HC Deb 23 February 1954 vol 524 cc278-81

6.48 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Draft Civil Defence (Police) Regulations, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9th February, be approved. These Regulations and those which follow, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, cover identical ground, and it might be for the convenience of the House if the two sets of Regulations were discussed together. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is here to answer questions on any Scottish points that may be raised during the debate.

Section 2 of the Civil Defence Act, 1948, empowers my right hon. and learned Friend to make Regulations for the purpose of conferring certain functions on police authorities in England and Wales. The Secretary of State for Scotland is the designated Minister for similar purposes in that country.

Regulations have already been made in this connection. The Civil Defence (Police) Regulations, 1952, confer on police authorities the function of training and equipping the regular police and special constables for Civil Defence purposes.

Under those Regulations the function of providing equipment is given to the police authorities subject to certain limitations; in particular they are only empowered to provide such civil defence equipment as may be needed for training purposes.

The Regulations now before the House repeal the 1952 Regulations and, generally speaking, reproduce them but there is one change of substance. The function of providing equipment is not now limited to training purposes only. In other words, the Regulations enable the police authorities to provide operational equipment. In practice that might mean, for example, that if it were desirable to secure police communications against the risk of enemy attack, provision could be made for standby equipment or for the removal of a main transmitter from the centre of a town to a less dangerous position; or it might be necessary to install extra telephone equipment or to re-route a vulnerable circuit.

A certain amount of work of this description is now impending, and it is desirable that the appropriate function should be given to police authorities because that will enable grants to be made at the appropriate rate, either 75 per cent, or 100 per cent, according to the nature of the expenditure. The organisations representing the police authorities have been consulted and they are in agreement with the Regulations. I hope the House will give them unanimous approval.

6.52 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

One of the advantages of having this procedure is that from time to time we are reminded of the important part the police have to play in Civil Defence. They are not primarily a Civil Defence service, but it is on occasions like this that we are reminded of their great value in this field.

I do not quite follow why there has been this change. Was it because of consultations with the police authorities that this was seen to be a better way of doing it, or was it because the plans have been more advanced for Civil Defence generally and there has been a change in policy, which has required the introduction of these Regulations to implement that change? If the hon. Gentleman will deal with that small point I have no further questions to ask.

6.53 p.m.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

By leave of the House, it is the second of the two explanations suggested by the hon. Member which applies. It is not exactly a change of policy, but the development of the Civil Defence plans means that it is now necessary to add this function to the police authorities. The time is ripe for them to carry out this function, and, therefore, it is desirable to give them power to do so.

6.54 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

There is one question I should like to put to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I realise that the Regulations are absolutely necessary, but the point that I should like to ask is what estimate, if any, has been made for the protective accommodation which would be provided. Could the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give me that information tonight?

6.55 p.m.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I should be obliged if the Joint Under-Secretary would provide information upon, and perhaps confirm, what was said in a previous debate on the 1952 Regulations. What does accommodation for control of police personnel mean? Could it be confined to accommodation necessary for the control of the police in large areas and only that? It will not, I assume, include accommodation for police personnel anywhere, but only that which is necessary for the control of the police in larger towns.

There is one other point. What increase in equipment does this envisage? At the moment the equipment is provided for the training of police in Civil Defence purposes. What extra equipment, therefore, is meant in the new Regulations? Does it mean, for example, the provision of steel helmets, protective clothing or even gum boots? Thirdly, will this extra cost be covered by the 75 per cent, or 100 per cent, grants to the responsible authorities.

6.57 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)

These are the answers to the questions put to me by the hon. Member for Mary-hill (Mr. Hannan). The position is exactly as he described it, and it is with the control of personnel that the Regulations are concerned.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department gave an indication of the type of equipment that might be necessary, such as communications having to be moved to some more protected or distant part away from the centre of a large city. As to the percentage grant, my hon. Friend did say that it would be 75 or 100 per cent, as laid down.

The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) asked me about the estimate for protected accommodation. There is no figure available for that.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Draft Civil Defence (Police) Regulations, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9th February, be approved. Draft Civil Defence (Police) (Scotland) Regulations, 1954 [copy presented, 9th February] approved.—[Commander T. D. Galbraith.]