government that there is a considerable degree of ignorance as to what is the chain of command in Civil Defence and what are the responsibilities of local government in respect of it. That might be looked at, and if it needs a tightening up in any way the necessary steps should be taken.

An interesting suggestion has been made to me, that some of the sub-divisions are too small. They are too large for a part-time volunteer man working two days a week, but they are too small for the reasonable employment of a whole-time man. Efficiency might be tightened up if some of the sub-divisions were amalgamated and a full-time officer put in charge. That would involve some extra expense, but it seems to me that the expense might be better than attempts made to draw recruits to Civil Defence by adding to the number of clubs and amenities in villages, and providing additional dart boards and more cups for cups of tea. In the rural areas we have plenty of that sort of thing already, and the attempts to form such clubs do not seem to me to have made much difference to the recruitment for the Civil Defence forces.

Another of the most important ways of attracting recruits to Civil Defence would be to give them some more equipment for local training. People are not going to spend week after week sitting in a room listening to lectures. They want to be doing something. If places in different parts of the country are examined, it will be found that there has been the best recruitment where there has been some particular activity going on which has attracted attention. I know of one village in my own constituency which is extremely Civil Defence conscious and that is because it has acquired an exceedingly impressive-looking heavy rescue vehicle. I do not know where the heavy rescue is going to be done in that village; presumably it is intended to work throughout the area; but nevertheless the fact that they have this fine vehicle fitted out like a Christmas tree with a lot of gadgets causes a great deal of interest. It turns up at all the local fetes and galas and everyone is very conscious of Civil Defence.

If something of that sort could be done more generally, a great many more recruits could be added to the force. They do not always need an expensive piece of equipment, but merely something which can be demonstrated in the streets. I suggest also that the old practice of carrying out exercises in the streets should be reverted to, as was done during and before the war. I have not noticed that going on now, but if we can persuade people to demonstrate and practise in a public place where others can see what is happening, it will be a potent factor in attracting recruits.

I think more can be done by giving the recruits uniforms. I am told that uniforms are coming along better than they were, but I think that more can be done. Nothing gives a man or a woman more confidence in, or more appreciation of, the service to which he or she belongs than the provision of some sort of uniform. Incidentally, the pressing forward of the uniform problem at the present moment by the Government would enable them to do something more to assist the textile industries in the way that they have promised.

We should also examine new methods of training. I said a moment or two ago that, whether it is the atom bomb or otherwise, it seems to be likely that any future attack will be concentrated, and we shall have to deal with saturation bombing. That seems to be true whether we are dealing with towns or with the country. No doubt there will be concentrated bombing on towns, and I understand arrangements are being made for mobile columns to come to the rescue of the town. That may not be enough. For strategic reasons it may be important to an enemy to block a road or take some action like that. We have read about a lot of that kind of bombing going on in Korea, and if that takes place in this country it means that a lot of small places will have concentrated attacks.

It seems to me, therefore, that local mobile columns, with the local Civil Defence in different villages, should be linked up so that they can come to the rescue of each other if need be. I know it may not always be very popular to collect people in the villages and suggest that they should be prepared to go to the rescue of the village over the hill. Sometimes local rivalry is pretty strong, but in a case like this I should think that that can be overcome and some joint local mobile columns introduced.

Taking the question broadly, the whole question of home security is one, for Civil Defence is, after all, only the fourth arm of defence, and it must now and in the future continue to work in the closest co-operation with the other defence units in the country. It must be kept in the picture as to what should be done in home security.

To sum up, this is no party matter. Death is no choser of party colours, and this Motion will, I hope, appeal to all sides of the House and even to those who may hold the most extreme views. To the extremist on my own side, if there are any, I would say that here is an opportunity for the revival of jingoism. We don't want to fight, but, by jingo, if we do, We've got the men, we've got the planes, we've got the wardens, too.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

But we have not got any Civil Defence.

Mr. Wilson

To the Liberals I would say, what better example of the past traditions of Liberalism can we have than a service which has the design to help one's neighbours? To the Socialists, what better form of nationalised service could there be than the service designed to help the community; and to the supporters of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I would point out that we are not asking anyone to kill. We are asking them to save life, and for this reason I hope that all sides of this House will support the Motion.

11.27 a.m.

Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)

I beg to second the Motion.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) for giving me the opportunity of seconding this Motion, and I think the whole House will be grateful to him for the way he has presented his case with such lucidity. He painted a picture which was very clear, and I am particularly glad that we are having the opportunity of presenting this case in the presence of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and that we have also with us the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) who did so much for this particular cause in the last Parliament. We are concerned with recruiting for Civil Defence, and I think my right hon. and learned Friend will agree with me that the position is not satisfactory. Therefore, I think it would not be unhelpful to examine the main incentives and the deterrents to recruiting in Civil Defence and see how the incentives can be increased and the deterrents reduced.

In my opinion there are three main incentives to Civil Defence recruiting. We have got to put over an answer to these three questions to the prospective Civil Defence recruit. The first is necessity, the second is urgency and the third is efficacy. Necessity: "Am I really needed for Civil Defence?" Urgency: "Am I really needed now?" Efficacy: "If I join up, will my services be any good from the point of view of the country and of the community?"

My hon. Friend has said that Civil Defence must be looked at as a whole. I believe that is the secret of the whole matter. Civil Defence is total defence, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will be doing a great service to the Civil Defence machine if he can bring that important fact to bear upon his colleagues who are concerned with the other arms of our defence. When the Government published their White Paper on Defence there was a small piece right at the end, on the last page, paragraph 68, devoted to Civil Defence. It was psychologically wrong that Civil Defence should have been relegated to that position in the defence picture.

In that paragraph were these words: The problems of Civil Defence are very different from those of the Armed Forces. Of course, that is true, but the objectives of Civil Defence are identical with those of the Armed Forces. We cannot expect the Armed Forces of the Crown to operate out of this country successfully if the home front is not secure. The morale of the troops and the supply of every kind of material to them depends entirely upon the home front being secure. Therefore, Civil Defence is indeed total defence.

I am a little concerned with the Civil Defence appreciation at the present time. I believe that too much dependence is placed upon the amount of assistance that the Armed Forces could give to the civil power in the event of this country being involved in another attack. If our Armed Forces were deployed in another theatre there would not be the necessary number of troops available to come to the assistance of the civil power. If the situation were so grave that the whole of the Armed Forces were deployed inside this country, then the whole Civil Defence appreciation as we now know it is false. This matter needs close attention by the Departments concerned.

There is another very critical situation involved in the many calls made upon our voluntary manpower. We have pressed in another quarter that the Secretary of State for War should place an age limit upon the Z Reserve. We believe that if men feel they are still liable for military service, although in fact they may not be liable, they will not come to the assistance of the civil power where they would be very much more usefully employed. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to fight the battle of Civil Defence in that quarter.

Civil Defence is also self defence. One of the lessons that the enemies of this country have no doubt learned is that Adolf Hitler made a grave error in not bombing London instantly. I do not believe that we could have withstood with any great efficiency any heavy raids if they had taken place in 1939 or early 1940. If I were evilly disposed towards this country I would see that in the very early days of another war I bombed every position of importance in this country, because that would have a disastrous effect upon our war potential. There is another lesson that I hope those concerned with Civil Defence training will learn, and that is the lesson to be gained from the bombed towns and cities of other countries. Those who are responsible for the training of Civil Defence volunteers should concentrate not upon what happened here in 1940 but what happened in other countries, and particularly in Germany in 1945.

I turn to the second incentive, urgency. In Civil Defence there is one motto which is fatal: "It will be all right on the day." That may be a very British motto, but it is unsuitable in an Arm which is becoming increasingly more complicated and for which a long period of training is necessary to ensure efficiency. The secret of success in the Brigade of Guards is that men are trained to react automatically in a crisis. If there is not that long period of precise training we cannot expect the machine to operate under duress.

The Brigade of Guards are a Regular organisation with plenty of time at their disposal. Civil Defence is a voluntary organisation. How much more necessary is it that men and women should come forward early in order that they might have more time to assimilate this extremely important subject. My right hon. Friend may intervene in a few minutes' time. I hope that he will say something about the slowness and the lack of cooperation which undoubtedly exist in some parts of the country in Civil Defence.

The third incentive to which I have referred is efficacy. My hon. Friend has indicated the danger. There are people about who say, "The danger is so great and the difficulties are so formidable in face of atomic warfare that it is no good undertaking these measures of defence." That is the very sort of talk that the foreign enemies of this country want us to encourage. The measures being taken by the Civil Defence authorities and those responsible for the training of its volunteers are capable of dealing with every conceivable type of threat which is likely to come upon us. I would pay tribute to the excellent work which is taking place at the Civil Defence Staff College. I am sure that hon. Members will be glad to learn that the Commandant, General Lethbridge, who had a very serious operation, is recovering. He has done a wonderful job in installing and initiating the work of the Civil Defence Staff College.

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will have good news to tell us about the tactical wing. There has been a certain amount of delay in that direction and it presents a serious weakness in the Civil Defence structure. It is all very well to have the theory; we must also have the practice. My hon. Friend referred to the Civil Defence mobile column. The hon. Member for Lincoln knows that we have pressed him on this subject. I regret very much, even though he is not in his old position, that the progress of the mobile column does not seem to have been accelerated. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will have good news to tell us also about this matter too.

The Civil Defence Staff College suffers in one respect, which is that the permanent staff are not permanently established in the Civil Service, I understand. I hope that that will be remedied. If Civil Defence is to be efficient, and if the right methods are to be developed to make men believe that they are doing a useful job, it is obvious that those who are at the thinking end should be properly and securely established.

Finally, those incentives have to be made quite clear to the people of this country. I do not believe that they have been made sufficiently clear in the past. Moreover, our Civil Defence organisation suffers today by comparison with the many other competing activities to which men and women may go. We have a great admiration for our police force and for our National Fire Service, and then there are as well the Armed Services. Civil Defence appears to have no equivalent appeal, and whereas I realise the obvious difference in its voluntary aspect there are many worthwhile jobs which compare most favourably in attraction with those of the police and the fire services.

My right hon. and learned Friend has to put a new inspiration into Civil Defence. At the moment it is being carried largely by a loyal band of enthusiasts, to whom I am sure this House is grateful and to whom hon. Members would wish to acknowledge our debt. Yet it is not right that a great national service which is of the greatest importance to the whole of our defence forces and home security should be dependent upon the enthusiasm of a minority. It is the duty of the Government not only to create those conditions but to give that inspiration and leadership which will ensure that the service is built up so that a greater number of people take part in it.

I believe my right hon. and learned Friend has to give much clearer directions and assistance to local authorities, and that local authorities have to be far more certain that they can get from the Government more precise and clear terms of direction in the work they have to do. This is a vitally important subject. Naturally it is not a popular one. Psychologically, the people of this country wish to feel that their feet are placed firmly on the road to peace and that their security is not threatened. We know perfectly well, from a study of world events today, that such an illusion would do the greatest damage to our future and to the future security of the world. I am certain that we shall defend the peace of the world best if we defend our own peace, and in this direction we have a most important part to play.

I trust that my right hon. and learned Friend will make it quite clear that this Government acknowledges the part which Civil Defence has to play and that it must be clearly integrated with other and important aspects of defence development. We look now to the Government, and the country looks to this House for a lead. I hope it will be given today.

Mr. Speaker

I do not propose to call the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) which seeks to add the words at the end of the Motion:— and in view of the warning by the Prime Minister that the establishment of American bomber bases in Britain adds greatly to the dangers of the civilian population and may bring fearful experiences beyond anything we have ever endured, urges Her Majesty's Government to end the agreement by which American bomber bases are stationed in Britain, and to initiate and support disarmament proposals which will make substantial expenditure on inadequate civil defence measures unnecessary. The Amendment goes outside the scope of the Motion.

Mr. S. O. Davies

On a point of order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you do not propose to call the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend and myself, but does not that Amendment give clear alternatives to the policies that have been suggested this morning on the Floor of this House and in the Motion? Do not those alternatives in the Amendment provide far greater chances of the survival of this country than anything we have heard up to now?

Mr. Speaker

These are matters of opinion. The effect of allowing the Amendment of the hon. Member to be moved would be to restrict the debate and to divert it from the purpose chosen by the hon. Member who was successful in the Ballot. We should then be confined to discussing the Amendment which raises matters of foreign policy, and the House would be precluded from the wide discussion which it desires on this subject. It would be quite improper for me to call it.

Mr. Davies

Then may I ask how wide a debate you will permit? Shall we only be permitted to discuss the old, orthodox conception of Civil Defence? We have heard two speeches already. Shall we be ruled out of order if other and wider and possibly, from our point of view, far more effective suggestions are made? We would like to know exactly how widely you will allow us to debate this subject.

Mr. Speaker

I can only say that the debate must be relevant to the Motion, which is the Question before the House. I would not like to give a hypothetical Ruling as to what may or may not be in order, but certainly the Motion of which the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) gave notice is not a matter or foreign policy at all but a matter of Civil' Defence at home. I do not wish to bind myself, or whoever may be in the Chair, as to what is in order or not. But this, is a debate on the Question which has, been proposed and seconded and is now before the House.

Mr. Davies

Are we to assume that you will rule out of order any hon. Member in this House this morning who will catch your eye and who will possibly make out a case reducing to utter absurdity the Motion on the Order Paper?

Mr. Speaker

Not necessarily. I have seen many attempts made to reduce Motions to absurdity which were quite in order. I do not wish to give a Ruling in advance on that matter, but I ask the House to agree with me that when an hon. Member has been successful in the Ballot, has selected his own subject, has had it properly moved and seconded in this House, it would be quite wrong, by an Amendment, to thwart the course of the discussion from the topic raised by that hon. Member.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the fact that this Amendment has been on the Order Paper for several days, that no intimation has been given either to myself or to the Home Secretary that this was likely to be called out of Order, and that the hon. Member who moved the Motion referred to the Amendment, would it now be in order for me to submit a manuscript Amendment?

Mr. Speaker

I should have to see it. If the hon. Member had asked my advice earlier on this matter, I would gladly have told him as soon as the Amendment was put down whether it was in order or not. Mr. Bottomley.

11.48 a.m.

Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)

I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) upon raising this subject for debate today. As he rightly said, it is a subject which transcends party politics. If, unfortunately, we were bombed, the bombs would not differ as between politicians or others who have particular religious or secular beliefs. We should all be in it, and therefore we have to afford the maximum protection for our people.

Like the hon. Gentleman, I was closely associated with Civil Defence long before the last war. I would not have mentioned the Chamberlain Government if it had not been for his own comment, but my own memory is an unhappy one. Time and time again I was on deputations to the Government of the day suggesting what ought to be done to protect our people. Indeed, the local authority of which I was a member went so far as to take things into its own hands by spending money on Civil Defence. We had to fight the Government of the day for a long time before we could get reimbursement.

In regard to Civil Defence today, the same views would hold, as far as I am concerned, as led me into it before the last war. Then there were people who had the means to afford themselves some measure of protection. I take the view that that is not enough. Poor people also ought to have protection, and therefore it is right that it should be made a national and local responsibility by levying rates and taxes in order to pay for that service. Speaking from experience, I say that another powerful reason for supporting the Civil Defence movement is that it does much to remove social differences. Class feelings were removed as a result of the associations of people mixing together in common defence, and I should like to see that spirit coming back again in a sense of national duty.

Having said that, however, I think it has been shown already that we are failing in our objective. I do not want to go into party politics or to talk about one Government against another, and their effects on the people, on which, as the House knows, I have very strong views; but as regards the desire of us all to get as many recruits as possible, it has been shown that by the methods at present employed we have failed. We have had public meetings, film shows and many other things, but in the towns, at any rate, the result is very poor indeed—we are not getting recruits. One town that I know, despite a very concentrated recruiting campaign, got no recruits at all.

The weakness of the system today is that we are neither centralised nor localised: we fall between the two. I was one of those who founded what is known in the Greater London area as the Outer London Joint Standing Committee. I believe that this Committee, which is made up of 46 outer Metropolitan local authorities, all borough councils or urban district councils, would like to be represented upon the Home Office Advisory Committee. On that Advisory Committee there sit representatives of county councils, county boroughs and certain Metropolitan boroughs. There ought to be direct representation for the large association of borough and urban district councils. Let them feel that they are in it and are doing something, and that they know what is going on at the centre. In this way we are more likely to get better co-operation.

In my own area—the Chatham-Rochester-Gillingham-Strood district—which geographically, from the point of view of communications, is the largest industrial area and most densely populated in Kent outside the Metropolitan boroughs, everything is ready-made for a local organisation. But they are compelled to go through the county council, resulting in duplication and waste, and they do not like it. Those four districts have got together and have made representations. Unless we give to local authorities a kind of personal interest and make them feel that by being together locally in a team, thus creating a real civic spirit, our recruiting endeavours will not be successful

We have got to get the organisations like the Home Guard, the police and the Civil Defence more closely linked together. During the war I served as a deputy-regional commissioner in an area where we expected invasion at any time and where we were bombed continually. We had to face it that we could not have the Civil Defence, the police, the fire service and the local authority all working in opposite directions; we had to get them together.

We then built an organisation, which we called the "Triumvirate," under the leadership of the town clerk, the controller, or the mayor—it did not matter which, as long as he was the local civic leader, who could be counted upon to carry the local people with him. He would sit with the Home Guard commander and the police inspector. Together, they knew that if there was a heavy air bombardment, all would be ready to afford the maximum protection. If, on the other hand, there had been an invasion, all would have been there to join the struggle against the invader.

Not only do we achieve greater efficiency by knowing that we are building that local team; they are there ready to protect their town, fighting for something tangible instead of being beholden to some group of people removed from the actual scene of the incident. And so I think that more must be done to give to local authorities the oppportunity to run their own show, and, in giving them that opportunity, to bring together the units in the area. If we concentrate our efforts in this way, it will he one of the most effective ways of increasing recruitment for the Civil Defence forces.

11.54 a.m.

Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)

We all owe a very deep debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), who moved the Motion. The subject has been raised from time to time in the House, but not frequently enough. I am very glad that my hon. Friend has taken this opportunity to raise it in order that we might have a discussion. I will not follow the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley), who made an extremely interesting speech from personal experience, except to say that I agree with everything he said.

We are all disturbed about the lack of recruiting. It is interesting to note that. with a few exceptions to which my hon. Friend referred, it is better in the rural areas than in the urban areas. One rural district in my part of West Sussex, which has a peace-time establishment of 120, has recruited a total of 241, whereas an urban district close by, with a peace-time establishment of 540, has recruited only 190. There must be some reasons for this, and one of them was given by my hon. Friend in moving the Motion.

But there are other reasons also. There is no sense of urgency. There are the competing claims for part-time manpower in other directions. There is a certain lack of local leadership. I believe, too, that the Government will have to do what the previous Government—this is not a party point—consistently refused to do, although, probably, for various valid reasons. That is, the Government must issue some sort of policy in regard to reserved occupations. Until this is done, people will continually be saying, "I may go to this or to that. I may be called up for the Armed Forces, and I am not going to take on two jobs. I do not want to learn one and then suddenly be taken away from it and told to go somewhere else."

A minor reason is the question of uniforms. The uniforms are coming along, but nothing like fast enough. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend, therefore, whether he would not consider issuing at least brassards and berets in the meantime until all the uniforms come along.

I do not believe that publicity is done on a proper scale. There ought to be a much wider circulation of the excellent pamphlet on the atom bomb. This would do a very great deal to inspire interest and action. I wonder why there are not more pamphlets on sale at the various bookstalls, because I believe that people would buy them.

As far as industrial areas are concerned, how much have the T.U.C. been taken into consultation and how much are they helping? The trade unions could help a great deal in assisting to get recruits in the industrial areas; and I shall have a word to say presently about factory defence.

The Government must do something about the question of reserved occupations, even though it may be only on a reasonably wide basis. The age of call-up to the Z Reserve is a very important factor. The age of call-up into any other service for which there may be compulsion in the future should be made perfectly clear, and the field from that stage onwards should be left open to everybody else. All other people outside these categories can, and should, join either the Home Guard or Civil Defence.

The question of local leadership is another of the reasons why we are failing in our recruiting for Civil Defence. Why have the Home Office so far refused to appoint sub-controllers to the country districts, and sub-divisional controllers to the groups of the country districts? What is being done is more like forming a unit without giving it a commanding officer, and I have never seen any unit without a commanding officer that was effective. This must be looked into, and I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that it is a point on which all the local authorities have strong feelings.

The Civil Defence officer or the chairman of the Civil Defence committee is not the right person to produce the leadership and inspiration which is necessary. He has his own job to do, and that is not part of it. I go even further and say that the time has arrived when a really explicit chain of command should be decided upon and published.

To me, as a soldier, it is quite fantastic that we should have had all these years of organisation of Civil Defence but that no one to whom I have yet spoken is quite clear on what ladder the executive orders descend from above. At present the bottom rungs of the ladder are there and the top rungs are there, but there is nothing in the middle. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will see that that gap is filled at the earliest moment. It is a very complicated matter, because the local government boundaries obviously do not coincide with the areas of responsibility of the fire services, ambulance services, Civil Defence services and so on. We must have a proper chain of co-ordination.

I believe the time has come when the regional commissioners, if not appointed, should at least be nominated and told what will be their headquarters staff, for what area they will be responsible, and the whole of their responsibilities in the event of an emergency. I am quite certain that it is on the regional commissioner that the whole of the co-ordination will depend in the future, far more than it did in the last war.

It is very encouraging to know that we have had so much recruitment in the rural areas. I do not believe that Civil Defence people sitting inside the areas of attack will be a lot of help, particularly in the case of saturation bombing. I am not talking of the bombing—bad as it was—that we experienced in the last war, but of bombing such as that of Hamburg and Hanover and, of course, the atom bomb. I believe that the assistance will have to come from outside. People are very slow to see this; we rather lack imagination in this country. I happen to come from Ireland and have a rather more vivid imagination.

I am certain that we shall see Civil Defence in this country centred on the mobile columns. I believe I know the number, but I am not going to make a shot at it; but if it is the number I think, it is very alarming. We must make an effort on that because on it will depend the whole success of Civil Defence in the future. I implore the right hon. and learned Gentleman to see that the vehicles are at least earmarked, or that the numbers required are known, because that is not even known yet. We should decide how many mobile columns are necessary and have them earmarked.

That brings me to my "hobby-horse," the question of communications. Anyone who says that in the event of saturation bombing or guided missiles, to which we might be subjected, the ground land telecommunications will operate again has no imagination whatever. Let us consider and be a little foreseeing about this question of wireless. I had a conversation about wireless with a high ranking officer who deals with Civil Defence. He said that the whole thing was impracticable because the air would be cluttered up by others using it. But we have a large Army on the Continent not very far away, and we can listen to all those tank wireless sets now; the air is already cluttered up. We have all the taxis in London, most of whose drivers, without training, are using wireless.

If we listen on certain wavelengths we can hear private yachts in the Solent and in the Channel talking to each other on the wireless. We had a vast army of Americans and Britons before D day with their own wavelengths all nattering on the air for 48 hours a day—[Laughter.]I mean 24 hours a day—it sometimes felt like 48 hours. Yet there was no jamming. It is a question of wireless discipline and so on. It is fatuous to say that the regional commissioner will not be able to have a wavelength by which to control the mobile columns. If he does not get a wavelength to control his mobile columns, I can assure hon. Members, as one who has had a lot of experience in moving people about the country, that he will not be able to control them and get them to where they are required at the right moment.

I think that hon. Members opposite will agree that I started the ball rolling on the question of factory and industrial Civil Defence a considerable time ago. I am not at all happy that very much has been done in this matter. I know that there is a Civil Defence planning panel, but I gather that it has met only four times in two years. I gather that people have been consulting industry over this matter, but is it not time that a proper scheme was got out for factory Civil Defence so that industry may know exactly where they stand, what are their responsibilities and what they are expected to do? Could there be a question of Income Tax rebate to industries on money spent on Civil Defence equipment and training?

Let us see that what happened in the last war does not happen again. Factory Civil Defence teams were not permitted to take part in Civil Defence outside their factories. There were occasions when Civil Defence people had to watch at a window of a factory unable to help others on an incident just outside the factory. I think more integration is needed between the Civil Defence corps and the factory Civil Defence.

I also wish to ask what the policy is in regard to shelters. I know that materials and capital expenditure is frowned on, but what about new construction? Is it not time that there was an insistence on a certain amount of shelter accommodation being incorporated in new construction? In Scandinavia recently I saw an enormous hospital, about twice the size of Westminster Hospital, which has been built with complete duplication under ground. That shows how people abroad are dealing with this matter.

I mentioned saturation bombing. I wish to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he has had any advice or information from the Germans, because they know more about saturation bombing than we do. I would be grateful to know whether we are learning something from them.

I also wish to ask a purely constituency point. Will my right hon. and learned Friend please look again into the question of my own constituency of Worthing? It is a borough which had its own Civil Defence responsibility in the last war, and it was a very efficient one, but it is not permitted to be so treated again. Yet there are other non-county boroughs with a smaller population and a smaller rateable value who are to run their own organisation. The rateable value of Worthing is more than £1 million, and we have a population of 70,000. Why we have been singled out in the 1949 Schedule as not competent or capable of running our own Civil Defence I cannot understand. I do not ask my right hon. and learned Friend to answer today, but I shall be grateful if he will let me know the answer.

I think we are extremely fortunate in having as the Minister responsible for Civil Defence one who has had such an enormous amount of experience himself in the bombing of London; I believe I am right in saying that he had practically a whole tin hat extracted from his head—I believe by a gynaecologist.

12.8 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Siross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I, like everyone else, am grateful that we have had an opportunity today to discuss this matter. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) made a plea that we should concentrate on mobile columns and I am absolutely certain that he is right if only because, if there be saturation bombing, there would be almost no way by which people directly affected could help themselves. Assistance must come from outside.

One of the dangers we must always face in discussions of this kind is that we may fall into the trap of remembering our past experiences and feeling that if we merely remedy any omissions from past experience we may be able to face any future contingency safely. We have to use our imagination as much as possible and not be afraid to face all possible dangers, even though they include a great deal of horror and the sort of thing one would not like to talk about.

I think it would be detrimental to public interest if we were to hide from ourselves that there has been a serious change since the last war and that we have to have new methods and techniques. The Motion itself speaks of an effective and comprehensive system of Civil Defence in the United Kingdom… and later it speaks of …training and develop new methods of defence in the interests of home security as a whole. We have heard of the experiences that Hamburg had to suffer, and that was essentially from high explosives and fire. Today we should ask ourselves what sort of dangers we face. Against what must we mobilise our defence?

I had some experience in North Staffordshire in helping to recruit personnel and to train people in the use of mobile units. I well remember, as my experience grew, finding our methods to be antiquated, and in some respects quite useless. That was apparent to my mind when I lay under the debris of a shattered house, having been buried. When I recovered consciousness, I realised that the mobile unit I had been so careful in preparing, and which was stocked with all the gadgets possible to imagine, was not of very much use. It was brought up late and I was told about a colleague of mine trying, by the flickering light from small electric torches, to stitch a wound in someone's face which I, having meanwhile been extracted from the debris at last, was hurried away to sort out the casualties and see that they were properly disposed of.

I am sure that we know now that the right thing to do is to look at all possible contingencies and to be prepared to meet them by training eventually the whole population and getting them to understand what are the dangers facing them. At the same time we need 500,000 people to be specifically well trained. Nothing short of that, in my view, is adequate.

It is not wrong to face, and we should not brush aside, the dangers of atomic bombing. We should consider what it may involve. Professor Burhop, in his book entitled "The Challenge of Atomic Energy," quoted an article which had appeared earlier in the "Washington Times Herald" which appears to state the type of danger that we might have to face; and when I say "we" this is true of every other country in the world. The article stated: The object of war today is to kill the enemy nation, remove its seat of power and wipe it off the face of the earth as a threat for ever. We do not put armies of young men out to gut one another. We send planes over at 40,000 feet loaded with atom bombs, fire bombs, germ bombs and trinitrotoluol to slaughter babes in the cradle, grandmothers at their prayers and working men at their jobs… That is a horrible and a graphic way of putting this matter. But we have to face up to what might well happen. The experience that was suffered by men, women and children in Germany who were exposed to mass attacks from high explosives and fire was terrifying enough, but this may well be worse; and we should fail in our duty if we did not prepare fully and adequately for it.

It has been said that this attitude towards the conflict between nations should be described as the "atom mind". I am not sure what the "atom mind" is, but there is a very different atmosphere now from the sort of atmosphere in which we were brought up—and I speak as a middle-aged man. There is a sort of mass hypnosis or mass hysteria, and human beings can conduct savage attacks of this type only if they can persuade themselves that those who suffer are not really quite as human as they are themselves. Here in Britain, with our fortitude and common sense we have not been led to think in terms of that kind. With our former experience of having been threatened with virtual annihilation, we are well able to look at our danger calmly and quietly, without defeatism, on the one hand, or hysteria, on the other.

The four things we must guard against are high explosives, which is now an old-fashioned weapon; fire bombs, particularly of the napalm type, which is a fairly recent weapon extensively tried out in Korea and about which we have a great deal of knowledge now: atom bombs, and disease attacks, whether they be on man, cattle or crops. About the last, I do not think we need to concern ourselves very much. There is no highly technically evolved people but would be prepared and able to answer back in a like way. I think that disease attacks will go the same way as gas attacks. They will not be used. It is a very dubious way of attack and we have not enough technical knowledge to know with certainty whether it would be effective, so we may leave it. alone.

Statements have been made from time to time such as the one by General Alden H. Waitt, chief of the United States Army Chemical Corps, who said Clostridium botulinum is the most poisonous thing known to man, and under ideal conditions, one ounce could probably kill 150 million people… Statements of that kind, to those of us who are medically trained and have some bacteriological and microbiological training, do not mean very much, because those conditions do not obtain.

When we are dealing with fire bombs and atom bombs we are dealing with a very different matter. We are dealing with the essential problem of Civil Defence which, in my very narrow view as a medical man, is the treatment of burns. Napalm alone gives a temperature of something like 1,000 degrees centigrade. It is cheap and easily carried. In one communiqué dated 15th September, 1950, from the United Nations we read that on the Naktong front 200,000 gallons was used, I take it in one attack. On 22nd February of this year a communiqué from the United States Navy stated that planes from the United States carriers had napalmed out at existence a whole Korean town a few miles West of Panmunjon… Whether death is caused from heat or direct burning would not be my concern as a medical man concerned with Civil Defence, for the dead are no longer one's concern. But the casualties are particularly horrifying, because of the quality and type of burning involved. We have to be ready for them. In addition we have to consider the type of burns and how many burns one may get from even one atomic bomb.

We have some evidence. We can make use of the old-fashioned type of bomb, and I hope that none will be more effective than they have been. One was dropped on Nagasaki, where the deaths were 39,000 and the injured 25,000. An analysis of what happened among those injured who did not die at once shows that 70 per cent. of them were involved in the blast and the effects of the shock-wave. Among the casualties 65 to 90 per cent. were burns. Everything was on fire within a radius of two to three miles. No doubt that was partly due to the type of dwellings in Nagasaki, which would burn more easily than our buildings.

These burns need immediate attention. This is the key problem which we must face. We shall need blood plasma and blood in huge amounts. I wish to ask the Home Secretary to what extent blood plasma and blood are being stockpiled. In the first three or four days, anyone suffering burns—with a skin area of up to 50 per cent. involved—would need 20 to 30 pints. After that, if he survives he will need the usual 20 to 30 operations over a period of two years.

I should like to know what steps are being taken to increase the number of skilled medical personnel plus ancillary services for skin grafting and plastic surgery. The work seems to fall into two parts. First, there is the saving of life and then the job of seeing that further treatment is given. I believe that at present we have two centres in Birmingham and Glasgow. I do not know how many beds are involved, but I doubt if we have more than two really efficient teams. If they were working all out, it is doubtful whether they could handle more than three or four cases an hour. If we are to get 20,000 or 30,000 casualties in one incident—which happened at Hamburg without atomic bombs—we ought to be better prepared than we are. At Hiroshima there were 34,000 cases of burns.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

The hon. Gentleman has quoted figures for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No doubt he will agree that they must not go out from this House without qualification, otherwise we might be doing just what we are trying to prevent. The casualties there would not have been so high had there been adequate warning and shelter systems. That does not destroy the hon. Gentleman's argument about the methods which must be adopted here, but I did not want those figures to be given without qualification.

Dr. Stross

I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for a very fair intervention. I am sure that he is right. As I said when I discussed fire, it is the quality of the structure of the homes which is important. The question of warning must also be considered. It would be fair to say that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were of a primitive type. If our information is correct, future weapons may be more powerful. We have to consider that.

We ought to be stockpiling blood and plasma in large quantities. At the same time, we must face up to the brutal picture that if we stockpiled wrongly we should be denying our own civilians today in time of peace what they need merely because we are stockpiling for war. That is the dilemma. I also wish to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether we have a sufficient stockpile of antibiotics, for they would be needed if there were burns of the type which I have described.

We must also have a sufficient supply of dressings. I recall that when the last war started, in the first year we had to be most careful about dressings. Those of us interested in the problem used to go about the streets with loudspeakers telling people how to prepare their own dressings and splints and to stockpile them in their homes, because they were no longer available in the chemists' shops. We ought to stockpile today.

This problem of dressings is accepted in America as one which must be tackled. Experiments have taken place to see whether burns of this type cannot be treated in the open way without dressings being used. That is useful, but it would not apply here unless we had warm weather. Our climate would not allow what may be all right in California where antibiotic powders could be put on open wounds which could be treated while allowing air to have access. That would be impossible here because casualties would be exposed in unsuitable weather.

If this problem is to be tackled seriously, we must realise that a fairly high but elementary level of training is needed by the whole population. In addition, we need a large number of people who are highly and technically trained. It is either that or—I will not say nothing, because that would not be true: anything is better than nothing. But it would not be wise to fail to realise the great danger which we may face. Britain is in the front line. We are not afraid of that. We have been in the front line before. None of us can look back on the years between 1939 and 1945 without very great pride in the fortitude of our people.

You ruled, Mr. Speaker, that we are not debating foreign policy. I accept that Ruling. I conclude by saying that as a medical man I have always believed that prevention is better than cure.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I should like to say that I had no intention of discussing foreign policy. It was clairvoyance on the part of Mr. Speaker that made him assume that.

Mr. Speaker

In self-defence I deny the ascription to me of supernatural powers. I used only the art of reading the hon. Member's proposed Amendment in which he: …urges Her Majesty's Government to end the agreement by which American bomber bases are stationed in Britain. I thought that that would import matters of foreign policy. I assure the hon. Member that it was by natural, and not supernatural, means that I came to that conclusion.

Dr. Stross

I am relieved to hear that you are not clairvoyant, Mr. Speaker, although sometimes I have thought that you were. I am not the only one in the House who has sometimes had that suspicion.

In discussing a subject of this type we should not be afraid of the words we use. We have nothing to fear except a concealment of the truth. I conclude, therefore, on the note that as a medical man I believe that prevention is better than cure. It may well be that patience and compassion and an understanding by the whole world—by the nations who may be involved at any time in tension and argument—of the dangers we face if we have recourse to war will give us the prevention we earnestly desire and pray for.

12.30 p.m.

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

I say at once to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) that, with regard to a number of the more detailed questions he has asked, I shall make full inquiries and see that the suggestions underlying his questions are carefully studied. With regard to the one on which I have acquired some knowledge—and that is the question about stocks of blood—that is in hand in the Ministry of Health, and attention will be paid to what the hon. Gentleman has said on that point. I hope he will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not go into more detailed matters at this time.

May I now add my thanks to those already expressed to my hon. Friend for raising this question today? Incidentally, it gives me the first opportunity that I have had since assuming this office of taking part in a debate on this subject. I should like to begin by saying something about the setting of this particular problem of recruitment for the Civil Defence services and about the Governmental approach. I think that the person who is considering joining the service wants to know what is the Governmental attitude, and wants to be able to make up his mind whether the Governmental attitude is taking this problem seriously at the present time.

I use the word "Governmental" deliberately, because I am very glad to say that the general policy on Civil Defence has not given rise to any differences between the Government and the Opposition, wherever they happened to be sitting, since the groundwork of the new Civil Defence organisation was laid out by the Labour Government's Act of 1948. It has been common ground between us that preparations for Civil Defence must form part of the general defence system of the country, and that it is the duty of the central Government to decide, having regard to the changing circumstances of the time, the rate at which these preparations should proceed, and the proportions of our resources that should be devoted to them.

One must always make the caveat, which I think every Government has had to make, that, in present economic conditions, it would be wrong to expend on measures of Civil Defence an effort which, if we thought a major war was imminent, would be inevitable, and that, while we do not derogate from our belief that the strengthening of our Armed Forces is essential in the interests of preventing the outbreak of another world war, we do believe that Civil Defence has also a part to play in this policy. We do not think that there is anything in the present situation which would justify our relaxing the preparations which were started by the last Administration.

I think I am expressing the general view when I say that that belief is based on two points. One is the necessity for preserving civilian morale in prospect, as well as in the actuality that we hope will not come. The second is to show to other countries that we are taking the position sufficiently seriously to cover the whole ground, which certainly includes Civil Defence.

May I say a word or two about the problem of Government in regard to Civil Defence, because, again, I think it is important that the intending recruit should realise that his work will be part of a coherent whole. I do not think it is always realised how much that whole is. Civil Defence concerns most of the Departments of Government and many other organisations, and a list of subjects on which the Departments are at present engaged contains some 50 major headings. Many of them, as was shown in the most interesting speech on one of them by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, are divisible into a great number of lesser headings.

The function of the Home Office is to bring together the plans and preparations of the various Departments, and that has been described in the House before. I hope the House will agree with the principle, a principle that all Governments have adopted, that the responsibility of individual Departments for their own preparations should be preserved: preparations which have an analogy to the peacetime functions of existing Departments are assigned to those Departments, but the central responsibility for both the planning and the policy of the organisation rests with the Home Office.

I believe that that is a better arrangement than trying to centralise all the administration into one Department, and taking what are really Departmental interests out of the hands of the Department concerned. So far as I can see, the machinery of the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff is working smoothly and is well adapted to present needs.

Another question which I put to myself in considering this matter—and I am very interested to find that it has occurred to practically every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate—is that a recruit might ask "What is your response to scientific development? Are you really keeping abreast of the movements and advances of science?" That would be a matter on which I would be concerned if I were going to join the service.

It is important to stress that the post of Chief Scientific Adviser in the Home Office—a vital post of the central organisation—carries with it the responsibility, in consultation with other Departments, for drawing up the programme of research to be carried out by the appropriate organisations of Government. I might mention in passing that he has been fully consulted on the project for exploding a British atom bomb, and that he also supervises the organisation of operational research designed to assist in evaluating possible methods of air attack in terms of damage and casualties.

That brings me to a particular aspect of the scientific facet, and that is the question of atomic warfare. I have noticed that my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) and other hon. Members have raised this point, and I agree with them that it is most important that everyone in this House, and the intending recruit, should get this matter into the right perspective.

There was at one time a feeling—a wrong feeling—that the advent of the atom bomb had made all Civil Defence useless. We do not believe this, but I want to make it clear, because it is so easy to give a wrong impression the other way, that it does not follow that we under-estimate its potentialities. Therefore, I should like to spend a moment or two on that point.

We have tried in the official pamphlet on atomic warfare—and I am glad to think that it has met with the approval of hon. Members who have spoken, including my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer)—to give a balanced account of the various effects of an atom bomb, and of the possible measures to mitigate them.

It is quite correct that if an atom bomb were exploded over a British city the damage caused by blast would be very great, the fires resulting from heat flash would be numerous and large, and the gamma rays emitted at the instant of the explosion would be a new cause of casualties. But the Home Office pamphlet explains that the danger of lingering radio-activity has been greatly exaggerated. I am advised that except in the area immediately below the burst of the bomb, which would be devastated, the probability of radio-active contamination—what the scientists call "induced radio-activity"—persisting over any appreciable area for more than a short time would be exceedingly remote. To put it in non-technical language, I would say that if this were the only new factor introduced by atomic warfare it would be a very small addition to the problems of Civil Defence. It is true that the immediate radio-active effects of an atomic explosion do create a new problem, but we do not believe that it is insoluble.

It is impossible, except at prohibitive expense, to provide any form of shelter that will give full protection in the area immediately below the atomic burst. But it is possible, at a cost comparable with that of shelters in World War II, to provide shelter that in an area half a mile or three-quarters of a mile from the point of burst would give protection against all effects of an atom bomb which would be comparable with the protection afforded by the shelters of World War II. That indicates in itself how much work, and what a sphere of effective activity, is left for Civil Defence even in the case of an atomic bomb burst.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

May I ask one question about shelters?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue for a moment because it is rather important that I should give a coherent picture. As my hon. Friend the Member for Truro said, the significance of atomic warfare depends upon the number of bombs available to an enemy and the number that he might succeed in delivering accurately over his targets. These are matters of speculation and cannot be a matter of arithmetical calculation. But in a future war we must be prepared for a heavier attack, whether atomic or "conventional," than we experienced last time; and we must take this into account in our preparations. But, when all that is done, I want to emphasise again how important the work we are discussing today can be in mitigating the position should an attack occur.

Mr. Hughes

In view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about the need for shelters, could he add something to explain the written answer to a Question yesterday? The Government have refused to sanction any new shelter which might be used for protecting the civil population owing to the shortage of steel for housing. Does he not think that this is rather impeding work by refusing the local authority when they are suggesting—

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I do not think the hon. Member's last words about the local authority "suggesting" are correct. But the problem which he puts is one of proportion and degree. I began by saying that we cannot afford to spend now what we should have to spend if we believed that war was imminent. In the stage before that we must keep a balance between the various needs of the community, and the shelter policy must be determined by a proper appreciation and determination of that balance. I am always ready to consider any suggestions on that point. If the hon. Gentleman takes the view that too much is being spent on housing in relation to shelters I am quite prepared to consider it, but at the moment I think that the balance—

Mr. Hughes

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is misconstruing what I said. I do not want less money spent on housing, but I want less spent on other forms of armaments. In a written answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) yesterday the Home Secretary definitely refused to allow any steel for air raid shelters.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

The hon. Member must take what I have said, and I do not think there is any break in continuity in policy on this point at all between the Governments. He must take it that it is a matter of estimating the requirements at the time We have made our estimate, and my answer expresses the estimate of the situation at the present time. I am not trying to make a debating point at all. If any hon. Member takes a different view as to our estimate, I shall be very prepared to consider it.

I now want to come to a point which my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) raised. It is the relation between the central Government and local authorities, and the position of the local authorities. It is important to realise the general position, that we are sharing our plans with the local authorities; because, just as in the last war a great portion of the burden fell on them, we know that should the eventuality which we hope to avoid comes about that share will fall on them again. I am very conscious of that necessity.

I am glad to say that the nature of the functions which they will have to perform have been fully discussed with their representatives in England and Scotland and complete harmony has prevailed in settling the form of regulations under Section 2 of the 1948 Act for defining these functions. One which is very relevant to this debate is that the recruitment and organisation of the Civil Defence corps is a function of the appropriate local authorities in which we at the Home Office help and encourage them in every way we can.

I have noted with great care the suggestions that have been made in the course of the debate for changes in the formation and the units of the local authority organisations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochester and Chatham has too much Governmental experience to expect from me an immediate answer to a point like that, but I am very grateful to him for his suggestion, and again I assure him that I will consider it. I think that he raises a very important point, and I should like to give it serious consideration.

But I should like to come to another aspect of the connection between central and local government which has also disturbed hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. It is the question of a central reserve which will be ready to help local authorities should an emergency come. It has been agreed that the local authority organisation will have to be supplemented by a mobile force organised on a regional basis for which the Government must be responsible.

It is clearly not feasible to maintain in peace a standing Civil Defence army for this purpose, and the object of our plans in peace must be to ensure that mobile Civil Defence columns can be brought into existence with the shortest possible delay after the outbreak of a war. It was decided by my predecessor —and I am certain that he was right—that the first step to this end must be the establishment of an experimental mobile column with a view to the production of a prototype to serve as the basis of our further planning. I hope hon. Members will appreciate what that means.

An experimental column is not one that merely exists on paper and in plans. It is one for which we have somehow to get the bodies who will form part of the column in order to give it practical work to do. I am glad to be able to say that, with the co-operation of my right hon. Friends the Minister of Works, the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air, preparations for this are advanced.

A commandant was appointed by my predecessor, and the necessary instructional and administrative staff are being appointed. Premises have been acquired and are being adapted, and—this is why I introduced my right hon. Friends from the Service Departments—arrangements have been made to obtain for a period of a year volunteers from the Army and the Royal Air Force to man the column in this vitally important experimental stage. I attach great importance to this experiment. I hope the column will be in full operation early in January, and will proceed as speedily as possible to carry out exercises with the local Civil Defence forces and any mobile Civil Defence forces that are then in existence.

Among these will certainly be the food convoys which are being established by the Ministry of Food, on the lines of the Queen's Messenger convoys which were so well known in the last war. Eleven complete food convoys have already been stationed at strategic sites throughout the country and the training of the teams to operate them is proceeding.

Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

The important statement which my right hon. and learned Friend has just made is very gratifying. Could he tie that up with the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), and in addition to the mobile force which will now be set up, could we have some mutual aid between the various authorities who will help out in this mobile work?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Yes. I am glad my hon. Friend has raised that point. I want to make it quite clear that what I have been describing is the physical experimental column which I want to have, with bodies, vehicles and equipment, so that we can test the actual work in operation and see how it can best be done. Apart from that, there will be plans for mobile columns on a regional basis whose purpose will be that which my hon. Friend mentioned. As I said, we cannot get the bodies to start all these columns in time of peace, and therefore the plan is to have one working experimental column, and of course the plans for the others will come into operation when necessary. I hope that answers my hon. Friend.

Dr. Stross

I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will bear in mind the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), for there will be great value if the columns are situated outside the centres of the great cities rather than in the cities themselves.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

That point will be borne in mind. Of course, the actual position of the column will be a matter to be decided on a regional and not on a national basis. I am sure that that point would be borne in mind from both the military and the Civil Defence point of view.

The other point which I was about to mention relates to the Fire Service. I think it is important that it has been agreed with the local authorities that, though in peace they would be responsible for the organisation and training of the Auxiliary Fire Service, it will be necessary in war again to organise the Fire Service on a national basis.

I should like the House to know that that is not merely a decision in vacuo. A great deal of preparatory planning has already been done, for example, in designing new types of emergency fire appliances and equipment; and in April last I selected 11 officers to act as chief regional fire officers designate. They are surveying their regions so as to help the Home Office in maturing the plans for a war organisation. Preparatory planning is also proceeding in Scotland. I should like to emphasise that there is no intention of changing the present local authority fire brigade organisation in peacetime, but I want the House to know that we are not ignoring the problem which might occur.

We have had, as part of this planning since the beginning of May, a series of courses in the problems of war-time fire fighting for senior officers from the whole of the United Kingdom. They have been held at the Fire Service College at Wotton, and they have been greatly appreciated. I am sure they have served a very valuable purpose, and I was glad to have the opportunity of visiting one of them and seeing how the work was going on.

May I now say a word about the regional organisation? Our plans ate based on the assumption that in England and Wales a regional organisation would be needed as in the Second World War. I do not know if I misinterpreted, but it seemed to me that in some of the speeches there was rather a query about there not being appointments of regional commissioners. I felt that it was better not to make these appointments too early because of the change in circumstances which is bound to occur; and, as I say, we are dealing with something which we are hoping to avert. It seemed, in my view, that it was best to consider very carefully—and this I have been doing—potential regional commissioners but not to make the appointment until later on. In Scotland the arrangements do not involve the appointment of a regional commissioner.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I do not expect an answer now, but could my right hon. and learned Friend make a note of the point which I made about the sub-controllers and the sub-divisional controllers, because that is a matter which local authorities are feeling very strongly about?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will certainly do that. I had noted the point, and I assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I shall look into it.

I want to come to the question of the numbers of recruits. I should like to say first and foremost that the Government are exceedingly grateful to those men and women who, to a total of more than a quarter of a million, have been moved by their patriotism and sense of duty to enrol in the Civil Defence Corps, the Auxiliary Fire Service, the National Hospital Service Reserve and the Special Constabulary. The actual figure if my totalling is right, comes to 263,458; and that does not include those who are engaged in Civil Defence in industry, for a reason which I will give in a moment. So we are getting to a figure which is absolutely a large figure. I wish to do everything I can—

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)

Does the Home Secretary propose to break down that figure into its categories?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I can, but I did not do so because I was afraid of occupying too much time. Perhaps I can tell the hon. Member afterwards, unless the House would like the break-down. Perhaps I might give it roughly: it will not take too long—201,000 in the Civil Defence Corps, 12,000 in the Auxiliary Fire Service, 25,000 in the National Hospital Service Reserve and 25,000 in the Special Constabulary. I am always anxious to comply with the hon. Member's request.

Mr. Emrys Hughes


Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am sorry, but I do not wish to be drawn, even in a jocular way, into other discussions at the moment.

I wish to make very clearly the point that, while I do not think we need be ashamed of these numbers, many more thousands are needed. This is not a matter for complacency. There are the two points which have already been stressed by hon. Members. The first is that there are not enough recruits in the vulnerable areas. The second point is that there are not enough recruits to the most difficult parts of the service, namely the rescue service and the A.F.S.

I wish to take this and every chance—I am sure that every Member of the House will be with me in this—of appealing for more recruits and of asking them to help us again. This is what I propose to do—

Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)

Does the Home Secretary recognise that if circumstances arise which require the rescue squads in which those in the industry with which I am connected—the building industry—are the particular class required, they will be there, even if they are not now taking part in the organisation?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am grateful to the hon. Member, but if those for whom he speaks could only give a few hours a month—four or five hours a month—it would be helpful even to them. I know that when the time comes they will respond, but it would be such a help to everyone if they could give only a very short time to learn something of the organisation and to co-operate with their fellows before that time comes.

I wish now to state briefly the steps which I propose to take. The Secretary of State for Scotland and I are addressing personal appeals to the civic heads of all areas of Great Britain asking for a fresh effort on new lines. Several hon. Members have raised the question of conditions of eligibility, including the age limits with regard to service in the Forces. Perhaps the House will, therefore, bear with me, as I have been particularly asked for this, if I state as briefly as I can the changes which will come into effect in some two months' time, and which are being synchronised with the opening of the autumn recruiting campaign.

First, all men between 18 and 30 who are not likely to be required for service in the Armed Forces in the early stages of an emergency—may I make that practical and give as an example Class Z reservists who have not been earmarked for recall—or who are not performing some reasonably analogous form of whole-time service, for example, police or firemen, will become eligible for part-time service in the more active branches of Civil Defence.

Secondly, all men over 30 who are not likely to be required for service in the Armed Forces in the early stages of an emergency, whether Class Z reservists or not, or who are not performing an analogous form of whole-time service, will become eligible for any form of part-time service. Third, women between 18 and 30 will have a wider choice of function in that they will be allowed to volunteer to join the headquarters and the warden sections of the Civil Defence Corps, and the Special Constabulary irrespective of previous police experience

It is estimated that the new arrangements which I have given in the merest outline will probably render one million more men eligible for service, while the wider choice of function open to many men and women should also result in attracting more volunteers. The details will be given later, but I hope that that outline will meet the points that have been raised.

Mr. Ian Harvey

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend, but I should like to know whether the reservations will be made rather more clear to the people concerned. To say that they may or may not be available is not quite enough. We hope that when the scheme is promulgated it will be quite definite.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

We shall promulgate the scheme in two months' time, and my hon. Friend's point will be borne in mind. I hope he realises that I am trying to give only an outline today, as I am conscious that I am occupying the time of the House in trying to answer the points put to me.

I hope that this will improve the present rate of recruitment, but I think that there may well be other methods open to us to stimulate interest. I have been considering how best to enlist the support of leaders of public opinion. In consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Health, I have decided to appoint a committee to advise the Departments on all aspects of the recruitment problem. We have been fortunate enough to induce Mr. William Mabane, who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security during the war, to preside over that committee, and we hope shortly to complete its composition.

It will include, among others, Members of this House. May I express my gratitude to two Members, one on each side of the House, whom I asked personally and who at once agreed to serve? I would rather make the announcement of all the names of members of the committee at once, but I should like to pay that debt of gratitude, which I sincerely feel. The committee will include persons with special knowledge of local government and of both sides of industry. The House will, I think, agree, that it will be a help to the Departmental structure to have that committee sitting and advising us and making suggestions to us. I assure them in advance that their suggestions will receive most sympathetic consideration from me.

I wish to say a few words about Civil Defence in industry, as that matter has been raised. I told the House a fortnight ago that the relationship between industrial Civil Defence units and the Civil Defence Corps is being considered by the industrial panel of the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff. I said a few moments ago that I was not in a position to quote the figures of recruitment to these industrial units. Frankly, the reason is that I do not want at this stage to add to the administrative work of these industrial firms by calling for returns to be given to the Home Office. Again, I hope that I shall have the House with me in that.

At present only the larger firms have been asked to set up a Civil Defence organisation, and minimum standards of establishment have been laid down for their guidance in order to avoid dissipating our resources; but I am told that over the country as a whole good progress has been made with the appointment of Civil Defence officers by the firms concerned. In answer to what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing, I should like to say that we have already trained over 650 instructors for industry at the Home Office schools alone and, in addition, large numbers of instructors have been trained under arrangements made with the local authorities. I had the pleasure of meeting the first course in Civil Defence in industry at the Staff College, and I was most impressed by the calibre of the people who are being sent. I hope this will continue to make good progress.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a very important statement on a vital question of defence, but not enough hon. Members are present, and I wish to draw your attention to that fact.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present—

1.10 p.m.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

In case there is any comment outside on what has just occurred, such as reports in the Press, I hope you will allow me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, just to remind the House that there are Standing Orders which say, if I recollect aright—I know you will correct me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I am wrong—that a Count cannot be taken between 1.15 and 2.15 on a Friday. This Count was taken at 10 minutes past one, at a time when, I think the general public will appreciate, a great many hon. Members are entitled to withdraw for some time for sustenance.

Mr. Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. According to the rules of this House, is it not in order to call a Count after one o'clock on a Friday, and is it not in order for an hon. Member who is greatly interested in Civil Defence —[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—yes, indeed —to draw attention to the fact that there is not a quorum? During the whole of the morning there has not been more than 25 hon. Members present.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

A Count may be called at any time on a Friday except between 1.15 and 2.15.

Mr. Hughes

Were you not out of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when you called the Count?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No. It was not 1.15 when I called the Count.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I have drawn attention to the point, and we all appreciate the motives which caused the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to do what he did—

Mr. Hughes

On a point of order—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I think I have fully dealt with the Standing Order for counting the House.

Mr. Hughes

On a point of order—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order, order. I am on my feet.

Mr. Hughes

I am going to be on mine.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I hope the hon. Gentleman will not speak to me like that. It is most discourteous. I have dealt fully with the method of calling a Count on a Friday, and I do not see that anything else can arise on it until 2.15 at the earliest. There cannot be another Count until then.

Mr. Hughes

That was not on a point of order at all. My point of order was that the Home Secretary imputed certain motives to me. I want to know if it is in order—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That cannot be a point of order.

Mr. Hughes

Further to that point of order, I wish to submit, with due respect—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not see how there can be any point of order on that.

Mr. Hughes

The point of order is that the Home Secretary has accused me of having unworthy motives, and I wish to—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had said anything that was out of order I should have stopped him, but everything that I heard was in order. No point of order can arise

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe


Mr. Hughes


Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I was saying that I have every reason to believe that Civil Defence in industry will continue to make progress and that there will be no difficulty in co-operation and collaboration with the local authority Civil Defence.

I was asked about training and the Civil Defence Tactical School. I am glad to say that the Civil Defence Tactical School, the foundation stone of which was laid by my predecessor in the grounds of the Civil Defence Staff College last summer, is nearly ready, and I hope that the first courses will be held in the Autumn. That will fill the gap between the courses, for senior officers at the Staff College and the technical courses at the three Civil Defence schools at Easingwold, Falfield and Taymouth. Close co-operation has already been created between the staff at the tactical school and that of the Fire Service College.

With regard to training generally, we are pressing on with all possible steps for improving it and making it more interesting. In addition to the Tactical School, we are keeping up-to-date the syllabuses of the technical training schools and, in particular, we have organised during the last months special courses for instructors in reconnaissance, the use of walkie-talkies and in the use of instruments for measuring and detecting radioactivity.

I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman who said that the provision of more equipment would have an effect on recruiting. There are two things I should like to say on that. Some of the equipment that I have mentioned, such as the instruments and the walkie-talkie sets, has been sent to selected areas, and I hope that more will soon be available. Apart from those two items, the Home Office has never failed to meet a demand for equipment for training.

With regard to uniform, a point that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro, the House will be aware that it was necessary last year to slow down the rate at which the uniforms were issued, but plans are now being made for a further issue. Curiously enough, in view of the question which was put to me, we are arranging that those who cannot yet have full uniform shall be given arm bands and berets to be going on with. Details will be announced very shortly. Members of the Auxiliary Fire Service must, of course, have uniform for operational duty.

In this speech, of the length of which I am very conscious, I have only been able to give a bird's-eye view of Civil Defence. I have tried—I hope I have succeeded, at any rate in part—to answer the questions raised in the preceding speeches. However, I have made only a passing reference to the plans which the Ministry of Food have for food convoys. I have said nothing about the progress of evacuation plans for which the Ministry of Housing and Local Government are chiefly responsible; or the plans for the casualty services which are being prepared by the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland; or the measures that have been taken to reinstate the air raid warning system. Perhaps I might indicate, by just mentioning them, that these plans are under way and proceeding with reasonable satisfaction.

I was asked about shelters. We are continuing the policy which my predecessor described very fully to the House on 9th November, 1950.

There is one other debt which I should like to pay, and that is to say how much we owe, as does everyone connected with Civil Defence, to the assistance which has been given by the voluntary associations. No words of mine could be too warm in appreciation, in particular, of the help which the W.V.S. are giving to the development and training of the welfare section of the Civil Defence corps, and the responsibilities for the enrolment and training of auxiliary members of the National Hospital Service Reserve which have been accepted by the British Red Cross Society, the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the St. Andrew's Ambulance Association.

I hope I have indicated how cordially I welcome this Motion. I have tried as best I can to answer the questions which have been put. I believe we ought to devote to Civil Defence plans and preparations a full degree of energy and as much of our resources as we can spare from other pressing commitments. In present economic conditions, it is not possible to do all that we should like to do, but I am firmly convinced, and I should like to state it again, that we ought not to be deterred from doing something by regrets that we cannot do everything. Our policy is based on the view that the defensive preparations of the free countries have somewhat reduced the risk of war, but the risk remains and, therefore, we must proceed steadily with those preparations. Among those preparations the Government give very high priority to the importance of Civil Defence recruitment, and I am confident that today's debate will greatly help.

May I make a personal appeal to two sets of people? The one is to leaders of local opinion and thought. I again ask them to help us in this recruitment campaign. As I say, I am writing individually to a great number of them, but I want to make this appeal now. The second is to the ordinary man and woman who is wondering today whether he or she can spare four or five hours a month to this work. I ask them to think again and to come down on the side of acceptance. I believe they will find the work interesting, and the comradeship stimulating; and they will be doing a service to their country and, it may well be, to generations yet unborn

1.23 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

The Home Secretary has made a most interesting speech and has dealt with a number of points which were put in the debate. May I begin by saying how much we on this side of the House associate ourselves with his final appeal. The Home Secretary intervened somewhat earlier in the debate than I and my hon. Friends had expected, and therefore my comments cannot be put in such a form as to expect an answer from the Government, because the Government have spoken. So I shall not comment on the interesting speeches made in the debate, except to mention two points raised by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), who gave us not only the opportunity of this debate but set the tone of it.

Those two points he regarded as fundamental, as I do also He said that one of the reasons gas was not used by our enemies in the last war was that we were prepared to defend ourselves against it and they were not. That goes to the root of this matter. The second point was that, in drafting his Motion, the hon. Member of Truro referred not to England and Wales, but to the United Kingdom. In Civil Defence this House must look to the Home Secretary to speak to it on behalf of all parts of the United Kingdom and not merely on behalf of England and Wales. I think I am right in saying that there is no real difference between the Civil Defence organisation in England and Wales and in Scotland. The only real difference is in dress—the lion on the uniform badge in England and Wales is rampant; in Scotland it sits down, but it has a sword in its hand. That appears to be the chief difference.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

That is not very aggressive.

Mr. de Freitas

It has a sword.

Mr. Hughes

Which is completely obsolete.

Mr. de Freitas

I would not suggest we should deal with atomic warfare by the use of a sword or with rampant lions, but the symbolism is there.

May I comment on the Home Secretary's remarks that he was continuing the policy of the late Government in this matter. I want to draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to one particular fact, that it was only the failure of the Atomic Energy Commission on which we were working with our friends in the United Nations which made us start on Civil Defence in 1947. After the Washington Declaration in 1945, it had been put in cold storage. We must remember that from 1947 we had the task of re-building the Civil Defence structure. The year 1948 was spent in planning and in the Civil Defence Bill. In 1949, 1950 and 1951 we undertook the various aspects of the work, like training colleges, staff colleges, and so on, to which the Home Secretary has referred today.

Two years ago this week, we had our last full-scale debate on Civil Defence in this House. The Home Secretary brought us up to date on many things and he has now told us that the recruiting figure has reached over 250,000. There is one part, however, I would ask him to look at and that is information for the public about defence against atomic bombs. In our 1950 Atomic Manuel we gave what information we had. It was based on what happened in Japan with the 1945 type of bomb. Those of us who had the experience of seeing the ruins of Hiroshima were impressed by the terrible destruction, but even more impressed by the destruction in other places in Japan where the atomic bomb was not used.

The Atomic Manual in 1950 attempted to show what the effect was of atomic bombs as known at that time. We analysed what could be learned from Japan, and we showed that most of the deaths came from heat flash and blast, which were not unknown to us in the high explosive form of bombing experienced during the last war in this country. Only 15 to 20 per cent. came from the new radio-activity. To put it in proportion, Civil Defence was faced with what, after all, was not a new problem but something that it had experienced.

Two years have passed since then and we must have learned more about atomic bombs, and, unfortunately, there are more destructive atomic bombs. We are entitled to ask for further guidance from the Home Office now, either in the way of a new publication or a revised edition of that Manual.

May I remind my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire of some words which were used by my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the Opposition when he wrote a foreword to that Manual in 1950: 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. All of us agree that we must work to preserve lives, but the methods suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire are not generally accepted.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The hon. Member is referring to arguments of mine, but I have not used any arguments yet. I have some very powerful arguments coming, when I catch your eye, Mr Deputy-Speaker.

Mr. de Freitas

I am referring to arguments used by my hon. Friend on 24th July, 1950. He has not changed his views. He may have improved his arguments but his fundamental views are the same.

Mr. Hughes

There is any amount of new evidence.

Mr. de Freitas

That may be. What I am saying is that the Opposition support Her Majesty's Government in what they are doing because they are following the policy which was pursued by the Labour Government. Especially is this so in the recruiting of men and women into Civil Defence. The greatest enemy of efficient Civil Defence is the attitude: "Don't worry. I will be there when the balloon goes up." Do not let us forget it. We have had examples of it in the Chamber today. On the day, we shall get tens of thousands of people coming in, but they will not be trained. We need smaller numbers today, so that they may be trained. We may speak of staff colleges and joint planning, but Civil Defence is essentially a service of men and women who come together to defend their families and their neighbours. We join with the Home Secretary in hoping that there will be more of them coming together.

1.32 p.m.

Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

It is generally accepted that the debate was well overdue. We are therefore grateful to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) for giving us the opportunity of discussing the matter today.

The speeches, and the reply given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, have covered the main points in proving the effectiveness of Civil Defence and drawing attention to the weaknesses facing local authorities, who are doing what they can to improve the position. I am in full agreement with all those points. There is really nothing for me to re-emphasise, and I do not want to take up the time of the House by repeating arguments that have been presented. I would extend the discussion by presenting a rather broader picture.

Despite the figures which the Home Secretary has given, recruiting is well below the safety line. The Soke of Peterborough has done better than most other authorities, but the rate of recruitment there amounts to only five people out of a thousand. If that is the general reaction throughout the country, it is not good enough. Even the 250,000 which we have had stated to us leaves us below the establishment that was considered to be right even at this stage, when we do not consider war to be imminent. We all have to face those facts. While thanking those who have joined, and expressing our thanks to the W.V.S. and similar organisations who are helping, we are still well below the safety margin.

The reasons for this situation are two. The first reason is a double one. People think there is no defence against the atomic bomb. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) has dealt with this question often in the past. He realises the importance of neutralising this feeling. His speech today was of particular interest from that point of view. Other people think that the urgency is not so great that they need join now. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Porter), talking as a builder, said that skilled builders would be available when the time came, and we could consider that they were all right. It is vital that they should be there now, with their knowledge of the construction of buildings but with added knowledge of the danger of demolition which results from the atomic bomb. It is vital also that they should take time off now to learn the dangers of air attack and to acquire the specialised knowledge.

The plans for recruiting are far from perfect, although great progress has been made. All who have local government experience and have tried to bring the facts to the notice of potential volunteers know that the plans are not effective. What are the reasons for the delay in recruiting? We must unmask those people who deliberately foster the feeling that we are impotent against the atomic bomb. At Question time in this House, I have drawn attention to a pamphlet issued, I think, by the Peace Pledge Union and circulated by them in thousands. It suggests that we can do nothing against the atomic bomb, and that the deep shelters that would be provided would be occupied by Ministers of the Crown and their special friends, while the ordinary folk would not have a chance. The pamphlet seems to find its way into the letter-boxes of people who have volunteered for Civil Defence.

We have a typical example of this propaganda in the now infamous Dean of Canterbury. On 23rd July, 1950, he said that the atomic bomb meant that stone and rocks would be melted over a radius of 60 miles of an atomic explosion. For reasons best known to himself, he is prepared to weaken the will of our people in building up their defensive strength, and he tries to shame us out of doing it. Secondly, he tries to make people full of the fear that there is no defence at all against the atomic bomb.

The answer to these people is already set out in the Civil Defence pamphlet of 1950, to which the hon. Member for Lincoln referred. I support him in asking the Home Secretary to publish a more up-to-date pamphlet embodying the experience we have had over the last two years. We should all use our platforms to emphasise what the pamphlet says. We know now that within a mile radius of the blast in Hiroshima more than half of the people still live. That gives the complete lie to the suggestion that there is no defence or that the atomic bomb is so overwhelming that nothing can stand up to it. We know that 7/10ths of the people were still alive in Nagasaki after the bomb fell there. If those facts were made clear, they would at once kill the feeling of impotence and of our being unable to do anything about the atomic bomb.

We could then follow on with the next point, which is to explain that, as we found to be the case in the last war, outside the actual area of the explosion millions of lives can be saved by the right sort of Civil Defence.

The three effects of the bomb have already been mentioned but the answers to them should be emphasised. The new force, radio-activity, is dangerous up to a radius of 1½ miles if there is no protection. If, however, there is shelter protection, even that of an ordinary house, radio-activity is not fatal. The idea that for 60 miles around stone and rock are melted is nonsense.

Mr. S. O. Davies

Is the hon. Gentleman referring to radio-active forces or to the actual concussion of the bomb?

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. Member was not in the House when the three forces were discussed. The effect of the atom bomb comes under three headings: radio-activity, which is new, heat flash, and the effect of blast. I was dealing with radio-activity. It has frightened many people who have the idea that if they are within miles of the bomb it has some magical effect against which they are powerless.

Protection can be given against heat flash even with ordinary blinds. It is not overwhelmingly destructive in the way suggested, I believe in order to force people to think it is no use recruiting for Civil Defence because they can do nothing about it. As far as blast is concerned, we have the experience of the last war to show to what extent we can save lives and minimise casualties if we have a really worth while Civil Defence force.

So my first point is that we must face the fact that thousands of potential recruits for Civil Defence are not taking their place in the line because they think nothing can be done about the atomic bomb, or because they think it will be enough to join up on the day. Before the last war started, my brother, who was fitting respirators, told me how he went to one house. The owner said: "It is no good my being fitted with a gas mask. If a bomb comes and my name and address is on it, I shall get it whatever I do." His answer was rather effective. He said, "It is quite true that if a bomb comes with your name and address on it, there is nothing you can do, but we are trying to prevent you from receiving a bomb addressed to 'whoever it may concern'. If we can have the right kind of Civil Defence organisation, you will not receive that type of bomb."

I want to emphasise the point of the hon. Member for Lincoln, that one reason why we did not run the risk of a gas attack in the early days of the last war was because our pre-war preparations were so much better than those of Germany. People who travelled in that country immediately before the war started remarked upon their lack of preparation as far as gas attacks were concerned.

My second point concerns the apathy of the public, their lack of sense of urgency—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

There is not much here.

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) continually draws attention to the fact that there are not many hon. Members taking part in this debate. I thought we had from him a contradiction in terms. When he called for a Count, he said that as a Member of this House he was interested in this subject and wanted to do something about it. The something he did about it was to make use of a procedure of this House which would have prevented the Home Secretary from telling him something about it.

Mr. Hughes

I will not call a Count, Mr. Deputy-Speaker: I only want to say that—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

Neither is a Count the matter under discussion.

Mr. Hughes

The point that arose was that of the apathy of the public. I am only pointing out to the hon. Gentleman that we are not entitled to talk about the apathy of the public when there are not half a dozen Members here.

Mr. Nicholls

I am calling attention to the apathy of the public and hon. Members of this House are part of the public. If it is the case that hon. Members in this House are apathetic to this problem, then this debate is serving a purpose by drawing attention to that fact. Hon. Members read the OFFICIAL REPORT and it is to be hoped that, when they do, they will be so impressed by the arguments presented today that their apathy will be a thing of the past. I hope they will use some of the arguments presented here on the platforms of their constituencies in order to play their part in killing the second thing which is hindering recruitment, the lack of a sense of urgency in our people.

The general public still have the Drake tradition. They still think, as at the time of the Armada, that they have time to finish the game of bowls. We must appreciate that the Armada travelled at about 10 miles a day and that we are living in an age when jet bombers fly at nine miles a minute. We must emphasise that, in the event of another war—and God forbid that there should be one here—we are not likely to have another "phoney war" period. We must not take it for granted that, if hostilities should break out, there would be six months of pamphlet-dropping on one another. It would be much more likely to develop into a full-scale bombing attack almost before a declaration of war had been made.

If we can emphasise these points, we shall have a better response to our appeal for recruits for Civil Defence. I am informed by several Civil Defence officers that when there is an impression from newspaper reports that the international situation is worse, recruits start to come in again. If we can emphasise that the danger is there all the time, and not just when it happens to hit the headlines, we shall get the right climate for recruiting.

Mr. G. Wilson

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, would he agree that, once we get the recruit, he stays whether there is apparent danger or not, so really it is a question of attracting his attention rather than making him think there is danger?

Mr. Nicholls

Yes, but it is not sufficient to get the recruit to sign the form and turn up for the first meeting. His interest must be retained and that cannot be done by giving one lecture after another. The hon. Member for Truro said that in one of his villages the presence of a rescue vehicle helped to maintain interest in the local Civil Defence organisation. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to take special note of this, that if more radiac instruments can be made available to regions so that recruits can examine and work the actual instruments, then to some extent, interest will be maintained and we shall have effective recruits who will stay to do a job rather than come in on a wave of enthusiasm for one week and drop out the next.

My other suggestion is that use should be made of television. The point has already been made here that, apart from the trained personnel who will play a part which is well understood from our previous experience, it is vital that the general public as a mass should understand more about the problem. We had not developed television before the war on the scale we have it today and it lends itself to visual training. One programme a month on Civil Defence training would get into the homes of so many million people that it would be useful for informing the general public and whetting the appetite for more detailed training of those who have an aptitude for it.

My hon. Friend referred to the rescue vehicle which went round to the various galas and fetes. That is a good idea. In the Soke of Peterborough, at its famous agricultural show, the Civil Defence organisation always have a stand where they have equipment and photographs of the sort of work that people are expected to do. This creates quite an amount of interest and may well be one of the reasons why the Peterborough recruiting figures are so much better than those for any other part of the country. If the hon. Member for South Ayrshire can organise an Ayrshire agricultural show, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State would help him to have all the equipment that he requires.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

We have better agriculture and better Civil Defence.

Mr. Nicholls

That is the sort of complacency that we are trying to defeat by this debate. We want to feel that we are not satisfied, however good the situation may look on paper, because the figures given by the Joint Under-Secretary show that it is far from satisfactory.

I stress the need for making quite clear to people what their individual responsibilities are likely to be in another war. My special suggestion goes rather further than most other hon. Members who have spoken today. We know from experience that the possibility of people over the age of 40 being called to the Services within the first 12 months of any hostilities is very small, and that there is quite a long wait before those of the age of 40 are conscripted.

I suggest to my hon. Friend, as I have done before at Question time, that careful consideration should be given to the suggestion that it is made a condition that any citizen over the age of 40 who is a member of a Civil Defence organisation would not be called within the first 12 months of hostilities. After the first 12 months, it would be wrong to tie the hands of the Service Departments, but in the first 12 months the machine for training and recruitment would be so fully occupied with dealing with those already on the lists and with the lower age groups that nothing would be given away from the point of view of the country's general defence. If an assurance could be given to people over the age of 40 that they would not be called for 12 months, and that that was a contract which would be adhered to unless it were mutually broken, this would be a special reason for them to go along and have training in the various Civil Defence organisations.

This is a subject which carries unanimity from both sides of the House. As has been said, the effects of bombs do not discriminate between political parties. I should like to feel that the unanimity which is expressed on the Floor of the House is carried outside the House and that we use part of our time in our constituencies to giving help to the local Civil Defence organisation in their various recruiting campaigns. By doing this, we should be paying more than mere lip-service to the vital need for increasing the number of recruits.

1.54 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) when he talks about apathy and complacency and the lack of real initiative and interest that is being shown in Civil Defence. I join with the hon. Members who have congratulated the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), who moved the Motion, because he has brought this question to the House of Commons and has given us an opportunity to discuss the whole question of Civil Defence.

Civil Defence—the protection of the civilian population in modern war—is immensely important. That is why I have sat throughout the entire debate, listening to every speech and every word, because I join with the hon. Member for Truro in believing that at present this is one of the most important matters to which the House of Commons should direct itself.

I incurred the displeasure of the Home Secretary because, when he was talking about this complacency and lack of interest, and when he was calling for more recruits, I made the mild suggestion, quite in keeping with the rules of the House, that the House of Commons might set an example and that it was worthy of that speech that at least more than about a score of Members should be taking a very keen interest in something that I believe to be of paramount importance. The Home Secretary said that he understood the motive that I had in trying to draw attention to that. The only motive that I had was to try to help the Home Secretary to have a decent audience in order to see whether that would encourage him to make a better case.

I am not afraid of the Home Secretary. I am not a Nuremberg criminal. If the Home Secretary has found it necessary to go out to have a little nourishment, that will not prevent me from suggesting that we have had this morning a most shocking exhibition by the Home Secretary in face of what I consider to be very lackadaisical conduct by the Home Office on the whole question of Civil Defence.

Mr. G. Wilson

Surely the hon. Member is well aware that Members of Parliament have other engagements. Where are his own fellow Scottish Members? They are in their constituencies fulfilling Scottish engagements.

Mr. Hughes

I did not ask for a Count for my fellow Members. I am able to control only my own movements, and I am here to encourage the hon. Member by giving as much support as I can to his Motion, and yet that is the kind of attitude that I get from him. If I had not intervened in the debate and had not been something of a shaft to the other side, perhaps nobody would have noticed the debate at all. The hon. Member for Truro ought to be expressing gratitude that I have helped to draw attention to the matters that are now before the House.

I do not quite know whether the Motion is meant as an attack upon the Government.

Mr. Wilson

indicated dissent.

Mr. Hughes

Oh, it is not. Then I submit, in the light of the reply given yesterday to the House in a written answer by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, that the Motion should be an attack and that the Government ought to incur the very severest censure for their absolutely callous neglect of the real issue in Civil Defence.

Hon. Members may not have had time to read the Question and answer on this matter when it was raised yesterday by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). I find myself in the strange position, in defending the hon. and gallant Member, of having to step in where the brigadier is defending someone else. According to the OFFICIAL REPORT of yesterday, the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth. West asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will encourage local authorities to incorporate air raid shelters in new buildings; and if he will give financial assistance in their erection. That is to say, the hon. and gallant Member was pressing upon the Home Secretary the need to be more active in his Civil Defence proposals.

This was the reply that came from the Joint Under-Secretary—a cold shower for the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West; it got so cold that it has evidently spread to his feet, and he is not here today. The answer said: In September last local authorities were asked to submit proposals for the incorporation of air raid shelter in new constructional works, on the understanding that Exchequer grant would be paid. My right hon. and learned Friend would like to see a start made in providing shelter in this way in selected areas as soon as the necessary materials can be made available, but it has not so far been possible to approve any such schemes owing to the shortage of steel for building purposes." —[OFFICIAL REPORT. 17th July, 1952; Vol. 503, c. 167.] Never was there a more evasive and more unsatisfactory answer given to a Question in this House. I suggest that it will not be of much comfort to local authorities to hear that the Home Secretary has made a great appeal to them today to hurry up with their air-raid precautions, but that he has said he will not give them the steel for necessary air-raid shelters. In damping down the enthusiasm of local authorities, the Home Secretary has said, "No, we will not give you any grants, we will not give you any steel for the big air-raid shelters which will be necessary in the case of atom bombing." I suggest that the last sentence is a complete and deliberate evasion.

The Home Secretary said in his reply to my interjection, "Do you want to cut down housing in order to erect air-raid shelters?" I do not want to cut down housing, but I can point out that in this vast expenditure on so-called defence at present there is no kind of economising on certain items of expenditure in order to find the money that is now being refused to the local authorities. If London comes forward and says, "If we are to be atom-bombed we need a deep underground shelter; what will you give in the form of grants?". The Home Secretary says "Nothing." That is typical of the way the Home Secretary shows his interest in this matter, whilst imputing that I am not interested.

I suggest that, in view of the present position, in which it is known that enormous casualties could be inflicted on the population of the City of London, this callous neglect by the Home Secretary of the demand that there should be some activity on the air-raid shelter front is one which should receive the most severe censure of this House. The Home Secretary prosecuted the Nuremberg criminals. The time may come when there will be a demand in this country that there should be a trial of the Home Secretary.

I turn to some of the arguments of the hon. Member for Peterborough. He referred to some speech the Dean of Canterbury had made exaggerating the effects of the atom bomb. I do not know the Dean of Canterbury, nor do I know the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have no mandate to speak for the Dean of Canterbury, because I do not know the reverend gentleman. I have never seen him, and have had no letter from him, nor any conversation with him in my life. But when I find the Dean of Canterbury attacked by bishops, archbishops, generals and brigadiers, my Non-conformist blood rises and I feel a certain amount of sympathy with the Dean of Canterbury.

We need not just quote the Dean of Canterbury on the effects of air raids. The Dean of Canterbury is quite irrelevant to this discussion. But in London at present there is a conference of air-raid experts whose evidence should be treated with some respect. I have before me, not anything from the Dean of Canterbury, but the official statement made by two Home Office experts who have been studying what would happen if an atom bomb were to drop on Clapham Junction. This conference is going on at the same time as we are meeting here. I hope they are more enthusiastic about their business, that there are more than 40 people there and that it is unnecessary for them to call a count.

The two officials in question were Dr. Paris, the chief scientific adviser to the Home Office, and Mr. E. C. Allen, principal scientific adviser on A.R.P. They assumed that a bomb would be dropped a year from now and that Anderson shelters and strutted basements would be available. That was the assumption of the principal scientific adviser to the Home Office. But what reason is there for this assumption? The Home Secretary has refused them the money. If they are to get air-raid shelters, if they are to get Anderson shelters and strutted basements, the over-rated and over-taxed boroughs of London will have to find the money themselves. If that is not the position, let the hon. Gentleman who is to reply for the Home Office say at the end of the debate, "We will give grants to local authorities for the construction of these air-raid shelters." That would be a test of sincerity, a test of whether or not apathy and indifference percolates to the Home Office itself and whether there is dry rot in Her Majesty's Government.

What are some of the estimates made by these scientific advisers? Mr. Allen estimated that 16,000 people would be killed or trapped. This is not an exaggerated estimate; it is the Home Secretary's own adviser who says that 16,000 people would be likely to be killed or trapped, and 30,000 injured. That is the estimate of what may happen in London a year from now. In face of that, the Home Secretary says that we cannot at present devote resources to building air-raid shelters which are needed. I say that a Home Secretary who talks like that and refuses steel for these shelters should be impeached. At present an air-raid shelter takes a long time to build. I do not know where the labour is to come from, but if it is to come from the housing projects it will interfere with the promises that have been made, under the auspices of the hon. Member for Peterborough, for 300,000 houses a year.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

It is a fact that in one housing scheme that has been carried out by Lambeth Borough Council the Home Office refused to make any grant towards enabling the council, in the course of construction, to provide shelters in the basement of a block of flats?

Mr. Hughes

That precisely illustrates the complete indifference of the Government to this question of shelters. Local authorities will read in HANSARD about this amazing debate, for which only a handful of hon. Members of the House of Commons were present, and they will say to themselves, "What did the Home Secretary want to make as his contribution to providing us with the shelters we need?" The answer will be, in the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), "Nothing." The Government refuse to subsidise local authorities. That is my estimate of the constructive proposals outlined in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Nicholls

Is the hon. Member suggesting that the only thing which can be done to prepare for possible air raids is to provide shelters? Is he completely ignoring the hundred and one other things which can be done?

Mr. Hughes

I am coming to that presently. I am not speaking of my demand for air-raid shelters. I am talking about the demand made by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West which was turned down in that written answer yesterday. If the local authorities of Portsmouth, London, Glasgow, Manchester, Coventry, and all the other places likely to be bombed, are of the opinion that the Government should give them assistance, then I submit that if the Government refuse they are guilty of indifference and apathy.

Then comes the question of how many houses would be likely to be destroyed. The figures given by the Home Secretary's own inspector are that some 18,000 houses would be destroyed and 23,000 seriously damaged. It was thought that about 200,000 people, some of whom would be fleeing although their homes were not destroyed, would be on the roads —there might be 200,000 people on the roads because the Government will not supply the money for the shelters—and 90,000 would be needed to help with the welfare services. A thousand fires would be started in a ring around the devastated area within a diameter of three quarters of a mile. If those are the sober, objective estimates of the Home Secretary's principal adviser, I do not think it right just to seize on something said by the Dean of Canterbury and to dismiss this amount of terrific destruction and devastation which might be caused in this country if an atom bomb were dropped.

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. Member is now being unfair. I was quoting the statement of the Dean of Canterbury that rock and stone would be melted within a 60-mile radius, in order to say that he and others were going to extremes to discourage recruitment. If the hon. Member would refer to such raids as a reason why people ought to come along and be trained to put out the fires, and to give the welfare service, he would be making a constructive contribution.

Mr. Hughes

If the hon. Member will allow me, I will develop my speech in my own way. I am pointing out that it is not good enough to put up the Dean of Canterbury as a kind of "Aunt Sally" and throw a couple of balls at him. To throw a couple of balls at the Dean of Canterbury is a very much more popular pastime at present than to assume that the atom bomb is a terrifically destructive weapon. The Home Secretary has not faced up to this issue, and his observations on the whole matter were completely trivial.

We may take it that the Home Secretary accepts the advice of his principal adviser, and I submit that he should read the evidence of his principal scientific adviser with the care, diligence and accuracy which I hope that he showed. Here we have a picture of what might happen in London as the result of the dropping of an atom bomb. But we have no reason to believe that the atom bomb would be the only weapon employed. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have spoken of saturation bombing, and we have to prepare for that, without the Government giving a penny for air-raid shelters.

What does saturation bombing mean? I understand that it means something like what happened at Pyongyang and on the Yalu River. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) talked about the napalm bomb. If we are to judge from the experience of saturation bombing in Korea, we have to be prepared, not only for the atom bomb, but for the napalm bomb and for saturation bombing with high explosives by perhaps 500 aeroplanes. I submit that no hon. Member can be complacent about this.

The figures I have mentioned were given in regard to Clapham. But supposing I asked what would be the effect of an air raid of this kind upon Glasgow, which is a much more congested city than London, and where there are far more people living to the square mile? It has been estimated that if an atom bomb were dropped on Glasgow, every big hospital in the centre of the city would be put out of action in five minutes. I shudder to think what would happen. There would be a mass migration from the city, and again there would be a situation for which the proposals made by the Home Secretary are inadequate in any sense of the word.

When we have before us a Motion in these reasoned terms, we expect some effort to be made to answer the main objections of the local authorities. We have to be prepared for more than a bomb on Clapham. Over two years ago the Prime Minister uttered a grave warning in this House. He pointed out that, as a result of the agreement we had made about American bombers being brought into this country, and the establishment of American bombing bases here, things had become infinitely more dangerous than ever before.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Before the hon. Member turns to another point, I would remind him that he has referred several times to an answer of mine without quoting it properly. I should like to give him the opportunity of quoting it properly, because it is important. I should like the House to know what I did say, and the hon. Member has only given one part which has to be related to the rest. I was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West if I would encourage local authorities to incorporate air-raid shelters in new buildings and if he will give financial assistance in their erection. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department replied: In September last local authorities were asked to submit proposals for the incorporation of air raid shelter in new constructional works, on the understanding that the Exchequer grant would be paid. They were asked to submit proposals on the understanding that the grant would be paid. Then my hon. Friend said: My right hon and learned Friend "— meaning me— would like to see a start made in providing shelter in this way in selected areas as soon as the necessary materials can be made available, but it has not so far been possible to approve any such schemes owing to the shortage of steel for building purposes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July, 1952; Vol. 503, c. 167.] I have agreed to the finance. I have agreed to do it as soon as the steel is forthcoming. I am in the hands of the House, but the hon. Gentleman gave the impression that I was not ready to give finance and that I was not ready to do this. I want the facts to be known.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

What steps has the right hon. and learned Gentleman taken to ensure the provision of the steel which is needed by the local authorities for this purpose?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

We are making every effort to get the steel. As soon as the steel is available it will be supplied for this purpose.

Mr. Hughes

I do not think that I can be accused of doing the right hon. and learned Gentleman any injustice. I quoted the whole of his answer when he was outside the Chamber.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am sorry.

Mr. Hughes

Let us follow up the point. When will the steel be made available for air-raid shelter construction? Nobody knows. There is a shortage of steel and this postpones the construction of air-raid shelters for an indefinite period. If at the end of the debate the right hon. and learned Gentleman or the Joint Under-Secretary will say that they will approve of the grants to the local authorities and get the steel—

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

But I have approved of the grants.

Mr. Hughes

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has approved of the grants, but he will not let the local authorities have the steel. Therefore, the air-raid shelters have to be constructed not of steel but of the flimsy paper promises from the briefs of the Home Secretary. Unless we get categorical assurances from the Government—unless the City of Glasgow and the Ayr County Council get these assurances that everything is being done—the Home Secretary is lamentably failing in his duty on this great occasion. We shall judge on the answer we receive.

Priority for steel for air-raid shelters is not among the Government priorities. The Prime Minister has told the House about super-priorities, but they are not for air-raid shelters. They are for bombers presumably to inflict bomb damage on other countries. I believe that when the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, West reads the OFFICIAL REPORT and sees the gallant defence I have made for him, he will agree with every argument that I have produced and he will have an equally strong censure to make upon the attitude of the Home Secretary in this debate.

Civil Defence against what? We have had talks about the atom bomb and saturation bombing, but how much Civil Defence is there against bacteriological warfare? That subject has come into prominence in the newspapers as a result of the speech by the Dean of Canterbury. If bacteriological warfare has now become such a possibility that the nations are discussing its morality, are we not entitled to know what instructions are being issued to Civil Defence authorities on the protection that can be given to the civilian population?

We have not had a word about that. The fact that the United States Congress is being asked to spend 170 million dollars on bacteriological research means that the defence authorities regard the possibility of bacteriological warfare as one of grave importance.

Mr. S. O. Davies

Is not my hon. Friend aware that already thousands of millions of dollars have been spent in the United States on germ warfare—that is, bacteriological warfare?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

Order. That topic is not germane to this discussion.

Mr. Davies

Are we not discussing the defence of our civil population against all the evil, fiendish forms of warfare?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The Motion before the House is about the: …importance of an effective and comprehensive system of Civil Defence— The hon. Member is not properly discussing that.

Mr. Hughes

I was asking for information. I am sure that the hon. Member for Truro will agree that if there is this bacteriological weapon in the world, the civil population are entitled to know what the Government are doing about it. When I have questioned the Estimates referring to bacteriological research at the station at Porton, the argument by the Government in reply has been that we shall only use bacteriological warfare in self-defence. I want to know. If other countries are likely to adopt this weapon against us, what instructions have been given to the Civil Defence authorities?

I have been to Her Majesty's Stationery Office in Kingsway and asked for every pamphlet and every instruction which has been sent out to the A.R.P. authorities. I have asked, "Where is the pamphlet dealing with bacteriological warfare?" They have not got one. Apparently no really comprehensive instructions are being given to the local authorities at all. From that point of view the Home Secretary, like the Foreign Secretary, is oblivious of the fact that bacteriological warfare may come.

I should like some information. I am sure that other hon. Gentlemen would like to know if this problem has penetrated to the A.R.P. authorities in Whitehall. When I mentioned the matter in the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary got up in synthetic indignation and said that that was the first he had heard about it. But two days later the Minister of Defence admitted that we had this establishment at Porton studying the question of bacteriological research.

We are entitled to know what steps the Government are taking and what protection will be given. We should be told whether the local authorities will be given any instructions. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) suggested that the booklet on atomic warfare should have a wider circulation. I agree. If hon. Members had grasped what was in this book they would be most anxious that the matter should receive the attention of the House. I do not know whether it helps the recruits at the A.R.P. centres to be asked to study a book called, "A Manual of Basic Training in Atomic Warfare." This document has about 20 illustrations showing what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We have heard about morale but here, among the large number of authentic photographs of Nagasaki, there is one showing the derelict ruins of a church. Under the photograph there are the words: The Roman Catholic Cathedral-600 yards from the centre of damage. What sort of effect will there be on the morale of our people when they see a picture showing how a Christian nation dropped an atomic bomb and destroyed the Catholic Cathedral in Nagasaki and everything around it?

So I say that I am entitled, along with the mover of this Motion, to urge that greater attention should be paid to Civil Defence. I agree with the hon. Gentleman entirely, and my attitude has been completely misunderstood in this debate. My attitude to Civil Defence is that, if a war comes—and God forbid that it should—everybody will rally in order to help the refugees, to help the morale of the country, to build up whatever rescue work is necessary, to find homes for the refugees and to see that everything possible is done to save humanity from the wreckage.

If the statesmanship of this country and of the world results in war, then in this country, as the Prime Minister has said, we shall have to face fearful consequences as a result of this country having become a sort of aircraft carrier in Western Europe. It is because I believe that the Prime Minister was quite right in giving us that warning, and that the precautions being taken are quite out of keeping with that warning, that I believe that the time has come when we should say to our friends across the Atlantic that they are not justified in gambling with the lives of the civilian population of this country.

The Home Secretary has said that he knew the motives which actuated me in this debate. My motives in entering this debate are perfectly simple. I represent my constituents, and I represent a section of public opinion in this country which is quite prepared to do everything in the way of defence of the civilian population. but which believes that this playing about with the matter is not the way to be realistic and is not facing the facts, and that the real and best policy for securing some kind of hope for the civilian population of this country is to be found in the terms of the Amendment, which, unfortunately, has been ruled out of order.

2.33 p.m.

Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)

I hope the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will not take it amiss if I mention that he indicated his own estimate of the importance of his speech by attempting to get the House counted out before it was delivered. I can assure him that I can speak about London, at any rate, with as great knowledge and authority as he can, and it is to London that I wish to direct my remarks, because, in my view, the position is grave, and the future, if things go on as at present, is dangerous.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary knows that recruiting in London is grievously patchy. In some boroughs, the results are fair, but that is only due to the selfless enthusiasm of the few. In other parts of London, frankly, the results are dismal. All of us, except the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, recognise that both the last Government and this Government have been under a difficulty about Civil Defence recruiting.

On the one hand, both Governments have had no available margin of capital expenditure wherewith to put in hand all the constructional work that would be needed to face up to a major war. On the other hand, the ordinary public of this country are not likely to come forward in great numbers to volunteer for Civil Defence training unless they see evidence and are completely convinced that the Government are going about putting this country into a material condition of defence against bombing.

The main point that I want to make is the necessity for the Government, even though we all realise that they cannot build shelters and provide emergency water supplies everywhere, to make a start by taking some physical steps and letting the public see at any rate some token action to prove that this call for Civil Defence recruits is not mere window-dressing, but is part of an all-in plan which, as time goes on and if we are spared an immediate war, this Government and its successors intend to implement.

For example, we have had some assurance that much larger supplies of Civil Defence equipment have been coming along. Can the public be given more chance to see it? If it is locked away behind closed doors, nobody will realise that it is there. I quite agree that equipment for training purposes is becoming available in more satisfactory quantities, but there is something more than that. There is a publicity element here. The more the Government can enable the public to see material proof of what the authorities are doing and spending money upon, the more will ordinary people be induced to come forward to volunteer and play their part.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire mentioned the pilot tactical study going on in London this week. I wish that greater publicity could have been given to its importance. I certainly can assure him that those who are taking part, representatives of the local authorities and others, are doing so with intense interest, and that they also are being convinced that the more the public understand about the whole tactical plan for Civil Defence the better it will be for recruitment and for London.

A certain amount of construction work is already going on, but it would be a great help if above the ground a little more could be done, and could be seen to be done—some commencement of shelter-building, in addition to all the planning of shelters which is in progress, and some provision of emergency water supplies. Let us be quite frank about it, no amount of building up of personnel to save London against air attack could conceivably be successful if the water supplies were not available.

We have now got a few rescue training grounds in various parts of London, and I should like to see more publicity given to that, so that the people would know where they are and would see that here is one direction in which work is actually going forward.

What about the borough control centres? Are they secret or not? In my view, it is quite impossible to keep their existence secret, because numbers of people have to go to them for training purposes. If so, let us recognise the fact, and inform the public that these control centres are being brought into existence. That, in itself, is practical evidence that Civil Defence matters, and that the policy being pursued is one of enabling each borough, in the whole perspective of London, to build up its part in the system of defence.

I do not know, but I should like to know, whether any new decision has been taken at Cabinet level since the present Government came into office to get us out of what always appeared to me to be the inconsistent position taken up by the previous Government. So far as I can judge, the previous Cabinet had agreed on two principles. One was that an efficient system of Civil Defence was essential in order to maintain the morale of the people at home, which in turn is an integral part of maintaining the morale of the fighting Forces who may be far away.

But simultaneously they adopted the principle that no capital expenditure on Civil Defence could be approved unless it was directly related to the military needs of the fighting Forces; and that is part of the answer to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) when they spoke about shelters in new blocks of flats. There has been no change in policy there, but I have always been a critic of this principle that there must be no capital expenditure on Civil Defence unless it can be justified by reference to the needs of the fighting Forces.

We must clearly extricate ourselves from that contradiction, because so long as it continues it will be quite impossible to create in the public mind the right attitude towards Civil Defence. Ever since the 1948 Act there has been a failure to vitalise Civil Defence. It has drifted, as it were, into a backwater. I sometimes feel that those who are engaged in Civil Defence administration are coming to look upon it as a backwater job, and that could be utterly fatal.

I happen to be a member of the committees charged with Civil Defence responsibility not only on my own borough council at Hampstead but on the London County Council. With that knowledge behind me. I can say with some assurance that at local authority level we have not yet become conscious of any real pressure from the central Government upon local authorities in Civil Defence matters.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

The hon. Member occupies a prominent position in the London County Council. We should like to know whether, in that position, he will see what he can do to bring further pressure to bear through that authority on the present Government.

Mr. Brooke

It was before the last Government went out of office that I went with an all-party deputation from the London County Council to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I trust that the speech which I am now making will be recognised as exactly in line with the attitude which I have taken up consistently on the County Council. Exhortations to local authorities are not enough in this matter.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

It is time for another deputation.

Mr. Brooke

We all remember that in wartime, when a Supply Department wanted equipment urgently, they were not content with exhortations. They appointed people called "progress chasers" to get things done. I should like to see active men, real live-wires, appointed by the Government as progress chasers in this matter of recruitment and training of Civil Defence volunteers by the local authorities. I hope that that is one of the points to which the Committee announced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will give attention.

If the public are to be made keen, the local authorities whose duty it is to rouse the public must be convinced that the Government themselves are keen. I am not going to argue that the whole of Civil Defence should be brought under one Ministry. But I would ask the Joint Under-Secretary to recognise that from the local authority standpoint it inevitably slows up things when, as is now the case, they have to refer to so many different Government Departments in the field of Civil Defence.

There is the Home Office at the centre. Then there is the Ministry of Health concerned with ambulance services and the rest centres, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for evacuation, rehousing and debris clearance, the Ministry of Food for emergency feeding, and other Ministries for such technical services as electricity, gas and water supplies. I am not complaining about that organisation, but am making the point that it is bound to contribute to slowness unless there is a powerful central drive apparent from somewhere.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) referred to Civil Defence in industry. I want to give the House two or three examples of the greater speed of decision which might do so much to elicit a keener, quicker reaction both from the local authorities and from the public. So far as I am aware, although an excellent start has been made in Civil Defence in industrial concerns, only one bulletin dealing with initial training has been issued so far, and firms which have gone ahead on that quickly are waiting to find out what they should do next. They have had no guidance on the vital matter of fire-fighting organisation yet.

The London County Council have been in communication for months with the appropriate Government Department about the training of instructors for the ambulance section. There is a difference of opinion about instructors' fees. The local authorities were told in March of this year that a revised circular would be issued shortly covering that point. It has not been received yet.

The London County Council have been in correspondence since November last year with the Home Office about adequate compensation for injury received by a Civil Defence volunteer during training. As long ago as 15th November, the Council were informed that a conclusion would be reached at Government level without delay. The County Council are still waiting that conclusion, and now have asked that the Home Secretary will receive a deputation because the matter is urgent from the point of view of recruitment.

My final illustration is in a sense the most serious of all, and neither of the two Governments escapes criticism. The local authorities have been in consultation with Government Departments since the summer of 1950 about the grant regulations which will determine precisely the application of Government grants for Civil Defence. There were discussions in September, 1950, and an alternative scheme intended to meet the objections of the local authorities was circulated by the then Government nine months later, in June, 1951.

A further meeting with the local authorities was held at the end of July, 1951, when various points were put by the local authorities for further Government consideration. To the best of my knowledge the question is not settled yet. There is an example where, over a period of more than two years and under two separate Governments, local authorities have been unable to obtain precise decisions as to the rate of grant they will receive on various services.

I am trying to speak helpfully and constructively and not critically on this subject, because these are the kind of delays that produce an atmosphere in which the local authorities themselves will insufficiently realise that the whole matter of Civil Defence recruitment is urgent. I believe that a successful future for Civil Defence recruitment in this country—though the projected committee may be helpful—will depend in the end on the Home Secretary giving Civil Defence more of his personal attention. He gave us an encouraging and very knowledgeable speech today.

May I put this situation to him as I see it? Everything depends on the local authorities getting the right guidance and discovering the right ways to catch the public mind. Most of the local government officers who are handling Civil Defence questions have operational experience of Civil Defence during the war. I sometimes wonder to what extent that is true of all the administrators who are handling Civil Defence questions in the Government Departments. I know it is true at the top, but is that sufficiently widespread?

There are certainly a good many keen men in their 40's who distinguished themselves in Civil Defence in the last war, and who had administrative experience of operational Civil Defence in war-time. Those people are dispersed now through Government Departments and outside Government service. I should like to see a number of them brought back into Civil Defence positions in Government service. I know that local authorities would welcome now an opportunity of having people like that with whom to hammer out these questions. I believe that with them, and with the personal attention of the Home Secretary, we could bring Civil Defence out of its backwater into the main stream again.

2.52 p.m

Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)

I think that on both sides of the House we regret the need for a discussion of Civil Defence, particularly as many of us have had the experience of two world wars. But I must say that it is a regrettable necessity.

I was very glad to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said at the conclusion of his most interesting speech. I have no doubt that the advocacy which he employed in support of the provision of shelters will be used equally zealously on behalf of the recruitment of Civil Defence personnel. This is a non-combatant service and embraces all citizens irrespective of their political views. The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) will recall the personnel who were recruited in Civil Defence in London in the last war, when conscientious objectors and others stood shoulder to shoulder and did a grand job of work in the defence of London.

I was very pleased to hear the Home Secretary's very keen determination—I thought it was present throughout the whole of his speech—to keep the Civil Defence services civilian. That, I think, is really the basis of a good Civil Defence service. At the birth of the Civil Defence service in connection with the last war we had no blueprints to go on. It had to be evolved from the experiences of other countries. There were no blueprints at the Home Office by which anybody could say dogmatically what form our Civil Defence should take.

I well remember that when the Civil Defence services were first initiated there was strong pressure on the Home Secretary at that time to put military commanders in command of the Civil Defence units because it was strongly held at that time that Civil Defence personnel recruited from the citizen population would break down before the onslaught of any bombing attack. I remember, too, that the same counsels were employed to urge the Home Secretary not in any way to allow the organisation of Civil Defence personnel into trade unions because it was held that it was a peculiar service and was not in any way amenable to that form of organisation.

What happened? The decision to make it a citizen force manned by citizens without any reference at all to military discipline or control was upheld, and in addition, the then Home Secretary, now Lord Waverley, came down definitely on the side of complete co-operation with the trade unions in this country in the recruitment and organisation of Civil Defence personnel. I think those decisions were justified by the experiences of the last war.

I say to the Home Secretary—and perhaps he will forgive me for saying it, but I have had some experience of the Civil Defence services—that one of the problems which he will have to face, and on which he will have many counsellors, is the question of whether the Civil Defence personnel shall be a disciplined force. It was urged in the last war at different stages that discipline very much the same as that applied to the police should be applied to the Civil Defence services.

My advice is that the Home Secretary should resist any such counsel and should allow the Civil Defence personnel to evolve their own standards of discipline as they did in the last war. I am perfectly certain that, should we become involved in a third world war, the experience we had in the last war will sustain such a conclusion and that Civil Defence personnel, by evolving their own system of internal discipline, will prove to be as loyal to their duty as any force where other forms of discipline are applied.

I was very glad to hear the Home Secretary speak so strongly about the organisation of mobile units. As he will know, it was decided through the regional organisations set up at the early part of the war to organise a Civil Defence mobile column, and it was known as the Civil Defence Mobile Reserve. That corps did a first-class job, and it was housed in the areas outside the cities, in the rural districts of Sussex and elsewhere. They were called into service according to need.

The highlight of that organisation's record was when General Eisenhower asked the Government if they would agree to send out to France the Civil Defence Mobile Reserve, and from that body a column was recruited which went out to France, Belgium and, I believe, Holland, and helped in rescue and demolition work and fire-fighting. It earned a great tribute from General Eisenhower for the great job of work it did—it won the admiration of all our Allies.

With regard to the central control of the Civil Defence services, I think we are all agreed on the proposal which has been made for some central planning control. I should, however, like the Home Secretary, or the Joint Under-Secretary, who I understand is to reply, to make this point a little clearer, if he would. Is there to be some form of co-ordination at the locality level on lines similar to that which is proposed at the centre in connection with recruitment for the Civil Defence services?

I refer to the need at the local level for co-ordination between the hospital and health services, the Home Guard and the fire brigades, as well as all other sections of Civil Defence. There is need for some clear co-ordinated direction there very much along the lines proposed to be applied to the centre as between the different Government Departments concerned.

I turn to the county councils. When the Civil Defence service was first initiated it was very much an experiment. People never quite knew just what kind of road we should travel on, and many decisions were made which would never have been made had the same standard of organisation prevailed at the beginning of the war as was reached at the end. I refer to the establishment of the regional controlling organisations through the regional commissioners. These reached a first-class level of organisation. Had the regional organisations been in control and accepted by the county authorities at the start, as they were towards the end, I do not think that so much responsibility would have been placed upon the county councils as there was in the last war.

I should like to reinforce the plea made by, I think, the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), when he spoke about the need for a more direct relationship between the Home Office and the local authorities. Having regard to the general acceptance of the regional commissioner and his functions during the later part of the war, so different from the earlier experience we have, I think there is a relatively stronger case for more direct control between the region and the locality than between the regional body—the county council—and the local authority.

My final point is in connection with the fire service. I was very pleased to hear from the Home Secretary that in the event of war the Home Office will revert to the system of central direction of the National Fire Service, that is, will transfer from the local authorities to the centre the functions now directly undertaken by the local authorities. That, I think, is necessary.

I have in mind very vividly certain things which happened in the last war, when the local fire brigades were local both in control and recruitment. Therefore, I should like the Home Secretary to see to it—it may be done, I do not know —that every chief officer in charge of a fire brigade unit is an officer who knows the latest methods of fire-fighting. That is exceedingly important. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows to what I am referring. It is very necessary, and I sincerely hope that the colleges which were established during the war are still being maintained so that we shall know that those in charge of the fire services in the localities are qualified to the extent necessary for the proper discharge of their duties.

I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will never see the Civil Defence services directly engaged in fighting the ravages of a third world war, but if he does I am certain that the citizens of London and elsewhere will rally to the defence of their country in precisely the same way that they did in the last world war.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I say that I should not like him to think that I am discourteous in that I do not seek to reply to the debate as he suggested. This is a Private Members' Day, and in the ordinary way only one Member of the Government speaks. It is a little difficult to know at what precise moment it is most convenient to the House for the Government spokesman to intervene. On this occasion my right hon. and learned Friend thought it would be most convenient to speak somewhat early in the debate so that the House could have the advantage of hearing the Government's view. I shall be here until the end of the debate, and I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend will also be here, and we shall take very full note of everything that is said, but I do not think it would be right to have an official winding-up speech. The winding up of the debate rests with my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), who moved the Motion, or with the seconder.

Mr. Moyle

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. I fully understand.

3.7 p.m.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

I have listened to the debate, as have all other hon. Members who have found it possible to be here today, with intense interest, and with all sincerity I extend my personal thanks to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) for having given the House an opportunity of discussing this extremely important matter.

One cannot think or talk about Civil Defence—probably I have my full share of Celtic imagination—without having in one's mind dreadful images of what will probably happen if this little country of ours should be involved in another world war. I have felt that behind all the suggestions that have been made today—I accept that they were made with the sincerity with which I propose to make my remarks—was a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness on the part of hon. Members about the defence against the horrible lethal instruments which will be used in the next world war of the 50 million men, women and children who are crowded into this small island of ours.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was rather critical of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and thought that he was inclined to be indifferent to the physical defence needs of our people in another world war. I am inclined to differ from my hon. Friend about that. I do not think it is indifference which has placed the Home Secretary in the difficulty in which he finds himself. He is in that position because of the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that pervades his mind when he tries to visualise any conceivable protection which can be given to our people against the atom bomb, the napalm bomb, bacteriological agents and all the other fiendish instruments of death against which we are asked today to protect our people in the event of another world war engulfing us in this little island.

In more than one interesting speech we have been reminded that we are talking about Civil Defence, but in my view we cannot discuss Civil Defence unless at the same time we relate to it our attempts at defending our people from the dangers that will confront them should another war come. Jet bombers today are travelling at a speed of nine miles a minute, almost the speed of sound. Probably by the time we are involved in another war, should it come, these jet bombers will be travelling at least at the speed of sound. How are we going to protect our people in our cities and how are we going to get the warning from the sirens when these bombers come at such great speed with their incendiary bombs, their atom bombs, their napalm bombs and all the other forms of destruction of which we know? What possible protection is there for our people against these horrible instruments of death?

I should be the last Member in this House to criticise any Government because they failed to provide protection and security for our people against these awful and colossal dangers. It just cannot be done, and we may as well take our people frankly into our confidence. All that we can tell them is we will try, but that we know of nothing that can render relatively harmless either the atom bomb or the napalm bomb and that, in fact, we have not started to study the technique of combating the bacteriological agents which may be used in any future conflict.

I wish I could take some comfort from the fact, as some hon. Members in this debate have, that no gas was used in the last war and that we are thereby entitled to infer and believe that atomic bombs may not be used in the next war. But atomic bombs were used in the last war. Gas was used in the last war, if not in Britain, then on other fighting fronts. We had some protection against gas warfare and we can provide that protection again up to a point, but no protection is conceivable in this tightly packed little island against the atomic bomb. I defy the Government to take the people into their confidence on that.

May I also make a quotation? I am doing it on very good authority. It is from the journal of the Institute of Civil Defence. I found it intensely interesting. I am confident that this Institute is doing all it can to help the people of this country to combat the possible horrors of the next war, but in this issue, January-March, 1952, they tell us: With an atom bomb over the Mansion House, London, as ground zero shortly after midday, the damage would be catastrophic and the number of dead and injured would total more than one in 50 of the entire population of the United Kingdom. There would be more than one million dead and injured by one atomic bomb. This journal goes on: The knowledgeable person will regard that statement as hysteria. I think the next sentence is intended to be ironic.

But anyone might well contemplate with something approaching that condition the prospect of dealing with the enormous problems involved with even a full 100 per cent. peacetime establishment in the various services. Many of the personnel would themselves be dead or injured, anyhow. Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire I am disappointed that the Amendment could not be accepted by Mr. Speaker.

I say that without criticising Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that the Amendment has been fully justified by the debate. Running through the debate has been a sense of hoplessness and helplessness. I join with my hon. Friend in making an appeal to the House at least to consider the implications of the Amendment and to remove every conceivable danger from these islands so that we shall not become the inevitable and unavoidable object of attack.

I take no pride in the fact that this island is referred to by other people as an aircraft carrier—and an unsinkable one at that. We shall be sunk. I take no pride, nor can our people or any self-respecting Government, in the fact that we have been reduced merely to the principal strategic base of a foreign Power who will decide their strategy three thousand to four thousand miles from this island. We shall have no voice in defending ourselves. It is no use talking about the wretched futile method of Civil Defence when others will decide the destruction en masse in which we shall be involved in the next world war.

3.20 p.m.

Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)

I have listened with great interest to what was said by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies). I agree with a great deal of what he said and my only regret is that he did not make constructive suggestions—

Mr. S. O. Davies

Accept our Amendment and you have them.

Mr. Harris

That is more a subject for foreign affairs than for Civil Defence. There is one point to which I want to direct the attention of the Home Secretary. My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that I have some interest in the fire services. It is interesting to know that in the event of another conflict the fire services will be nationalised once again. I hope that in that event it will be done without any strings. In other words, I hope that nationalisation will be made without any undertaking to local authorities that at the end of the conflict the fire services will be de-nationalised, for each time this happens it causes a tremendous upheaval and a great dislocation in the lives of the personnel.

When the fire services were nationalised in August, 1941, there was a great upheaval in the lives of the people who had been in them for many years—I am not thinking of the Auxiliary Fire Service personnel who had only gone in for the period of the war. Maybe it was the way it was done. The Home Secretary may remember that a completely new organisation was set up for the National Fire Service. The engagements of those who had been in the local authority fire brigades simply came to an end on the appointed day, new officers were appointed, and the result was that many local authority people who had held rank, unless they had been lucky in obtaining appointments with the National Fire Service, found themselves without appointments. Most of them did get new appointments, but a number who had risen to rank over many years woke up one morning and found themselves ordinary firemen, which was a tremendous blow.

If it had happened once, we could have swallowed it, but when de-nationalisation took place in 1948, exactly the same thing happened. Instead of the local authorities being asked to take over the appropriate parts of the National Fire Service as they stood, all that the local authorities were asked to take over were firemen without rank. They were told to advertise for officers and let those in the National Fire Service apply for the jobs.

This meant that in the few months preceding de-nationalisation officers and other ranks in the fire brigades were able to apply for the jobs that were going in the local authorities and most of them managed to get jobs, but some did not. So again, on the day of de-nationalisation a number of persons who had held rank in the National Fire Service and given good service woke up to find themselves ordinary firemen.

I am aware that there were certain regulations made under the Act giving compensation for loss of emoluments. There were further powers under the Act to make regulations for compensation for loss of status. The Home Secretary of that time made regulations for loss of emoluments, although the rate of compensation for which was, in my opinion, inadequate, but he did not exercise his power to make regulations giving compensation for loss of status. Therefore.

after de-nationalisation a body of men were thoroughly disgruntled and unhappy because they had not managed to get jobs with the local authorities and they had been left with the option of either becoming firemen the day after de-nationalisation or else leaving the fire service altogether.

That was a great blow for those who had been perhaps divisional officers for some years. They had to make up their minds by midnight on 31st March, 1948, and either remain as firemen or go out and take such pensions as they were entitled to. The only concession made to them was that if they had served part of a year, they were allowed to make it up to a full year—for instance, 28 years and three months could be made up to 29 years. There was no other compensation whatever for them.

That is very strange, because, in contradistinction to that, a number of the administrative officers in the fire service, of whom I was one—that is to say, people like myself who went in as auxiliary firemen, not expecting to remain after the war had ended—had stayed on up to the end of the National Fire Service at the request of the Home Office, in order to keep the administration going.

Because they had been asked to re-main, and because in the invitation for them to remain there had been some rather loose wording by the Home Office a contract was created and these administrative officers were able to bring claims against the Home Office in the courts. One friend of mine got £2,600. These were men who had really no claim on the fire service at all. They had had no permanent jobs, yet many of them picked up sums running into hundreds of pounds of compensation. The administrative officer thus got compensation, whereas the operational officer, who had made the job his livelihood, got no compensation if he left the service.

I mention this to show that every time a service is nationalised or de-nationalised, there is a tremendous upheaval for the people in the service. No doubt these points will be mentioned when transport is debated, but that does not alter the fact that at the moment I am interested only in the fire service. It is the one thing which, I think, ought to be nationalised, Conservative though I am.

The issue is not between Government control or private enterprise control. Fire engines and brigades have not been controlled by private enterprise since the beginning of the last century, when they were owned by insurance companies. Now the only issue in the fire service is whether it should be controlled by the Government or by local authorities.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

There has been no profit in them since.

Mr. Harris

Exactly. I conclude, therefore, by saying that if the Government nationalise the fire service when the next war breaks out, I hope it will be for keeps, so that we shall know that at the end of the war there is not to be this awful upheaval in the lives of these people who give such good service to the State

3.28 p.m.

Lieut.- Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

Useful advantage has been taken of the opportunity provided to us by the Motion moved by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson). The debate has revealed a degree of unanimity on a number of issues, and has cut across normal party distinctions. That is, of course, as it should be on a Friday when a Private Member's Motion is discussed.

The issues involved are nevertheless very serious, and a measure of the seriousness, of which I hope the Home Secretary will take note, can be gauged from the fact that we have had two speeches, one by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and the other by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke). which were really on all fours.

Mr. H. Brooke

I am sorry that two London Members should be in disagreement. I would rather stand with the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) than be imagined to be on all fours with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes).

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

It so happens that I am one of the last speakers in the debate, and the impression I formed, after the hon. Member for Hampstead sat down, was that an astonishing unanimity had revealed itself between him and my hon. Friend. It may be due to the fact that on this occasion my hon. Friend made a speech with which I found myself largely in agreement. That is something I cannot always claim in respect of the speeches he has made on other issues.

In this case stress has been laid upon the unwillingness, or incapacity, of the Home Office to give that degree of cooperation and assistance to local authorities which local authorities so desperately need.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

This is rather an imposition but I have heard almost all of every speech today and I ask the House to excuse me because I want to go to see the Pilot Tactical Study, who have asked me to be there by 4 o'clock. I do not want the hon. and gallant Member to think that there is any rudeness intended to him by my leaving. I thought that, in view of the appeal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) for me to take a personal interest in London activities, the House would for once forgive me.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I am quite sure that all hon. Members in all quarters of the House will quite understand the statements made by the Home Secretary and, if he goes forthwith, I am quite sure we shall understand. Perhaps he may employ his time more profitably than by listening to me. In any event, he will have the advantage tomorrow morning of reading what I have said.

I think the point has been established by the debate today that the local authorities have not had that degree of cooperation and leadership which they are entitled to expect from the Home Office. The hon. Member for Hampstead has referred to the protracted delays in connection with various inquiries and negotiations going on between the London County Council and the Home Office. The most important of these difficulties at the moment relates to the amount of grant to be made by the Home Office to local authorities, to which the hon. Member for Hampstead referred.

It is surely necessary for local authorities to know how they stand financially in this matter. One cannot reasonably expect a local authority to throw itself heart and soul into the job of recruiting for Civil Defence if they do not know what they are letting themselves in for. Considering all the doubts and difficulties, there has been a good response from some of the Metropolitan boroughs of the L.C.C. area, of which Lambeth is one.

A further point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire in connection with the provision of shelters. It is quite impossible for anyone to estimate what the number of casualties will be if and when war breaks out. I recall that before the outbreak of the last war all kinds of fantastic calculations were made as to the number of casualties which would be suffered in London and other urban areas. If my recollection is right, I saw a quite serious estimate, which I know was considered by Civil Defence authorities of the London area, to the effect that immediately war broke out there would be 30,000 casualties a day in the London Civil Defence Region. Mercifully, those figures were never realised. I do not know what the casualties would be were a third world war to break out, when new and more devilish weapons of destruction might be used; but whatever methods of destruction are used, I think it is common ground that any defence is better than none.

I take strong exception to the attitude of the Home Office not only as revealed in the reply to the Question yesterday, but also in the reply to a Question which I put to the Minister of Housing and Local Government on 22nd April. I asked him, … to what extent it is the policy of his Department to encourage local authorities in London and other urban areas to include the provision of air-raid shelters in designing new blocks of flats. The Minister replied: I should like to encourage local authorities in vulnerable areas to provide air-raid shelters in new blocks of flats, so far as it is possible without the use of scarce materials which are needed more urgently for other purposes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd April, 1952; Vol. 4,99, c. 191.] That reply corresponds suspiciously with the terms used yesterday by the Joint Under-Secretary of State. I have a suspicion that the same person is responsible for drafting both replies.

In any event, it is quite clear that the provision of steel for shelters in new blocks of flats is very low down on the list of priorities. That has been admitted today by the Home Secretary. It is quite obvious that when a new block of flats is being constructed it would be easier and cheaper to provide air-raid shelters in the foundations during construction rather than to wait until later and interpose all kinds of new construction into an existing building. Yet both the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Minister of Housing and Local Government have, for some reason, put the provision of the necessary materials for air-raid shelters so low down on the list of Government priorities that no local authority can get on with the job.

Mr. G. Wilson

Is not the hon. and gallant Member aware that there are quite a number of alternative materials available? There is, for instance, concrete produced under pressure, which I am told in some respects resists the gamma rays better than steel does.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I bow to the superior technical knowledge of the hon. Member. What he says may be true. But I do not know of any instances where local authorities propose to avail themselves of that method of construction. If that is so, what kind of reply has been given by the Minister of Housing and Local Government or the Home Secretary when application was made for approval of such a scheme?

The only explanation I can give for the reluctance of Whitehall to help local authorities must be gauged from the recently published figures showing the revenue and expenditure of this country for the three months from 1st April to 30th June. The total receipts on the ordinary revenue side are less than those of last year, but the expenditure on the Supply Services has gone up by £213 million. That is an important figure to bear in mind, because it includes the kind of provision we are discussing.

The figures show an increase in the expenditure on Supply Services of £213 million in the first three months of the financial year, whereas the estimated increase for the whole of the financial year was only £144 million. I suspect that something has gone completely wrong in all the Government's estimates with regard to the defence programme and ancillary matters connected with it. That may be the explanation of the curious attitude adopted by Government Departments towards local authorities when they wanted to get on with the job of providing some measure of shelter for the citizens for whom they are responsible.

I intend deliberately to bring my remarks to a close before the debate itself must terminate because I hope that, notwithstanding the statement made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, he may feel disposed to say a few words and to send us away in better heart than we are at the moment, so that we can go back to our constituencies this week-end and say that, as a result of combined all-party representations to the Government during this debate, we have made the Home Office see the light. We can then report that the Government have shown themselves susceptible to the opinions expressed in the debate.

Whether or not the Joint Under-Secretary of State changes his mind and takes part in the debate, I hope that the Home Office and such other Government Departments as may be concerned will demonstrate a considerable change of attitude compared with that which they have shown in the past. By a change of attitude such as that for which hon. Members in all parts of the House have appealed this afternoon, the Government can do a great deal towards the encouragement of further recruits for the Civil Defence organisation.

Question put, and agreed to.


That this House, recognising the vital importance of an effective and comprehensive system of Civil Defence in the United Kingdom, urges Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the appropriate local and other authorities, to take such further steps as may be necessary to increase the flow of recruits, in order to improve their training and develop new methods of defence in the interests of home security as a whole.
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