HC Deb 16 April 1953 vol 514 cc361-3
30. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the continual rise in rates, he will consider taking over the whole cost of Civil Defence, and so relieve the local authorities of their contribution of 25 per cent.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

My right hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland reached agreement with representatives of the local authorities at a meeting on 13th March on the rate of Exchequer grant to be prescribed by regulations under Section 3 of the Civil Defence Act, 1948, in relation to various categories of expenditure incurred by local authorities in the discharge of their Civil Defence functions.

As the Act requires, the grant will represent full reimbursement in respect of some categories and 75 per cent. in respect of the remainder. The representatives of the local authorities did not suggest, and Her Majesty's Government would not be able to agree, that there should be reimbursement of all categories.

Mr. Janner

As there is such a heavy increase in rates at present does the hon. Gentleman not think that, as this is a national service and is required only to me6t a national emergency, what I am suggesting is reasonable to assist the local authorities and people to meet the demands that come upon them? Would he reconsider the matter?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

The suggestion that the cost of Civil Defence should be entirely borne by the Exchequer was fully discussed during the Second Reading debate and the Committee stage of the Civil Defence Bill in 1948, and it was then rejected. The reasons still hold.

Mr. Shinwell

When the hon. Gentleman speaks of agreement having been reached at the present conference does he mean that the local authorities agreed with what was offered or that they were compelled to take what was offered?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I should like notice of that. To the best of my recollection there was agreement.

Mr. Shinwell

The hon. Gentleman said, and he repeats now, that there was complete agreement. Does that mean that the local authorities were satisfied, having made their request, with what was offered? Or were they dissatisfied?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would put down a Question. To the best of my information they were quite satisfied.

Mr. H. Morrison

Was not the hon. Gentleman there, and if he was not there does he not know whether this was mutually agreed, or whether it was forced upon the local authorities? I am not on the merits of the case now. What is the good of the hon. Gentleman's coming to the Box if he cannot answer an elementary question of this sort?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

The right hon. Gentleman knows pefectly well that his right hon. Friend was asking a question about what was going on in the minds of the local authorities. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That was the question which was asked. It is impossible for me or anyone else to give an answer.

Mr. C. Williams

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is by no means complete agreement as to who should be the Deputy Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. Morrison

My right hon. Friend was not asking a question about what was in the minds of the local authorities. It is quite easy to know, from the record, which the hon. Gentleman must have read, or ought to have read before he came to that Box, if he was not at the consultations, whether there was mutual agreement at the end of the discussion or whether the local authorities said, "We do not agree," and the Secretary of State then said, "I am very sorry that you do not agree, but that is all I can do." Which was it?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

That is not the question which was put to me. The question was whether the local authorities were satisfied. What goes on in the minds of local authorities I cannot answer. However, I have told the right hon. Gentleman that to the best of my knowledge the local authorities are entirely satisfied with the result.

Mr. Shinwell

Following on the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), may I ask the Under-Secretary whether he is aware that there is not complete agreement in the country as to who should be the Government and that the present Government do not represent the great majority?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are getting very wide of the Question.