HC Deb 26 January 1954 vol 522 cc1604-6
45. Brigadier Clarke

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider transferring Civil Defence from the Home Office to the Minister of Defence so that all the defence services can be better coordinated.

49. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the disclosures in the Report of the Select Committee on the inefficiency and inadequacy of Civil Defence measures to protect the civil population of this country in the event of atomic bomb attack, he will appoint a new Minister of Cabinet rank with the sole duty of dealing with the problems of Civil Defence.

The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)

No, Sir. Experience before, during and since the last war has shown conclusively that the main Civil Defence work is so closely linked with the maintenance of law and order and the work of local authorities that the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland must be the focal points for preparations and for operational control in the event of war. There has, of course, to be close liaison between the fighting Services and those engaged in Civil Defence, but this can be effectively secured, in our opinion, by consultations between Ministers and the services concerned.

Brigadier Clarke

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the Home Secretary has a very large task on his plate and that the Civil Defence services would be better directed by someone else?

Mr. Hughes

Has the Prime Minister read the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates on the Civil Defence services? Does he realise that they are in a state of confusion? Has he forgotten his warning to the House that as a result of the American bombers being here the population of this country is in an infinitely more dangerous position than it was in the last war? Is he going to allow the civil population to be sacrificed in the interests of extortionate military expenditure?

The Prime Minister

Lots of points are raised in that supplementary question. I am astonished, I must say, that the hon. Member should suggest that I have not read that Report. This matter has been very carefully considered as between the civil and military authorities. We found it worked very satisfactorily—or more or lesssatisfactorily—in the war, and I think the Home Secretary is the Minister who should be in charge of it.

Mr. H. Morrison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as one who experienced this office in the wartime Government of which he was Prime Minister, I am quite sure he is right? It is related to security in general; it is related to local government; and all the necessary relationships with the active defence were arranged and can be arranged. I would urge him to stand firm upon the point.

The Prime Minister

I assure the right hon. Gentleman—I almost said my right hon. Friend, as he was in those days—I shall stand firm as a rock.

Mr. Strachey

Now we are assured that the Prime Minister has read this Report, can he tell us he is going to take some action in view of the very serious situation it discloses of the inefficiency of the present arrangements, whatever the proper arrangements may be?

The Prime Minister

The Report is being most carefully studied by the Departments, and by none more than the Home Office. Of course, undoubtedly, what is needed to make a very keen voluntary effort in Civil Defence is a sense of alarm, of danger. Without that it is difficult, and as the feeling that, perhaps, things are a little better and the outlook a little clearer grows in the land, it has that disadvantage that people do not feel the same need to be prepared for immediate war. Well, I think we shall have to put up with that.

Mr. Hughes

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the replies—from both sides of the House—I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.