§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I had just reached the stage in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech in which he dealt with casualties. In the circumstances that we are contemplating this afternoon, it is quite clear that the number of casualties would impose a tremendous strain upon any organisation which the Minister of Health, who is the designated Minister for dealing with the hospital service, could possibly build up. We are dealing in terms of such numbers that we cannot do much more than recognise the immense nature of the problem that will have to be dealt with, and express the hope that the appeal made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman for more and more recruits for the appropriate voluntary services will be heard and will meet with a response.
The next problem with which the Home Secretary dealt was that of the homeless. That problem must stagger anyone who spends a second in contemplating it. On the assumption that one well-placed hydrogen bomb could cause different degrees of devastation to the whole Metropolitan Police area, one must ask oneself how human ingenuity could deal with the vast problem that would be created. Where are we going to put the people who have been rendered homeless by such a catastrophe?
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend is very good at asking questions. I am hoping to hear him give an answer one day; it will be a welcome change. Although Socrates obtained a great reputation by continually asking questions proving that everyone else was wrong, the sticky end to which he came ought to be a warning to my hon. Friend.
Our enemies in the last war believed that by bombing London they could create panic. They probably had no greater disappointment than when, soon after that war began, that belief was not substantiated by the action of our people. But the problem involved in this case is infinitely greater than that which London or any of the great cities had to face then. I want to pay a tribute to the fortitude shown by those civilians who had to endure perils which had never been faced by civilians before.
I hope that this problem and the linked problem of evacuation will be additional incentives to the people of the world to realise that it is no stretch of the imagination to say that the next conflict will see the end of civilisation as we know it. The destruction of the whole of the Metropolitan Police district, which includes some places which are more important than London, ought to bring home to everybody the fact that the most important problem is that of establishing something better and more sensible than war as a means of settling such differences as are bound to arise among reasonable men, and that the answer must be discovered if we do not wish to go back to some future dark ages, which might very well be even more gloomy for mankind than were the last.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about increased mobility for emergency feeding services, and what we were able to do during the East Coast floods about the problem of rest centres, but they were examples that seemed to me very far from the reality of the appalling problems which will face us and from the remedy we must use to overcome them if this atomic war ever comes about. I am not quite sure what he meant when he talked about training the homeless in giving help. I rather imagine that everybody will expect that he will be able to 1834 give help but may find, when the time comes, that he is the person in need of help rather than the person who is able to give it.
While I would put as high a trust in the morale of this people as any one, I can see a situation that could arise in which the most one could hope for would be merely a dreary acquiesence in the misery surrounding everyone. For the same reason I was not very much reassured by his use of the phrase "equitable and practical scheme" for evacuation. It seemed to me that that was a comparatively empty phrase, considering the vulnerability of our industrial areas now and the necessity of maintaining some life in them if the struggle, should it come, is to be carried one.
There is just one thing I want to say about the general nature of the question. I know that there is some talk that the whole of civil defence should be handed over to the military for organisation and control. I should not myself regard that as an ideal solution for this kind of problem. I agree that the mobile columns may need to be under military control and leadership, but I think the sorts of services of which I have been talking since our return from another place are services that, in this country, can be best organised by an experienced and resilient local government service. They will need a good deal of preparation, but, on the other hand, in so far as the problem can be met at all it will be best met by relying on the continuation of civilian control. The mobile columns must come in to do the first of the heavy work in rescue and in fighting fires, and so on, but the other problems are still best left to the civilian services.
I was glad to hear what the right hon. and learned Gentleman had to say about the provision of equipment for the fire fighting services and the building up of operational stocks for them. I think that at the moment they should be kept under central control and that there should be arrangements made by which they can be readily made available in time of need, and dispersed should emergency appear to be near. A great many services, such as water supplies, will be required on a scale that we did not even contemplate in the last war.
It will be remembered that after we had had some experience in the last war, the 1835 River Thames was used, by a series of pumps installed on the bridges, for supplying water when it was necessary. I trust that that kind of scheme will be considered for the waterways in the neighbourhoods of all the big centres of population and in other areas deemed to be vulnerable. Because of the penetrating power of some of the high explosive bombs that may be expected, in addition to the atomic and hydrogen weapons, it may be that the ordinary piped water supplies, on which our great cities rely, will be rendered ineffective at the moment when they are most needed.
My hon. Friend murmurs something about the cobalt bomb. No one believes that we have reached the end of the miseries that science, wrongly applied, can devise for us. That ought to make us all the more intent on dealing with the situation in such a way as to put even the modern application of science in its proper place in human relationships, particularly between nation and nation. Let us face up to this, that the appalling increase in power over the material things of the universe is appalling only because the moral power of mankind has not kept pace with man's tremendous acquisition of power over the physical universe. We discuss these things under the grim shadow that hangs over us. This is not so much a challenge to our military preparedness as a challenge throughout the world to the spirit of man, a challenge to insist that these great powers shall be used with a moral judgment always in mind.
I can think of no worse fate that can befall mankind than that we should be for long at the mercy of one wicked man who might unleash these terrors on the world. It used to be said that it took two to make a quarrel. I am not so sure, in these circumstances, that that is so. In the circumstances that now prevail in the world one man might precipitate the disaster. It used to be said that it took two to make a quarrel, but it seems from the history of the last few years that it takes far more than two to make peace.
I join with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in saying that what we have to contemplate is a sombre picture. I do not think that even he would go beyond saying that it is only just a preliminary 1836 sketch that we are seeing, should any one wish the picture to be completed. While we shall do all we can to help the Government in preparation, and while we trust that throughout the country there will be co-operation in all plans designed to meet the emergency, should it arise, we must still regard the greatest object of all our statesmanship and discussion at this stage of the 20th Century to be an endeavour to ensure that man shall regard reason and not force as the ultimate and rightful arbiter in disputes between men. I sincerely trust that this country will continue to urge upon the nations of the world, now that they are armed with such powers that if they like they can destroy mankind, that it is their duty so to conduct their affairs and so to place themselves under the rule of law as to make it certain that that dread disaster, now so easily obtainable, may never occur.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
It is a privilege to follow the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in his profound and weighty speech. On this side of the Committee we could disagree with scarcely a single word of it. As we all know, he it was who, at a time when the menace was by no means as obvious as it is today, had the duty of laying the foundations for what the Government of today are trying to carry on and, I hope, accelerate.
There is only one point on which I disagree with both the right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary: they both said that in the event of hostilities this horrible weapon would undoubtedly be used by both sides. I do not believe that to be true. I think there is a great likelihood of it being used, but there is just a faint possibility that, because of its appalling effect, rather in the same way that gas was not used in the last war, both sides may hold their hands. There is just that possibility.
That leads me to my first point: it will only be so if our potential enemies are aware that our preparations are as goods as is possible and that the effect of their retaliation on us will largely be negatived. That is why it is vitally important that we should see that everything is done to make the effect of these bombs as slight as possible.
1837 I deplore, as I am sure does the whole Committee—with one or two obvious exceptions—the attitude of mind of certain myopic civilians who suggest that nothing should be done at all. They surely should realise that preparedness in anything has always been and always will be the greatest deterrent to any action. To adopt the present attitude of mind is to surrender the only initiative which a defender has. The aggressor always has the tactical initiative in his hands; the defender has the strategic initiative, by preparation. If we surrender that initiative, we surrender both. I am quite certain that that attitude of mind is not common throughout the country and is held only by a certain minority—the type of person who might have been prone before the last war to go down to the Super Marine works and tell the workers to stop making Spitfires.
To say that both sides of the Committee have been uneasy as a result of the Report of the Select Committee and of some of the things which we have seen in our constituencies is an understatement, but that is not to say that the Minister or the Under-Secretary of State have been at fault.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
The hon. Member knows the answer to that perfectly well, and I challenge him to give it.
The machine which was set up by the right hon. Member for South Shields was a reasonable machine, but it is the way in which it is operating and the attitude of mind of the people who are operating it which alarms me intensely. Civil defence is an operation of war. It is—and lip-service has been paid to this fact—a fourth arm of our defence; but it will never be an effective fourth arm of our defence if it is regarded in the light which is revealed in the Select Committee's Report—that it is merely an extension or adaptation of peace-time activities.
Of all the crass fatuities, that remark takes the biscuit. That is just what it is not; it is more an operation of war today than ever it was, and we want people running it who can understand war. I fully realise that we have to carry our local authorities with us. I fully realise that 1838 very largely this is a local authority matter and that we must have people who understand the mentality of local authorities. But there are many people who have served in the Armed Forces with distinction and who, since the war, have had a great deal of experience in local government work. They have been on county councils borough councils and other local authorities.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) will probably explain this further during the debate, but in his division they have the highest recruiting record in the country. I wonder what is the reason for that. He told me that there is an ex-brigadier—believe it or not; no doubt with charm of manner and tact—who is running the organisation. It is a matter of personality, and I am sure that in those areas where recruiting is not going as well as it ought, we should look carefully at the personalities involved.
I am disappointed that my right hon. and learned Friend made no mention of the suggestion that there should be a Director of Civil Defence. I believe that the time is very shortly coming when we shall have to have a Minister for Home Defence. I am quite certain that in the meantime the Home Secretary, with all the immense area of his responsibilities, is unable to give the time to details which is essential for this type of organisation. In other Government Departments, Ministers can give birth to broad directives, which is all that is required of a Minister, but in this field the Minister must be able to devote more time to the detail of the organisation because, exactly as in the Defence Ministries, it is part and parcel of the defence Services.
I also believe, as I have said previously—although, as far as I know, it has not yet taken place—that the time has come for an overall review of the part-time manpower of the country. Such a review can be based only on the appreciation of the chiefs of staff of the number of permanent manpower required should there be an emergency. Having obtained that appreciation, they should subtract from the total and discover the balance of part-time manpower which will be available in this country for the various—at this time voluntary but quite clearly in an emergency conscripted—services, such as the Observer Corps, the Home 1839 Guard, Civil Defence, Police and Fire Services.
I wonder whether there will be enough manpower to go round. In any case, it is about time somebody started thinking of working out whether there is enough manpower to go round and, if there is not, where the services could be integrated and overlapped. My suggestion is that there is no earthly reason why the Home Guard should not be trained in civil defence in certain areas. I do not say that should apply to all areas. In many areas, however, this is possible, and it is essential that it should be done.
In my electoral constituency in the last war—I do not suppose that anyone knew anything about it outside—there was a proportion of Home Guard trained in civil defence. They were in liaison with the civil defence authorities, and they were perfectly prepared to give them any assistance should the emergency arise. I know how much can be done by a reasonable understanding, contacts and liaison, between people on the spot seeing each other, and agreeing on how things should be done. I am certain that we must do that, and do it fairly soon.
One of the chief topics of my right hon. and learned Friend's speech today was the question of mobile columns. We are, no doubt, debarred by the rules of order from going into that matter too fully, but, as it has been mentioned to a certain extent, I make no apology for doing so. I am a little worried as to how this will work out. I do not believe that there is any other way of doing this unless we take a block of National Service men from the time they are enlisted and put them straight away on to civil defence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is all very well for hon. Members to say "hear, hear," but where are we to get them? We are back to the old problem, to which we have never had an answer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Egypt."] I know that I am being led astray in answering that one, but I have said this three or four times in the House.
We have no mobile reserves in this country, which is an alarming situation, and the sooner we have a mobile reserve the better. If we had these 80,000 men from Egypt in this country, they would constitute a vital mobile reserve for use 1840 in emergency. The lesson of France in the last war should never be forgotten. Now we must see what we can do about this new idea.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I would not have given way had I not thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to make a more sensible contribution than the one which is usually made by one of his hon. Friends sitting below the Gangway.
These men are to do a fortnight's training twice. They are to go to this centre to be trained for a fortnight one year and for a fortnight another year. They are only to do it twice over two years, so that means a fortnight's training twice. It is a simple calculation. They are to go to these centres to be trained in rescue work, fire service work, or whatever it may be. What are they to do for the rest of the year? The ordinary Territorial does his weekend camp, weekend courses and night drills in the place where he lives. Are these fellows to be sent, after their fortnight's training, back to their homes to do absolutely nothing?
Many of the National Service men of the R.A.F. are doing nothing at all for their part-time service. I hope that this is not to be continued. Am I not right in thinking that these mobile columns will be based in various areas in the country for operations under their regional commanders? Surely it should not be difficult to organise columns in these areas in a skeleton form, where, if necessary, they are to be used. Surely that is where the weekend training should come in. The vehicles in which they are to operate could be hired for weekend training. The officer who is to command the column would get to know his men and by having small tactical exercises, would get to know the roads and the country in his area. Surely this must be the corollary to the two fortnight's training in demolition and rescue work. I implore the Parliamentary Secretary to realise this.
I am speaking from my own experience, and I think that it should be realised how immensely difficult it is to 1841 train people to drive convoys at night, even with lights. It is even more difficult without them. I had intense experience of this in our training in the early days of the war. I should like to give one example, because I think that examples are valuable in these cases. In the last brigade which I commanded before I went out to the Middle East, when we were training seven days a week and had all the opportunities and facilities available, we were able to get men to move off from any site upon the receipt of a wireless message, and in 35 minutes a whole battalion would be on the road and moving.
When I went to Italy, I had under my command a battalion that had been fighting during the whole of the war, and, in my innocence, I thought that the same thing would happen. It was essential to get the battalion off in a hurry. They were given warning at 11.30 a.m. that they should be on the road by 12.30, and eventually they moved off at 3.30 in the afternoon. This was because they had never been trained to do it. That is what will happen to mobile columns here unless there is someone with experience in training these columns in war to move along roads in the dark and read their maps. Therefore, I hope that someone with military experience will be given this job. We have heard that there will be an overall command, but local commanders must have that sort of experience if they are to be of any value.
I should like to say a word about communications. I am very worried about this. There seems to be a mulish attitude among those people who have to do with civil defence in regard to wireless. The taxi-drivers in London use wireless. The fire services and police also use wireless—but not civil defence. I was reading a report today of a civil defence exercise which had taken place recently. They thought that it would be a good thing if they pretended that all the telephones had been knocked out. As if there would be any chance of any telephones working! The comment on the experiment deplored the amount of paper used in sending written messages—they had run out of paper. I had to read the report twice before I could believe my own eyes. It is as though one were in command of a unit in battle, the telephone lines had been destroyed and a 1842 galloper was sent for on a horse. That makes just about as much sense.
I hope that we shall get down to this question of training people in the use of short and long wave wireless sets. The sort of rubbish talked about the air being cluttered up so that no one would be able to hear is nonsense. The whole of the civil defence control and communications will have to be done by wireless, and nothing else but wireless. No mobile column or regional commander will have the slightest control over that mobile column unless he has first-class wireless operators who are able to operate without having had any sleep for 24 or 48 hours. That calls for a high standard of training and takes a long time to achieve.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us which channels he is proposing should be used for the wireless, since all those which are available have been taken up in the interests of commercial television?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
That interjection does not require a reply either, except, perhaps, to remind the hon. Member, which he may have forgotten, that not only was there in this England a vast army of our soldiers, but there was a vast army of American soldiers. There was a vast number of aircraft in the air; thousand-bomber raids were the order of the day. There were tanks and infantry battalions, and divisions, brigades, and everything else on the air continuously 24 hours a day before D Day in this island. There were plenty of channels available, and nobody ever got into anybody else's way and the whole thing worked like magic. Of course, the wavelengths which the hon. Member talks about for television are miles off any wavelength that could ever conceivably be used in the setup of civil defence.
I do not believe that the Home Secretary today, having all the immense amount of responsibilities which he has, can really pay the attention to detail which is necessary to run this organisation. I hope and pray that soon we will have an independent director of civil defence at the Home Office who is above the two committees, composed of civil servants, who will be directly responsible to the Minister and will be a liaison officer between those committees and the Minister. That independent director must not—I repeat, not—be a civil servant.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
All of us who have listened to the speech of the Home Secretary will agree that while it was clear, detailed and informative, it was entirely lacking in any sense of urgency. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that what was required was drive and energy. None of us could detect any signs of either drive or energy in his speech, or in his suggestions for dealing with civil defence.
The only thing we heard that was of any interest was that there was to be a spare-time commander-in-chief designate. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), the former Home Secretary, dealt with that point and expressed the misgivings which any of us would have, not only on this side but in all parts of the Committee, at the idea that there should be a commander-in-chief who acts only in his spare time. What would the Army say if it were given a part-time commander-in-chief? What would the Navy or the Air Force say? It is quite intolerable to think that any man, however clever he is, would be able, in part of his time, to do the immense amount of work that is necessary to prepare civil defence.
Apart from that, we heard very little. One thing about which we heard nothing whatever was the Report of the Estimates Committee. One would have thought that that would be something with which the Home Secretary would deal, because it was a Report of great interest to all connected with civil defence and it made a number of strictures on the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Department.
There are two lines that we can take logically with regard to civil defence. The first is the line, which is taken by some people, that it is impossible to do anything and, therefore, we must abandon it all, and decide, once and for all, that we cannot defend ourselves. That is a logical line but a line which, I think, few of us in this Committee would take. If we do take that line, we must, at the same time, say that there is no need to have our other defensive measures—that there is no need to have, for instance, any antiaircraft or any fighter planes; that, in fact, we must give up the idea of defending ourselves.
If we do not intend to do that, we have to take the other line we must treat civil defence seriously. The Government have 1844 not taken the first line. They have decided that £4,700 million shall be spent in a period of three years. Both parties have decided that. The original defence programme was agreed by both parties and it was decided that £4,700 million should be spent in three years on defence.
How much of this sum was civil defence to have? It was to have £225 million, or approximately one-twentieth—not a quarter or one-fifth, which it might be entitled to expect in proportion to its importance, but one-twentieth. But what happened then? Has that one-twentieth been spent? Is there any likelihood that it will be spent? From the Report of the Estimates Committee, I understand that £33 million was spent in the first two years—£33 million as against the vast expenditure on the three Armed Forces.
The Report of the Estimates Committee instances cases of confusion, indecision and delay which are quite intolerable. I would mention just two. It appears that the building of shelters has the lowest priority. The only work that has been done is the survey of suitable sites. Apparently, the London County Council wanted to provide strengthened basements in any new building work. This does not seem a difficult decision to have to make, but apparently, the Estimates Committee says, the London County Council has been waiting for over two years for permission even to proceed with one experimental scheme. How can we run any service on that basis, with a two years' delay before a decision of that kind can be reached?
I come to the second criticism. The Estimates Committee said that the gas and electricity services wanted to have a means by which they could have alternative services in the event of there being a breakdown. Apparently, here again, there has been delay for year after year while different Departments and boards decided who was to pay. If it is considered desirable to provide alternative services and that it is necessary that certain things should be done to strengthen the gas and electricity services in the event of there being a war, surely it is obvious that one cannot delay for two years simply because it is impossible for the Government to make up their minds as to which of two or three Departments and boards should pay the money.
1845 I said earlier that we must decide that we will treat civil defence seriously. No longer should it be a sort of extra arm that we do not bother about. In the last war, our bombers defeated the Germans in their own country. They defeated the civil defence of Germany. That was one of the most important contributions to the winning of the war. In the same way, our own civil defence succeeded, I should not say entirely, in defeating the German bombers, but, at any rate, in so minimising the effects of their actions that it was possible for us to survive. In other words, the difference was between the success of German civil defence in coping with our bombers and our civil defence in coping with the German bombers. Who can say, after that, that civil defence is not of considerable importance?
There are people who take the line that the only thing that matters nowadays is that one military arm shall defeat another military arm. What happens to the civilians in the meantime is not supposed to matter. Quite apart from the fact that civilians are carrying out occupations of the greatest importance—producing munitions, food, and all the other necessities of war—we should regard civil defence as being of vital importance from the point of view of the Armed Forces themselves.
If, for instance, we have an Army in the middle of Salisbury Plan, it can provide its own civil defence, it can be a watertight department, able to work on its own. But what would happen to the military and, indeed, naval, bases in our great towns in the event of an air raid? Would they not suffer if there was any lack in civil defence.
It is quite possible that in an early period of the war there might be a danger of the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry all being blown up. Obviously, if they were blown up by a direct hit, nothing could be done. Supposing, however, a bomb fell at some distance and, as a result, these buildings were in jeopardy, is it not vital that there should be a first-class Civil Defence Service ready equipped to deal with the situation and to preserve all three?
I will make a few concrete suggestions because the Secretary of State invited us to make some. In the first place, I agree profoundly with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) in his reference 1846 to the necessity for a Civil Defence Ministry. In fact, with much of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech most of us on this side of the Committee can agree. I certainly agree with his suggestion about a Civil Defence Ministry. How can the Home Secretary hope to manage the affairs of home security in the middle of all his other work? He is not by any means low down in the scale of Ministers in the Government. We have, in fact, a very high regard for him in comparison with other Ministers, but even he is not able to manage home security along with his other multifarious duties.
From time to time we have heard complaints from our friends in Wales that they are not receiving the attention from him that they think they should have. He has Wales, television and many other matters with which to deal, and in the midst of it all there is home security. It is quite impossible for him to do it. It is just as foolish as if the Army were to be placed under the rule of the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education. There is no sense in it.
My next point is that there should be a radical overhaul of the whole system of recruiting for the service. There are three kinds of people serving in civil defence today. There are, first of all, what I would call the regulars or fulltime people. All I would say about them is that if there are not enough of them, and if the Minister is in need of more, he should put in his claim against the other Services. Today, the Armed Forces have the first claim on manpower, and only after their claims have been satisfied can the right hon. and learned Gentleman step in and say, "If there is anything left over I should like it."
I turn now to the conscripts, where the same position holds good. On this side of the Committee we are not particularly enamoured of conscription, but if there is to be conscription let civil defence share in the people who are mobilised through it. What a ludicrous position it is that we are about to consider—and I will not spend more than a moment on this—a Bill which is to direct that a certain number of airmen are to be released by the Air Ministry for temporary work. They are not to be permanently released for civil defence.
§ Mr. Wigg
As I understand, what has happened is that the Government have got themselves into a tremendous mess in calling up part-time National Service men, with the result that last year out of over 100,000 R.A.F. reservists only 8,000 got any training. One of the devices the Government have used is plain civil defence training in lieu of part-time R.A.F. training. Such training has little to do with civil defence. It is a scheme to save the face of the Service Ministers, particularly the Minister of Defence.
§ Mr. Dugdale
There is a great deal in what my hon. Friend says. Civil defence is to benefit from the mistakes of the Air Force. What a position it is that the only way civil defence can get its men is if the Air Ministry makes a mistake.
I leave the conscripts and come to the third section of men, and that is the volunteers. I agree completely with the Home Secretary that we should do nothing to discourage volunteers. I hope that nothing I will say will discourage them, but we have to face up to the position. I wrote earlier in the year to my own local council to find what the exact figures were in West Bromwich, which is not likely to have an average different from other parts of the country. This is what I was told by the town clerk:As far as we are concerned we have at the moment 384 volunteers, which is about a quarter of our peace-time establishment.This is not war-time establishment but peace-time establishment.Two hundred and sixty-eight are men and 160 women, and of these, 296 have been and are still continuing to be trained, but the remaining 88 can only be classed as non-attenders.In other words, the number attending is approximately one-fifth of the peace-time establishment. He then says, in conclusion:It should also be borne in mind that a goodly number of the 296 only put in very infrequent appearances, but they have at least had some training.That is not a very hopeful prospect. It is a situation which causes us alarm.
I would move nearer here. Within half a mile of this House there is a small civil defence class which a friend of mine attended some months ago. He told me 1848 that, originally, there were 32 people in that class. The teaching was efficient and he learned a great many things which it was necessary to learn in order to do civil defence work. But, gradually, that class diminished until only four people were left. What an intolerable state of affairs that is.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will come nearer and say that in the House of Commons there is no class at all.
§ Mr. Dugdale
How are we to have any system of volunteers working satisfactorily if people are allowed to leave a class before completing their training? We have to face up to the situation. We shall have to offer an inducement to people to encourage them to continue their training once they start. I do not know how it is to be done, but I think that some form of inducement should be given; and until it is I do not think that we shall get people to complete their courses. They must complete their training if they are to be of any use in civil defence.
I have made a few brief suggestions, but there is one thing that is essential and that thing is we have to decide once and for all that civil defence is just as important as the work of the Armed Forces. Until the Minister in charge of civil defence is able to stand up to the three Service Departments and see that he gets his share it will be hopeless for civil defence. Once it is accepted as being as important as the three Armed Services, then we can begin to build the service which every one of us desires.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
We are all indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) who, despite the fact that this debate is taking place in Opposition time, and despite the fact that reference was made to the Report of a Select Committee, set the tone for this discussion and divorced it from party politics, concentrating our attention on the necessity to try to improve the technique of civil defence. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary rather noticeably omitted any reference to that Report, and so I hope he will have regard to what was said in it more as a means of 1849 strengthening his arm and less as making it necessary to get on to the defensive.
I shall allude to three aspects of this problem which it is just as necessary to review in the face of the hydrogen bomb as ever before. I shall not refer in detail to the various unmistakable criticisms in the Report of that all-party Committee of the House of which I was a Member. I shall pick out first a point which transcends in importance all others, namely, that we found a lack of direction at the top of the pyramid of control, without which any reforms will be completely useless.
We have heard today of the appointment of a part-time controller-designate of mobile columns. I do not believe that this is any substitute for the appointment of an independent chairman of the Central Committee, divorced from the Home Office, who can provide that leadership and sense of urgency without which all the best-laid plans of the Civil Service will not mature.
We have heard today many references to the devastating effect of the new bombs and the immense number of items of planning which apparently will have to be reconsidered. I confess I am fearful that far too long a time will elapse in the rethinking and replanning made necessary by the hydrogen bomb if what we found in the evidence before the Select Committee as to the length of time it has taken to get things done in the last three or four years is any guide to the future.
Reference has also been made to the vast amount of work which falls on the Home Secretary, and how impossible it is for my right hon. and learned Friend to do justice to this vitally important topic which increases with every scientific development that is reported. I share the views of those who have urged that there should be another Front Bench appointment to take over the political direction of this fourth arm of defence.
Again, reference has been made to the need for liaison between the world of civil defence and the military authorities. If the chairman of the committee responsible for planning, independent as I would wish him to be, were a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, that would provide a most effective bridge between the world of civil defence and the military authorities. So that far the 1850 most important thing, I would urge, is a new sense of direction and urgency at the top to which, as yet, not sufficient attention has been paid.
My second point is the importance of recognising that in this field quality is far more important than quantity. My right hon. and learned Friend told us today that there were 328,000 in the Civil Defence Corps in March of this year compared with 275,000 in May of last year. This shows an inadequate increase in the rate of attainment of the peacetime strength. Another 50,000 in 10 months means that it will take four years to reach the minimum standard laid down, ignoring completely any wastage in the meantime. And on top of that is the undoubted fact that a large number of those in the 328,000 are incapable of dealing with any emergency because they are not properly trained.
The Government have said that they do not regard it as wise to institute any test of proficiency in a volunteer movement of this kind. I dissent completely from that view. It is not fair to those who are patriotic enough to give their time and attention in order to become proficient that they should be classified for defence purposes with others who, perhaps in a fit of enthusiasm or to get rid of the caller at the door, are not trained and yet are indistinguishable from those who put in great time and effort.
I share the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields and the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) that none of us would wish to say anything which detracted from the great efforts made by many volunteers, or anything that would damage recruiting. I cannot see, however, that it helps recruiting to conceal the fact that much of the force supposedly there on paper is not properly trained for the purpose for which it was designed. Therefore, so long as the voluntary principle is to remain—and outside the mobile column I hope it will remain—it would be much better if we faced up to that limitation by setting the target figures lower, in order to make sure that the quality of training given to those people will make up for what is lost in quantity.
Now I come to the mobile columns. I am glad that, after the experimental 1851 period, there are to be additional columns and that great weight is to be put on this branch. I am not clear, however, how the training of four weeks during the two-year period of National Service will make a National Service man competent to take his place in a mobile column when called up subsequently. In view of the increased responsibility and the technical aspects of the training, which increases with every year that passes, I should have thought it more and more necessary to regard men in the mobile columns as highly qualified people, needing intense training and needing as much training as does the National Service man for any branch of the three Services. I cannot think it sound to rely for action upon reservists with four weeks' training coming forward to play their part in the civil defence world of the mobile columns.
Reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields to the increased importance that we should now attach to what the Service man is thinking about the steps taken to defend his relatives and dependants at home. The more lurid and terrible descriptions we are given of what might be the effect of hydrogen bombs, the more important is it that we should have regard to those who will have to look over their shoulders and consider what steps are being taken. In other words, there will not be an overseas fighting unit and some civil defence volunteers, part of the civilian population, looking after what the enemy is doing on the home front. It will all be part and parcel of the total war about which we ought now to have learned from experience. That being so, it makes it all the more important.
The civilian element living in the area which will have to be defended can well be voluntarily based on the local authority set-up. The mobile columns which will have to go in and overcome the immense devastation cannot be anything but Regular Service men, just as highly trained and readily available and as fit and of the same age proportionately as those in the Services. Only in that way will those who are in the Fighting Services abroad or elsewhere see that all the steps in the mobile field which could have been taken by the authorities have been taken.
1852 I hope that the debate will serve the purpose of making it abundantly clear that, however terrible the effects of science may be, there is a duty upon us on compassionate grounds alone, if not first, not to say that it is so terrible that it is no use trying but to make certain that what can be done is done and that proper steps are taken in advance. I confess that I was concerned to learn of the immense changes that are imminent as a result of the existence of the hydrogen bomb and the apparent lack of drive and urgency in the solution of these problems. My fear is that we may find those things which have to be done being done no faster than they have been in the past.
I hope that contributions to this debate will be couched not in any party spirit but in terms of seeing how best the system can be worked, of strengthening the Home Secretary in the determination, which I am certain he possesses, to cope with the situation in the most effective way possible and of strengthening him in taking whatever decisions he thinks right.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) has made a very constructive speech and has put forward suggestions on how to put zip and energy into civil defence. Similar suggestions on how to improve civil defence were made by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) and the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer). We have had three constructive speeches, but all three hon. Gentlemen will be suffering under a grave delusion if they believe that these proposals will have any effect upon the Government. I can assure them, and the Government know this as well as I know it, that the Chiefs of Staff have decided that civil defence shall remain a façade; the Cabinet has accepted the view of the Chiefs of Staff, and the function of the Home Secretary is to make it look as if there is something solid behind the façade.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
That is a most extraordinary statement for which clearly we must have some assurance that the hon. Member has complete authority, because it reflects very much on my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Crossman
I can assure the hon. Member that I shall prove up to the hilt the assertion that I have made.
One of the ways of deciding how much people care about things is to find how much they are willing to spend on them. In this year of grace, in this year of the hydrogen homb, the House of Commons has passed Estimates for £1,550 million for weapons of offence and £29 million for civil defence, or one-fiftieth of the sum devoted to the armoured brigades, the quarter-masters and the rest of the paraphernalia of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Therefore, one-fiftieth of the interest shown in the Army, Navy and Air Force is shown in civil defence. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite will follow me to the end of my speech, I shall make constructive suggestions for transferring the balance of priority from tanks and H-bombs and hundred of millions of pounds to be devoted to building aeroplanes for dropping H-bombs on Moscow while we completely neglect any serious provision, I will not say for the defence of the civil population, but even for the rescue of the fragments of the civil population which will survive.
§ Mr. Summers
Will the hon. Member make good in the latter part of his speech the damage to recruiting which he is making in the first part?
§ Mr. Crossman
I will say this, to start with, about civil defence work in Coventry. I speak with special interest. We in Coventry were victims of the first blitz on a provincial city in 1940–41. We had faithfully carried out all the precautions and organisation which we had been instructed to carry out before the war by the authorities in London. We put up the brown paper and we had our control centres organised. We had carried out every single one of the precautions which we were told would enable us to defend our city. They proved utterly hopeless in the blitz. Everything had to be improvised in that emergency. We now say to the Government that we believe that the present civil defence organisation in terms of the conditions of 1954 is as utterly unrealistic as A.R.P. was in 1939.
We have been attacked and vilified in the Press and motions and resolutions 1854 have been passed saying that our city council was "ratting" when it made its protest and wound up its civil defence committee a few weeks ago. When we made that protest we continued our civil defence organisation. I will not worry the Committee with the figures, but we are spending on civil defence this a year a great deal more than Stoke-on-Trent is spending and more per head of the population than three-quarters of the rest of the boroughs, but we decided to make our protest against the façade.
What brought us to that decision and the final thing which provoked us to civil insurrection against the Home Secretary was that we discovered that the Home Secretary had instructed the City of Coventry to build a control centre for civil defence above ground and with land telephone lines. In 1954 we were to waste our rates and the Government's money on a control centre above ground and with telephone lines, when in 1940–41 a similar control centre was knocked out within half an hour of the beginning of a raid by a 400–1b. bomb. Now, with the hydrogen bomb in existence, we are told to waste good money in deceiving—whom? The civil defence workers? Are they deceived? They know. We shall not get volunteer civil defence workers in this country by pretending that a control centre above ground with telephone lines is any good at all in 1954.
I assert to the Home Secretary that the civil defence preparations today are adequate to deal with the equivalent of the Coventry blitz of 1940–41 but totally inadequate to deal even with the equivalent of the R.A:F. raids on Hamburg in 1943. The Home Secretary has not learned what the German civil defence had to learn in the face of the enormous T.N.T. raids on Germany. It was part of my job during the war to read a secret report which the German authorities made after the Hamburg raids. Hamburg was totally demoralised at one time and if the raids had gone on without A.R.P. German city after German city would have had panicked and trekked. After one of the phosphorous raids the Germans issued an instruction that it was illegal for a citizen to remain outside a shelter after the siren had sounded and it was illegal to stay inside the shelter after the all-clear siren had gone. Everybody was forced to take protection 1855 during the raid and afterwards was forced out to take part in the civil defence of the city. That is how they beat the R.A.F. blitz.
I do not know whether present conditions do not change the lesson of the T.N.T. raids of 1943. All I know is that in Coventry we are instructed to spend money to get people to volunteer and to organise a civil defence that would have been ineffective even against such raids as those of the R.A.F. in 1943. We are told by the Home Secretary, "I am having to wait a bit for the plans for dealing with the H-bomb"; but there have been the A-bomb, the 10,000-lb. bomb and the rocket to deal with. After all that, he spends £29 million in order to present a façade.
Will the Home Secretary explain to us in Coventry why he instructed us to spend money on building a control centre above ground with telephone lines, sent his officials to Coventry—after we had protested—to make political speeches against us in Coventry, and have H-bomb exercises in our city which presupposed that there had been an H-bomb near miss of Birmingham and yet our Coventry civil defence was still in being? I say that type of exercise does not stimulate recruiting, because everyone knows it is sheer nonsense. Everyone knows, however, that the amount which is being spent cannot do anything serious and that the Government are not prepared to face the British people with the realities.
I have noticed a certain politeness in smoothing over the realities. We are told there is a terrible risk. But we put ourselves deliberately into that risk. What nation agreed to have atom-bombers stationed near Oxford? What nation agreed to have American fighters carrying torpedoes with atomic heads in Norfolk? What nation agreed that, in the event of Russian aggression with conventional weapons, H-bombers would be used? What nation has committed itself to a strategy for using Hand A-bombs first before the other side uses them and so committing national suicide by provoking reprisals?
I can understand the Americans doing that, but not that this island of 50 million people should accept as a strategy of self-defence that atom- or H-bombers should 1856 fly from this country and destroy Moscow and that we should spend £29 million to provide against the consequences of that policy on our own civilian population. Do not tell me that civil defence workers will be very enthusiastic until they get an answer to the question why that policy was accepted, The Government may say, "We do not really believe that; it is all just bluff. The Russians will be nice and kind and will not really do it." Here I agree with the Prime Minister who, time after time, has pointed out the grave risk which this country put itself in by accepting the responsibility of having A-bombers here and so putting us deliberately into the most precarious position in the world.
Militarily we are an atomic aircraft carrier for someone else, and the civilian people of this country are as much in danger as soldiers, sailors and airmen on an aircraft carrier under attack. On this island we are all shut up in an aircraft carrier. And yet we are spending £1,500 million on the Army, Navy and Air Force and only £29 million—one-fiftieth—on civil defence. As the Select Committee Report overwhelmingly proved, we are not even spending that, and the officials are not really believing in it. Do not let us blame the officials, for it is the Home Secretary who is responsible for giving them a lead. He cannot give them a lead. Why? It is because his Service colleagues in the Cabinet will not release the proportion of their Estimates necessary to make civil defence a genuine reality.
No one pretends that we can add to the bill of £1,500 million for the Army, Navy and Air Force another £300 million or £400 million for civil defence. Everyone knows that we are over the top limit on the defence budget, and, therefore, it is the interest of the three Service chiefs to ensure that civil defence is starved. The Army say, "We want this," the Navy say, "We want that," and the Air Force say, "We want that." They have the Home Secretary there to pretend that civil defence is being provided for on £29 million.
A strange thing about Conservative Governments is that they have the great power of selecting men who are so honest and personally attractive that their personal honesty can be used to conceal the dishonesty of the policy they represent. 1857 If any other Cabinet Minister had made the speech the Home Secretary made today, with that list of dreary platitudes and evasions, he would not have got through it. It is only because we like him so much that he got away with it.
I was not in the House when his predecessor in the art of façade, then Sir Thomas Inskip and later Lord Caldecote, was Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence under the Chamberlain Government. He was a past-master of the art which the Home Secretary is practising. It is the art which suggests that everything is all right, plans are being provided and it will come all right on the day; but we know now that nothing was being done in the 1930s and we know that that nothing is being done for civil defence now. The Home Secretary may even persuade himself—although I doubt whether he can do so, because he is an intelligent man—that the brief he was reading was an honest one. We know it is a deliberate attempt to throw sand in everyone's eyes and it is not succeeding with civil defence workers.
Coming back to Coventry—we in Coventry are concerned about civil defence. It is true that we had only 550 killed last time. That was early in the war to defend freedom, liberty and decency, and the casualties from the R.A.F. raids in Hamburg were 50,000 and in Tokio from the American raids, 300,000. The system and science of human destruction developed rapidly after the Coventry Blitz. But even in 1940 there was no real civil defence. We did not even have enough coffins in which to bury the killed. We would like to know what provision is now being made for the number of coffins required next time. Let me assure the Home Secretary that that is important.
These are important questions; they are real issues which face human beings in the modern age of total war. There would be 50,000 casualties in such a raid. Will there be a blood bank available for the living and coffins for the dead? On every one of the detailed issues on which the delegation waited on the Home Secretary last week he has replied saying, "The Committee will not expect me—" or "It is being given careful scrutiny" or "Further examination is being made."
1858 Take the question of evacuation. The Home Secretary knows that it is no good talking about our being a brave people. I will tell him something. When the next war starts and it is known that an atom or hydrogen bomb will be dropped on this country—and that will be known on the first day that one is dropped on Moscow—there will be a mass trek out of the industrial areas. Either that will be organised by the Government or it will be unorganised. From Coventry 100,000 people went away from the city on the night of the great raid and lay in the fields outside. What will happen when people know that extermination is coming to London within the next 24 hours? The Home Secretary said, "You cannot expect us to have a plan ready." But we already have the atom bombs ready. All the weapons of the blitz are there and can go at any moment to Moscow, but he says there is no plan for civil defence. All the offensive plans are ready, but the defensive plans are not. Is that not a fact? The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not deny it.
Take another question—industrial dispersal. I am informed that the City of Coventry is now producing two-thirds in value of the total British rearmament programme. It is making most of the jets. In 1938 we sent a delegation to the Government and said, "You have planned to put most of the key arms factories in Coventry. Cannot you disperse them?" The Government said, "It is really impossible." Now we have exactly the same situation all over again—two-thirds in value of Britain's total rearmament programme produced in one city of 250,000 people which is going to be destroyed on the first day of the next war. We have a certain interest in the next war in Coventry. We ask, "What are you going to do about it? What dispersal of the rearmament programme are you contemplating before the war, and what dispersal or rehabilitation of the industry which survives after the war starts are you contemplating?"
We have no answer whatever because there is no plan. The Government have not the ghost of a notion what they would do to disperse industry or evacuate the population in the event of war. They know exactly what they would do to destroy the Russian civilian population, but they have not a vestige of a plan for defending our own civilian population or 1859 for rescuing it from the extermination which will be precipitated on it by our own strategy. That is why civil defence workers are not all that enthusiastic today. They want to be told one or two answers to their problems.
I turn to one or two of the other detailed problems which we put privately to the Home Secretary, and which I should like to put to him again. It strikes me that one of the most important problems is concerned with food. We have a Tory Government which is going to wind up the Ministry of Food. Yet if we are facing total war the organisation of food supplies is absolutely vital, because food is the biggest restorer of morale.
We heard what the Home Secretary said on the subject. He said that we are to have emergency food services quite separate from the mobile columns, hospitals, etc. Each Government Department is to send its mobile army to an afflicted area; there will be five, six or seven rushing in—all to be "co-ordinated." It did not work last time when our city was hit. A virtual dictatorship had to be established in Coventry between the military and civilian authorities. This time there will not be a city but a whole area devastated.
Last time the need was to co-ordinate the effort in a city to ensure that all the fire engines did not go to one bomb incident A so that there were none left to go to incidents B to Z. This time there will be one bomb which will spread devastation so far as to go far beyond the boundaries of a little local authority. Yet here we have the Home Secretary tenaciously holding the view that the organisation of civil defence rescue work should be based on the local authority.
Local authority organisation is pretty bad now and needs reorganisation in terms of peace. But think in terms of what will be needed, in war, for the rescue of what is left of our population by 101 bickering local authorities. Yet the Home Secretary is asking each of them to organise and recruit their own civil defence services, to be assisted by endless rival Government Departments each coming in with its private army. What civil defence worker is likely to feel enthusiastic at such a ludicrous plan?
1860 We in Coventry have studied this problem. In our view, static civil defence, based on the local authority, is as antiquated in 1954 as it would be to use the Elizabethan method for calling up soldiers locally through the justices of the peace. Civil defence must now be a national problem or nothing at all. It must be planned nationally and administered regionally.
We have abolished the regional commissioners. We are even worse off than we were in 1940. We have denationalised the Fire Service. Where is the unit of administration which will plan, through hundreds of local authorities, how to come to the assistance of city A and move hundreds of thousands of people elsewhere? Is it not obvious that here we need national planning and a regional administration of military and civil defence, working together on a regional basis, such as we set up in the last war? We should not, without the regional commissioners' offices, have been able to resist even the blitz in 1941. How are we going to do this planning seriously if we do not restore the regional commissioners' offices in peace-time.
§ Mr. Crossman
Here is one of the problems. If we face the problems of total war and try to defend ourselves in total war we end up, of course, by cutting away the liberties of the citizen.
There are other ways of dealing with this problem, but I am only saying that, given the Government's foreign policy and strategy, and as they are committing this country to be certainly attacked in the first week of the next war, we must consider what methods we have with which to defend the population. I make my first principle that there must be national planning and regional organisation.
The second principle is that the mobile columns must be military columns. I agree with my right hon. Friend that it would be a great mistake to hand all civil defence over to the military but I think that mobile defence must be military. Here is a vital solution which will indicate how far the Government really care about civil defence. I say that at least a third of our National Service men should be used during their period 1861 of service for the job of forming permanent peace-time mobile columns. If the Government say "What a waste of time; we cannot waste them on mobile columns, they have a more important job to do than that," that shows how low the Government rate civil defence compared with the Fighting Services. It is all very well to make speeches for civil defence but not to vote the money. If we are agreed about the importance of civil defence, we must be prepared to allocate a number of conscripts, not for a fortnight of part time service, but in their period of call-up, so that we know that we have the columns activated in peace-time.
If someone says that that is a waste of a conscript's time, my reply is that I prefer them to waste their time that way rather than in sitting on their backsides in Suez, or in being involved in the situation in Kenya, which we are told is defending democracy, or in sitting in Malaya, or, now, even in defending Dr. Adenaeur. There are a good many occupations I know of for our National Service men, but there is only one I know to be wholly justifiable and good—that is for them to be organised in mobile columns which can come to the aid of a stricken city if destruction should come.
If the Home Secretary says that we will have these people trained and then call them up after the war has started, I reply that our strategy lays it down that the first act of the next war should be an H-bomb on Moscow. How do I know? From the Defence White Paper. The Conservative Defence White Paper devotes four pages to saying that the next war will start with an exchange of thermonuclear weapons, and then there will be the "broken-backed" stage. The Government have committed themselves and said that our strategy is based on the assumption that Britain will be hit by thermo-nuclear weapons in the first stage of the next war.
What does the White Paper say about civil defence? At the end it says that no further increase is contemplated in the cost of civil defence! We are committing ourselves to H-bombs and bombers to the extent of £200 million a year, but not a penny more is to be added to the £29 million for rescuing our people from the results of the Government's strategy.
What are the facts with which the Home Secretary did not deal today? I 1862 revert to food. I was saying that food organisation was vital. I was talking the other day to one of our most distinguished ex-air marshals, whose opinion I would trust. He said, "You know, Crossman, Coventry is perfectly right. This static civil defence is suicide. If you seriously want civil defence in this country, your first step is to assure the food supplies and to see that you have alternative ports after Liverpool and Glasgow have been wiped out on the first day. Would it not be wonderful to have four or five Mulberry harbours built in peacetime to establish provisional temporary ports in Ireland, or Wales, in order to get in the food—because people cannot live without food?"
That air marshal was thinking seriously. But it would cost £500 million to have four or five Mulberries, and we cannot afford it. We are told time after time about civil defence that if we are to do the job properly it will cost hundreds of millions of pounds. Of course it will. To build Mulberries, to organise a shelter policy—whatever that may be—and to disperse industry would cost hundreds of millions of pounds. I say to the Home Secretary that so long as he permits himself to defend the Government's White Paper on defence, he has an obligation to provide that money for the defence of the civil population.
I must say frankly that the more I face this problem of civil defence the more I realise that to take it seriously is, in a way, to demand the impossible of this island of ours, and the more I realise that it is in the realms of foreign policy that our efforts should be made. Yet I agree that it is quite possible that we shall not get agreement between America and Russia and we may have to make provision for Fl-bomb attack. I should be prepared to vote that one-third of the total Defence Estimates should be spent on civil defence and that one-third of our conscripts should go into mobile columns. But I will also say that that is not a satisfactory way of dealing with the problem, and since the Home Secretary addressed me on foreign affairs, I will make one practical suggestion to him.
Some of us have suggested that the N.A.T.O. Powers should make a solemn declaration that they would not use thermo-nuclear weapons unless someone 1863 else used them first. I know why that proposal is being opposed. It is because since 1945 the Americans have relied on their technological advance in thermo-nuclear weapons to counterbalance the Russian preponderance in manpower and conventional weapons. They have calculated that if we have atomic weapons and threaten to use them, we can deter the Russians. No deterrent is effective unless you are prepared to use it, and accordingly America and Britain have become committed to using these weapons first.
I say in all solemnity to the Home Secretary: Why on earth should not we say what we all know—that this country will not tolerate the use of the H-bomb against anybody unless it has been used by them first? If we do not know that, the crime of not providing civil defence is quite immoral. If anyone tells me that they are prepared to use the H-bomb against Russia in an initial attack without providing civil defence, I say that they are behaving like a general who equips his soldiers with machine guns which are weapons of destruction and then says, "I cannot afford to equip you with anything to protect you against the use of these weapons." Anyone who treated his soldiers in that way would be called a murderer—if he said, "We will give you weapons of destruction, but we cannot afford to protect you against these weapons if they are used by the other side."
We have never treated our soldiers like that, but we have said that to our civilians for eight years. I am not making party political propaganda out of this. It was also said by the Labour Government. But we must remember that since the Labour Government went out of office things have become much worse. The hydrogen bomb has been invented. Thermo-nuclear weapons exist on both sides which make it certain that if Anglo-American strategy is implemented the shock will fall on this country first.
I say to the Home Secretary—and here I think I speak also for the Coventry City Council—that my form of civil defence would be either a declaration that Britain would not manufacture H-bombers or bombs at all; or a declaration that Britain pledges herself not to use these weapons unless they are used against us, and demands a similar pledge from 1864 America. It America refuses to give such a pledge, we should say with regret, "Gentlemen, Dr. Adenauer may permit American H-bombers and H-bombs, and provide airfields in Germany, but we do not feel happy that airfields in this country are occupied by a Power not prepared to pledge itself against using the H-bomb first. if you cannot give us that pledge, go home, or go to Germany, or Spain, or Formosa, or any other satellite country. But this country is one which is not prepared to expose itself to the crime of condoning a decision to use the H-bomb first."
The Home Secretary should realise that in military terms it is insanity for this country to have no plans whatsoever for the evacuation of our population or the dispersal of our industries or for the creation of new ports, and yet to have an H-bomb strategy. Morale does not depend only on inner private personal courage. It depends also on whether there is a chance of survival; and a Government not prepared for the eventualities for which it is responsible, and which puts its citizens in a hopeless situation, must expect those citizens to say, "No." It must expect the voluntary trek if it does not organise an evacuation; it must expect nerves to be shattered in a city such as Coventry if it has to face the next war without any shelters.
I apologise for keeping the House so long, but I felt that it was time to bring a sense of reality to this debate. I regret that no vote is being taken tonight. I thought it very significant that only a handful of hon. Members found it worth while to stay and listen in the Chamber this afternoon when this subject was being discussed. But they reflect public opinion. However, public opinion has been deliberately misled by the Government. The Government have told the public, "Look, you must be loyal to the civil defence preparations and you can be assured that everything possible is being done." The Government have lied to the public. It is a lie that everything possible is being done. It is a lie even that the Government intend to do everything possible, for the Chiefs of Staff will not permit it.
If I am told that the Home Secretary knows that is the situation; that he will not tolerate it; that he is going to fight the three Service chiefs and get £400 million for civil defence from the Service 1865 Estimates, I will congratulate him as a great man. But he was not given his job in order to do that. With his charm and niceness, he was given the job in order to deceive us, in order that his honesty should impress us and make us connive at permitting this façade—a position which my city council protests against to the full.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)
Those of us who—unlike some hon. Members who have most loudly applauded the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)—have listened to this debate from the beginning must be impressed by the radical difference in the approach of that hon. Member and that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who spoke from his own Front Bench. The difference is that the right hon. Member for South Shields has had to carry the responsibilities of the Home Office and of civil defence, and knows that most of the vicious and powerful attack which the hon. Member for Coventry, East has just delivered could equally have been delivered against the Labour Government which he supported.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East had the opportunity to make a valuable, as well as a powerful, contribution to this debate. In my judgment, he has preferred to make a mischievous one. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He has suggested to this Committee and to the country that the problem of civil defence can be effectively solved by withdrawing one-third of the National Service men now in the Armed Forces, surrendering to Communism and giving way to Mau Mau. That is what his practical proposals amounted to.
Until now I have always thought that in a debate on civil defence we should all be seeking ways to sustain civilian morale. What the hon. Member has said in this debate will certainly have shaken the morale both of civil defence volunteers and of those who have hitherto believed that civil defence work was important. He will have done that, and I greatly doubt whether he will have given service to his own constituents in Coventry or to anyone else by suggesting that there is an easy way out—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—an easy way out by the submission that it would be simple to 1866 change Britain's foreign policy and thereby make civil defence on the requisite scale unnecessary.
I want to return to the assumption, which, I think, we must all make, that an effective civil defence force is essential and that we have to do the job in the light of necessary commitments simultaneously in other directions. The right hon. Member for South Shields may remember that I came to him with an all-party deputation from the London County Council three years ago to voice anxiety at the slow progress of civil defence in London. My remarks now will apply to both Governments we have had since the passing of the 1948 Act. I say that I am still grievously concerned.
I took part in a debate here—I believe it was the last full length civil defence debate we had—in July, 1952. I then particularly asked the Home Secretary to give civil defence more of his personal attention. I should like here publicly to thank him for responding so generously to that request, for having gone up and down the country making speeches where he believed it would be helpful, and showing that whatever were the limitations on what we could do, he himself was wholeheartedly behind the effort.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I also was present at that debate. Did not the hon. Member get the Home Secretary at that time to declare a policy on air raid shelters; and what is the result?
§ Mr. Brooke
If the hon. Member will wait I was going to deal with that subject later in my remarks.
Surely we are all accepting that since that debate the problem of civil defence has been rendered far more difficult by the advent of the hydrogen bomb. Some of us on both sides of the Committee have been expressing the view that the date when we shall have a practical solution of all these intractable problems sometimes seems further off than ever, despite the fact that two years have passed. All the same, we shall not find solutions by ignoring essential facts in the situation with which we have to cope.
On one matter we are all agreed. It is that there is need for the mobile columns to be built up, and to be made into really workmanlike battleworthy units. I felt myself glowing with welcome 1867 when the Home Secretary said that he was planning to appoint a commander-in-chief designate of the mobile forces. I confess that the glow faded when I learned that it was to be only a part-time appointment. Even so, there was no need for the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) to twist that and to suggest that it was a spare-time appointment. When the right hon. Gentleman himself takes on a spare-time job none of us will say that he is doing it as a spare-time extra.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I do not wish to interrupt, but what is the difference between the two? It seems to me that he is only using that part of his time which he can spare.
§ Mr. Brooke
When I take on a part-time job I take it on in a different spirit.
The Home Secretary has told the House that under his proposals we shall, by 1960, have 90,000 men who will have had four weeks' training in mobile column work. In the original announcement made to the House by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, it was said that there would be 30,000 men trained each year. That conveyed to many people outside that 30,000 additional men would be trained every year. The Home Secretary's remarks today have made it clear that it will be 15,000, in addition to the 15,000 who have already had a fortnight's training the previous year.
I wish to support what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has said to the effect that four weeks' training for mobile column participation will be far too short unless these men have had well planned training in the kind of action which it will be essential to them to understand and to be practised in before the four weeks' training. Otherwise, it seems to me that in relation to the tremendous responsibilities a short period of four weeks will be ludicrous.
The White Paper on Defence—as the hon. Member for Coventry, East, who has already left the Committee, mentioned—indicated the Government's view that a war would start with a period of intense atomic attacks followed by a longer period of "broken-backed" warfare. This theory means that the peak load on 1868 the mobile columns will fall at the very outbreak of war. This is one of the first problems that we look to the new commander-in-chief designate to solve—how he, with the resources which he is given, will be able to build up in peace-time not only a sufficient but a sufficiently-trained force to carry the main responsibilities of rescue and fire-fighting in different parts of the country the moment war is upon us. Clearly, the announcement of a part-time commander-in-chief does not meet the request of the Mabane Committee, repeated in its Second Report. The Mabane Committee said:…an immediate step towards this objective would be the introduction of an individual of the highest competence and national reputation, who, by the special nature of his office, would be capable of inspiring public confidence, and would provide the leadership which is so essential to recruitment and training.If this man is properly selected, and is given a full-time appointment, then he can perform that service, but if it is to be only a part-time appointment then I must fear that the hobgoblin that has bedevilled so many of our civil defence plans in the past has entered into this appointment also.
For my own part, I do not agree with what the Select Committee said on the relatively lesser importance which they thought should be attached to the local authority Civil Defence Services. The Select Committee, in my judgment, did harm to recruiting and did less than justice not only to the plans but to the realised results of what the local authorities were doing.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us which paragraph in the Report he is criticising?
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Gentleman is sitting next to the chairman of the Sub-Committee, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), which produced the Report. I think he will be able to direct the hon. Gentleman's attention to it.
§ Mr. MacColl
On a point of order.
Surely if an hon. Member purports to paraphrase a very large Report and says that something is in it of which the chairman and certainly I, as a member of that Sub-Committee, have no recollection, is it reasonable that the hon. Member should ride off without giving us the paragraph?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson)
The question whether it is reasonable or not may arise, but it is hardly a point of order.
§ Mr. Brooke
I grant to the hon. Member that I was paraphrasing, but in paragraph (viii) of the summary of recommendations, the Select Committee said:Urgent consideration should be given to the balance of expenditure between the Civil Defence Services and mobile columns, because the Civil Defence Corps would appear to be extravagant and inefficient …I hope that the Chairman of the Sub-Committee will have an opportunity of taking part in this debate later. I will certainly correct any wrong impression that I may have created in the light of anything that he says, for I am ready to agree with the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) if he says that six years after the Civil Defence Act was passed there is still a certain unreality about civil defence at the local level.
He knows London as I do. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) spoke of shelters. There are up to the present virtually no shelters in London, the chief target city of the country. There are up to the present virtually no emergency water supplies yet ready, and most of us who had anything to do with civil defence in the last war discovered before the end of it that the principal task was to prevent the whole place being burned down.
I agree with the line which the Select Committee took in suggesting that there had been failure in working out the priorities and in planning a proper programme of capital works with approved completion dates in the various sections. That, to my mind, was the most valuable criticism contained in the Select Committee's Report. It is useless to call civil defence the fourth arm of defence unless it is treated as the Armed Forces are treated in respect of capital equipment.
Nobody admires more than I do the sacrifice and keenness of thousands of volunteers who are giving up their spare time to civil defence training. They are an example to all of us. But when global figures are quoted for recruitment throughout the country, those figures cover terrifying blanks. Anyone who has looked up the figures for the different parts of London will see that whereas certain boroughs have come 1870 forward splendidly in the matter of recruitment, there are other boroughs where the results are most disappointing, and some of those include what we should regard as target parts of the city, judging by the last war.
I ask myself what I would do if I were given the job of recruiting more volunteers to civil defence in a large city which might be a target in the next war. I should hate to have the job. But my first instinct would be to see whether I could get fully on to my side all those who seemed to be the leaders of public opinion, those people who are looked up to for their positions or their personalities—the mayors and lord mayors, the principal employers and the trade union leaders of the neighbourhood, those women who had taken the foremost part in women's voluntary services and the like—and I should make sure that they were all backing the drive for civil defence volunteers with their whole strength.
If I were to do that, I would have to recognise that such people would ask businesslike questions. They would be bound to ask by what date some reasonable shelter provision for the city might be completed. They would be bound to ask, if they had experience of the damage caused by fire in the last war, what progress was being made with fire-fighting plans and emergency water supplies, and by what date, after a declaration of war, the city would reach a reasonable state of readiness in those respects. Frankly, they would not be much comforted to be told that the warning system was better than ever and that there was a fully adequate supply of sirens ready to fit.
§ Mr. Brooke
I agree with hon. Members on the Select Committee, now sitting on both sides of this Committee, who have said that fundamentally there has not been sufficient attention paid to priorities. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said in his statement on the Select Committee Report:The policy of Her Majesty's Government has been to prepare a carefully considered 1871 programme of priorities and to select—generally speaking—those measures which are best calculated to assist the military effort without making demands upon our resources to an extent which would be inconsistent with the maintenance of a peace-time economy. If it had been decided that civil defence should develop pari passu with the Armed Forces, not only would the planned expenditure have been multiplied several fold, but the tempo of its progress would have been sharply quickened."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January, 1954; Vol. 522, c. 273.]If I may analyse that, it seems to me to say that those parts of civil defence preparations which can go forward without interfering with the needs of the Armed Forces will go forward, even though they may not be the most urgent from the civil defence point of view. That is precisely what has happened. That is precisely what is causing many people now in civil defence to ask whether successive Governments have meant business.
§ Mr. Brooke
Many of these people whom I should like to approach in order to get them to lead in the drive for civil defence volunteers have, unfortunately, already gained the impression that successive Cabinets have decided that civil defence is to rank as a sort of shepherd's pie, that it can have the bits and oddments which are left over unused from everything else, from all the demands of all the other Departments, and that the Home Secretary and his advisers must make out of those oddments the best dish they can. That is my view, and I must state it strongly, because I believe that such great issues are at stake for the future safety of the civilian population.
If my reading of the situation at Cabinet level is correct, I can well understand those who are in charge of the administrative direction of civil defence below that level feeling that they will be obeying Cabinet wishes best if they proceed somewhat as one does in a slow bicycle race, keeping going, but not risking the loss of anything by going too fast. I am not criticising any individuals. I believe that this atmosphere and tempo, which I regard as entirely wrong, follows from Cabinet decisions which have been taken by successive Governments.
1872 Except for one speech, the Commmittee has managed to maintain the tradition of many years of having what I might call a bi-partisan civil defence policy, at any late on the back benches. Back bench Members on both sides of the House cannot possibly have the inner knowledge which would enable them to say exactly what shape and form civil defence, as the fourth arm of defence, should take at any moment. But what we can do is to join together and adjure the Cabinet to agree that the dangers for the country of slow motion civil defence preparations are too great to be any longer borne.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) has praised the tradition of the House in dealing with civil defence in a back-bench, bipartisan manner. That has certainly been the case on this occasion. Not a single speech has been made by a Member on either side of the Committee in defence of the Home Secretary or the administration of civil defence. The hon. Member started by attacking my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) but, although he did not use the more excitable language and methods of my hon. Friend, in the last third of his speech the hon. Member said almost exactly word for word what was said by my hon. Friend.
The hon. Member praised the Home Secretary for going up and down the country and making speeches, but speeches do not make civil defence. The hon. Member recognised that when he referred to the necessity for appealing to leaders of public opinion to carry out recruitment work. He said that they could not do that if they were intelligent men and asked intelligent questions, because they would find that there was nothing on which to base the recruitment of volunteers.
It will be no secret to hon. Members that I am not always in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, and I think he greatly exaggerated his case on this occasion, but one cannot discuss this matter without making some estimate of the possible strategy of a possible enemy. The statement by the Government in the Defence White Paper has already been quoted. They anticipate that a war would start with intense atomic attacks, leading in a short time to what 1873 they call "broken backed" warfare. I do not think it is necessary to assume, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East did, that these atomic or hydrogen bomb attacks would be started by this country in the first place.
Even since the publication of the White Paper the situation as we can envisage it has become worse, because we now know of the effects of the hydrogen bomb, against which defence would seem to be almost impossible unless we spend such a vast amount of money on civil defence as appears to have been done in Sweden, where the whole population can go underground. I would say that the cost to this country would be quite impossible. Very much greater emphasis should be placed on the complete evacuation of cities for a short time except for workers in essential services, including that of civil defence, who could be housed in deep shelters, a reasonable number of which might be provided for them alone.
I consider it possible that the hydrogen or atomic bomb might not be used at all, at any rate in the first few weeks of the war. One cannot be certain about that, but if evacuation were carried out war production would not be affected for the first week or two, and it might happen that because these weapons are now possessed by both sides neither side would use them. The same situation might arise as arose in the last war, when poison gas was not used. We must, however, expect very concentrated attacks by high explosive bombs, and no doubt atomic bombs; although the fact that both sides possess the hydrogen bomb might lead to the end of bombing of civilians altogether, because of the fear of reprisals. This is because—as Captain Liddell Hart has suggested, and as I think is not absolutely impossible, although hon. Members may think it is completely ludicrous—anyone seeing an enemy aeroplane approaching will assume that it contains a hydrogen bomb and will press the button to send one back in the opposite direction, and therefore bombing might not be used at all. However, we must prepare for the use of the atomic bomb, and certainly the high explosive bomb.
Civil defence has two clear and quite separate duties, which are frequently confused, and have been confused in this debate First, it has to deal with persons 1874 evacuated from cities either before or after an attack, and provide all the necessary services, including casualty and hospital services. Secondly, it has to operate rescue, life-saving and property protection forces in face of a large-scale attack, either while the attack is going on or immediately afterwards.
I shall deal with the second duty first, because it has created by far the more controversy. The Report of the Select Committee on Estimates has been much attacked. Mention has been made in today's debate of its supposed effect upon the morale of the Civil Defence Services. I consider that this criticism of the Report is quite unjustified, and one or two hon. Members have already spoken to that effect. The Home Secretary, who made a most appalling and complacent reply to the Select Committee, received no support for that reply. In leading articles in "The Times" he was twice attacked with a critical severity which I cannot ever remember, having been used before against a Cabinet Minister. No one came to his rescue in the correspondence columns of that newspaper, although one would have thought that if anybody was available to come to his rescue it would have been through "The Times."
I received several letters in support of the Select Committee's findings, and none in antagonism. I should like to quote one letter which came from a civil defence officer in a city in the Midlands. It said:The encouragement which your Report has given civil defence officers comes from the fact that an unbiased investigation has been made which has ventilated many shortcomings in the operational organisation of the Civil Defence Corps. These shortcomings were not unknown to those of us who were full-time professional officers in the service.We were criticised for saying that the Civil Defence Corps was a façade. It was assumed that this was an attack upon civil defence volunteers or local authorities who were trying to carry out the instructions of successive Governments, but it was nothing of the sort. In fact, the Select Committee's Report was itself based upon the evidence of local authority representatives and volunteers.
Anyone who says that the present Civil Defence Corps is a success, or is even beginning to approach being a success, is simply sticking his head into 1875 the sand. It is no good pretending something is happening when it is quite evident that it is not, and nothing can do more to dissipate morale than to go on pretending that the figures of membership of the Civil Defence Corps are of some credit to its recruitment when everybody knows, first, that the figures are much too low, and, second, that only a proportion of those who remain in the Corps ever do any work. I very much regret that immediately before the Select Committee's Report came out and particularly afterwards the Home Secretary was led to make utterly misleading speeches throughout the country. I regret that he does not seem to have stopped doing so, for he made one before coming to this debate.
What are the facts about the Civil Defence Corps? The facts are, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman told us, that the strength of the corps today is 328,000 as compared with just over 300,000 at 31st December. That is approximately 60 per cent. of its peacetime establishment. The first thing one has to realise about those approximately 300,000 volunteers is that at no time during the last two years has the number of those who have completed their basic training exceeded 30 per cent. As for the section training, the final training for the work in the particular section of the corps to which a volunteer will be attached, the latest figures show that approximately 9 per cent. have completed their section training, which is approximately 5 per cent.—or less than that—of the peacetime establishment, However, the peacetime establishment itself is only one-third of the wartime establishment, so that, after five years of the Civil Defence Corps we have under 2 per cent. of the volunteers, of the membership, trained in the services which they will be required to operate.
The situation is really very much worse than that because in the large cities, as the Home Secretary told me in reply to a Question early in the year, at 31st December last only 15 per cent. of the peacetime establishment of the Corps had completed their basic training, and of those who had the proportion is far higher in the welfare services than in the essential and, perhaps, more difficult rescue sec 1876 tions. In many of the major cities not a single person had at that time, that is to say, at the end of the year, completed his section training in the Corps. It is generally agreed, as was said in evidence, that less than two-thirds of those recruited ever turn up for training at all, and of those who do only one in six remains a keen member of the Corps. For none of them is any test of proficiency required as a condition of continued membership of the Corps.
Perhaps this is not surprising in view of the apparently inadequate nature of the training. It was stated in evidence to the Committee that training was boring, dull and inadequate, and the Home Secretary has today at last admitted that this was the case, because he said that the training schedules were being reorganised. I would quote another of the letters I have received. It is from a volunteer in the Corps in a South London area, and he says:I and many others have been in the Corps for three years and nine months. I have been put through basic training twice, because there was nothing else to offer in our second year. We started our section training in the third year but could not complete it for lack of material, message forms, tallies and the necessary gear for detecting radio-active rays. Since last July our section (Headquarters) has not been called to any lectures for lack of instructors. One has died, the other has left the district. It is therefore a fact that after three and three-quarter years of service it has not been possible for me to become an efficient member of the headquarters staff. It would seem almost impossible that in any Service it should prove impossible to offer its members any sort of training for nine solid months.Today I had come to see me the chairman of the civil defence committee of one of the inner London boroughs, a borough which has a very active civil defence committee. He himself is a very keen man indeed. He drew attention to the extraordinary difficulty of maintaining interest without any equipment. He particularly referred to the necessity for the use of walkie-talkies. That civil defence committee was very anxious to use walkie-talkies in a practice, and asked the Home Office to supply some. The Home Office replied, "No. Use dummies." We cannot go on using dummy respirators, dummy walkie-talkies, dummy radiac equipment, dummy shelters. We cannot maintain morale and interest without proper gear. We cannot train soldiers if they are never supplied with anything but dummy wooden rifles.
§ Mr. Albu
Exactly what I should have expected. I do not think that any of the figures I have quoted or any of the other facts I have quoted have ever been denied, but the only answer that seems to have been made to those who have made those criticisms about the low levels of recruitment and training in the large industrial centres is that large numbers will be required in rural areas to receive evacuees. The Home Secretary said today that we shall have to increase the strength of the Civil Defence Services in what I took to be localities outside the large towns because of the new appreciation of the effects of the hydrogen bomb.
This is where a fundamental error in the organisation of our civil defence arrangements occurs at the present time. I do not think it has been brought out in the debate so far. Certainly large numbers will be required to train for the welfare and casualty services—for billeting, housing, emergency hospital, ambulance, food supply and such services. Those are the services that will have to care for those who have been wounded, bombed out, evacuated. There will be a great need for volunteers in addition to those required for the more permanent services, such as for the mobile food canteens, and so on. However, there seems to me to be no advantage in pretending that those services are part of the Civil Defence Corps, which will have an operational duty during and immediately after an attack.
My reply to the hon. Member for Hampstead and others who have made the criticism that the Select Committee on Estimates wanted to remove duties from the local authorities is that the services I have been mentioning are best organised entirely as local authority services in co-operation with regional hospital boards and the various voluntary bodies. In fact this is dealt with in paragraph 64 of the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates which says:The question really is whether to continue the façade of a Civil Defence Corps on a national scale or whether the duties which it was set up to perform would not be carried out more economically if they were to revert to being purely local authority functions.1878 I concede there is a division in these functions and that the welfare functions and so on are local authority functions. On the other hand the rescue and lifesaving services must be organised in a different way. It is quite clear that they will have to be organised to deal with mass attacks. They must therefore be large units or be capable of being marshalled into large units and to move to the areas where they are most needed. If we have an atomic bomb attack, the area of destruction will be much too great to be dealt with by local forces, who would immediately be overwhelmed.
These operational forces—rescue, lifesaving and property-saving forces—cannot be an extension of the duties of local government. That would be an incredible idea, as I think has come out very clearly from both sides of the Committee during the debate. In war-time they will have to be a whole-time paid force, just as they were a whole-time paid service on the last occasion. I think we all agree that they must become full-time. In peace-time their organisation must correspond to their war-time rôle if their training and the tactical exercises which they undertake are to have any value whatsoever.
Every hon. Member who has spoken has welcomed the extension of the system of the mobile columns. I am bound to say that this came rather quickly after the Select Committee had made its Report. Every hon. Member has drawn attention to the inadequacy of the training of two weeks a year for the National Service Reserve. It seems to me, from experience in my own family, that the R.A.F. have no use whatever for National Service men, except for a small number of flying men and technicians. They have no use at all for the average National Service man.
Why cannot the R.A.F. let their men off the last six months of training and let them do six months' training for the Civil Defence Corps and for the mobile columns before they go out into their ordinary reserve service? As far as I can make out, 12 weeks is sufficient for all the training the R.A.F. intend to give to the average man, which means three-quarters or nine-tenths of the National Service men they call up. They spend eight weeks on basic training, four weeks or so on additional training, and the rest 1879 of the time they have nothing to do. Why should they not spend six months afterwards doing civil defence training? I agree that the question will arise of how long they are to be allowed to be retained in the mobile columns, but at any rate they will have been trained in two services and the decision can be taken afterwards as to where they are to remain.
It seems to me that the operational forces which at present are being recruited on a voluntary basis for the Civil Defence Corps should be under the same control as the mobile columns and organised with the end in view that they will be required to move out of their own areas. It is true, as hon. Members have said, that under these conditions fewer of them will be recruited but, as has already been said, they would be highly-trained units, and it is better that they should be highly-trained units than that we should have the half-trained, low-morale, organisation which we have at present.
Behind the organisation of locally-trained volunteers for these services which should be a nucleus of the service itself, of the same standard as the mobile column and both under the same command, we must have strengthened technical schools, staff college and tactical school. I am very glad—again after the Select Committee had made its recommendation—that the Home Secretary has come round to the view that it is necessary to establish some of the instructors of those schools. I do not suggest that the subject was not under discussion at the time. Everything is under discussion—always under discussion, as the Home Secretary told us today; but it was not until the Select Committee reported that this establishment took place.
It is extremely important, because only in these technical schools, tactical school and staff college can we build up, during the years ahead—as long as we have to maintain the defence programme—the scientific knowledge and the tactics for this very unpleasant duty. We must provide a serious career for younger men in this work if there is to be any basis at all, any background, to the work of the Civil Defence Services.
The main criticism which the Estimates Committee made was of a lack of leadership and direction, and I think there is a 1880 good deal of justice in the claim that the blame for it could be shared very broadly between Cabinet, the Ministers and the civil servants responsible. Certainly if there is no urgency at the top there is likely to be little urgency anywhere lower down.
Now that the Home Secretary has returned to the Chamber—and I realise that there are times when even he has to leave it—I must say that I cannot understand why he should have objected so strongly and suggested that the Report was an attack upon civil servants. He is well aware that the Estimates Committee is not allowed to investigate or report on matters of policy, and I hope he does not intend to follow his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture along a rather dangerous path. The Estimates Committee is perfectly entitled to say so if it thinks that the administration of a Department is inefficient and lacks leadership and direction. Before the Home Secretary returned to the Chamber, I said that I thought there was a good deal in the criticism that this was due to a lack of any serious pressure or drive from above.
The answer to what I thought was a very silly attack by the Home Secretary on the Estimates Committee is to be found in subsequent events. Incidentally, I thought it extraordinary that this attack was not mentioned in his speech today. The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot ride off criticism like that. I admit that he gave his formal reply some time ago, but all hon. Members on both sides of the Committee expected that he would deal with the serious criticisms which were made. Nothing in his speech has made us believe that there has been any change in attitude or outlook since the Committee reported.
The main answer to the attack which the Home Secretary made on the Committee lies in the measures which he has taken since the Committee reported, because, in addition to those things which I mentioned before the right hon. and learned Gentleman returned—such as the establishment of the instructors in the schools and the sudden decision to expand the mobile columns—since the Committee's Report was published we have had the introduction of the grant regulations for the gas and electricity 1881 authorities and the agreement with the B.B.C., and tonight we are to have the regulations which will place responsibility for the collection of casualties on a section of the corps and on local authorities.
I must say that the indecision on that subject was a complete condemnation of the whole organisation and direction of civil defence. For year after year they could go on arguing about who was to collect the bodies and the casualties in the bombed area and no agreement could be reached because so many people were concerned. That is absolutely incredible. It is true that by the time the Committee reported some agreement had been reached, but not until tonight do we finally, by law, put the responsibility on a section of the Civil Defence Corps and on local authorities.
We still have no decision about the strengthening of basements in new buildings. As far as I know, the lawyers are still arguing about the acquisition of the existing deep shelters in London, although in two or three years they will pass back to the original owners. I do not know what the original owners will do with them, but in any event I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that it is a ludicrous situation.
As many hon. Members have said, there is no doubt that we need a completely new organisation at the top. I believe that the Ministry of Defence must be brought into the picture. The total sum which will be voted for civil defence must be related to the total defence expenditure, and it cannot be treated as such until it is considered in relation to the total defence expenditure. It is ridiculous to have it treated in small bits and pieces all over the place.
I believe that the operational and administrative functions must be separated. The operational functions must be under the civil defence chief-of-staff—not a part-time and apparently advisory commander-in-chief. I gather from an indication from the Home Secretary that the commander-in-chief is to be operational. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will read my speech, because I cannot make it over again. I dealt with what I call the two halves—the operational side of civil defence and the welfare and administrative side. The former should be under the chief-of-staff, 1882 but the latter should be administered by the Departments concerned and coordinated, I suppose, by the Home Office. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) wanted the co-ordination to be done by an independent person, but I do not think that is necessary; I think the Home Office can do it, provided that it has an official to co-ordinate the work who has the necessary drive and is given the necessary support from the Minister.
But over the whole, both the operational and the administrative side, there must be a Minister responsible. I think that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) has suggested a Minister of State. I doubt whether any Minister below the rank of Minister of State would be able to do the battling which would be required with the Ministry of Defence and elsewhere, unless, of course, the Home Secretary could spare the time, which I do not think that he could, to take this matter really seriously. It needs a Minister who can drive the whole thing along, stand up for it and defend it in the House, not with the rather futile brief which we had from the right hon. and learned Gentleman today, but with real understanding, knowledge and enthusiasm.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
Would it be right for me, Colonel Gomme-Duncan, to draw attention to the extreme length of every speech which has been made so far today and to ask you to ask hon. Members about to speak to keep their speeches short?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Colonel Gomme-Duncan)
That is a point of common sense rather than a point of order.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
May I raise a new exploratory point of order? In today's Motion there are two Estimates affecting Scotland, but no Scottish Member has been called.
§ The Temporary Chairman
That is not a point of order. The Chair endeavours to be fair in this matter.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
I shall endeavour to co-operate with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), with whom I have sympathy at this hour. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) made a somewhat damaging speech with regard 1883 to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. My right hon. and learned Friend has had rather a bad afternoon, because he has been either damned with faint praise or not praised at all.
I think that the Committee has been less than fair to him and to the Government, because, with the exception of the speech of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), there has not been a very clear recognition of the extreme complexity of this problem. It is, indeed, a very difficult one for reasons which the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) outlined, although he gave no solution, which is a typical habit of his. [Interruption.] Evidently Scottish hon. Members are making their speeches as well.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East indicated that if we were to have a greater allocation of resources for civil defence it would have to be taken from some other source, but he did not say which. He asked, in his rhetorical manner, "What Government is responsible for establishing American bases in this country?" Had the hon. Member for Coventry, East remained in the Chamber, I would have asked him, "What Government has made it necessary for this country to have American bases?" That seems to me to be at the root of this problem.
It is also true, as I think the Home Secretary will admit, that when we are dealing with the development of offensive weapons there is often a tendency for them to outstrip in development defensive weapons, and that is the situation in which we find ourselves today.
If perhaps there is a criticism of my right hon. and learned Friend, I think it is that he has followed too closely the policy for civil defence which was, in fact, initiated by his predecessor. But that policy was started under conditions of immediate crisis. One of the very right policies which this Government have adopted has been to refuse to allow civil defence recruitment to be stimulated by the incentive of fear. That means that an alternative has to be put in its place. I think that the alternative was, in fact, provided by my right hon. and learned Friend when he outlined the necessity for 1884 establishing civil defence as the fourth arm of defence.
If one point has come out of this debate it is that I think the realisation that civil defence has to occupy a changed place in our defence services. I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for South Shields that it can no longer be regarded as a service in which the elderly or infirm are expected to go. I would ask the Home Secretary to see, when he talks about civil defence being the fourth arm of defence, that it has equality of status with the other three defence Services.
I believe that to be a fundamental requirement. It has already been outlined clearly in this debate that in any future conflict, which we all hope to avoid, one of the main objectives must be the destruction of the morale of the civil population and the sources of national energy and supply. That will be one of the points on which the attack will finally be made. Therefore, civil defence, which is the direct defence of all that, must receive the fullest possible priority in order that it may be built up.
Some discussion has been going on about the control of civil defence and whether that control should be by the military or by local authorities. I believe that there are two clearly-defined elements of civil defence. There is the central element running down to the new organisation of the mobile column from the Home Office and there is the local authority. I do not believe that any proposal which eliminates the local authority from the planning of civil defence in time of peace is a feasible proposition. On the other hand, I entirely agree that the military principle—not military control—should be operated under the centralised system of civil defence which now finds a new and fuller expression in the mobile columns.
I believe that in the mobile columns we have a new civil defence development of the most extreme importance. I am certain that they have to be built up as of right. I would go further than some hon. Members because I think that the National Service Act should, in due course, be altered to allow men to be called up for civil defence. I do not dissent from the present proposition as a temporary expedient to divert men from the Royal Air Force for this purpose. I do not agree with the analysis of the hon. 1885 Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who made a very good party point but did not give a particularly accurate account of the situation.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the hon. Member says that what I said is not accurate, will he quote from HANSARD? All the quotations are there to establish that only under extreme pressure did the Government agree to call up Royal Air Force reservists for part-time training. Even now, only a fraction are being called up.
§ Mr. Harvey
I agree with that, but the arrangement for civil defence was not to solve that problem. The civil defence problem existed first. The hon. Member for Dudley has put it in such a way that he thoroughly misrepresented the position, which he is quite entitled to do, but he must not expect us to accept his points quite so easily. I hope. therefore, that my right hon. and learned Friend will look at this matter again in respect of the mobile columns, because they are intensely important with regard 'to the future development of civil defence as a fourth arm of defence on complete parity with the other three Services.
I realise that the requirements of the other Services at present are very great. The hon. Member for Coventry, East suggested that we should make certain cuts. I did not agree with the cuts that he proposed. I believe that the first answer in this problem with which we are confronted is to build up an effective offensive system of defence to make it extremely difficult to dispatch, and also to deter the dispatch of, these weapons. The argument that we should always wait for them first to drop on us before anything is done is one to which I would never subscribe, because in that way, in view of the experiences we have had in the field of foreign policy, we would get the answer we deserve. But I do not intend to develop that theme tonight.
I should like, as I promised, to cooperate with my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon, who asked that Members' speeches should be brief. I hope that whoever may have the good fortune to be called after me will do the same, so that as many Members as possible may participate in this debate, which, I am glad to see, has now attracted many hon. Members who previously took little 1886 interest in civil defence but who, now that it is more in the news, are coming forward to take part in our discussions.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Having waited five hours to catch your eye, Sir Rhys, I shall, nevertheless, respond to the plea of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) and be as brief as I can.
My first comment upon the Civil Defence Service is that what it suffers from is part-time direction from the highest possible level. The Home Secretary, even if he were a superman, could not do what the situation requires of him. What has he been engaged in for months past? Has he been working out a civil defence policy in detail? Oh, no; television has occupied his time. He is also the Minister responsible for a special interest in Welsh affairs. He has been dealing with the Landlord and Tenant Bill. In fact, he owes his place in the, Government to his high reputation as a great lawyer.
Whenever the Government have a bad case, it is to the Home Secretary that they turn. This means that the poor chap, is working overtime, because all the Government's cases are bad. He started with the Bill dealing with brewing early in the life of this Parliament, and I should not be surprised if his table is piled high with briefs which have been passed to him which the Law Officers of the Crown would not touch with a barge pole. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, therefore, has no time for civil defence, except when it breaks into the news because Coventry goes on strike.
The aspect with which I want to deal is how civil defence impinges upon the Armed Forces. Listening here to speech after speech, I have become considerably confused about what are called the mobile columns and their training. No doubt I shall be corrected if I go wrong or do anything that the hon. Member for Harrow, East thinks is unfair, for that is the last thing I would wish to be.
As I understand, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence announced on 2nd March that he had at long last, because he could not escape-from it and something had to be done, tackled the problem of the Royal Air Force National Service men who were doing no part-time training. After tre 1887 mendous pressure to get the figures from the hon. Gentleman, we had established that there were over 100,000 Royal Air Force National Service men who, last year, were liable for part-time training, but that only 8,000 were doing it. That was pointing to a breakdown in the principle of universality upon which the National Service legislation is founded.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence came to the House and said that he was drawing up a scheme which would begin to operate in 1955, and that when it reached its ceiling 30,000 Royal Air Force men would be called up every year for part-time training. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was kind enough to tell us that in 1955 only 15,000 would be called up and in the following year there would be two batches of 15,000, making 30,000 in all doing 14 days' training. I hope I have got it right, because we have heard six or more different versions of these proposals. If I am wrong I would be much obliged if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would correct me now, because the rest of what I want to say rests upon it.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
There is only one point and I think the hon. Gentleman appreciates it. These National Service men were members of the Royal Air Force who would not be required for service for, say, the first 12 months of the war. The proposal, of course, as I indicated in my speech, is not limited to R.A.F. men, but at present the R.A.F. men are there. Subject to that I agree with the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Wigg
The constructive suggestion I wish to put forward is that I want the Home Secretary to persuade his Service colleagues to take a certain step. He will have difficulty in doing it, because it is difficult to convince them that, although a man wears uniform for two years he is in essence a civilian and his period in the Armed Forces is just a break of two years in his life, the normal span of which is 70 years. Before a man goes into the Forces and after he comes out he has civic responsibilities which he can be required to discharge as a part-time volunteer.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman could persuade his Service colleagues to accept that point of view, then the Service Ministers themselves, without prodding from the Home Secretary or from hon. 1888 and right hon. Gentlemen in this Committee, could set about seeing that every man, whether in the Navy, Army or Air Force, on his return to civilian life was acquainted with the kind of situation that a part-time volunteer has to face. In other words, every National Service man ought to be trained in civil defence in those two years.
Let us envisage the situation in Coventry, for instance. Thousands of young men will go from Coventry into the Armed Forces, will do their two years, and will return to that city. As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said, these young men are engaged in the manufacture of two-thirds of the country's armaments industry. It is all Lombard Street to a China orange whether, after they have done their two year's service, they will ever again be called up to the Armed Forces. After they leave the Services they will become important members of the industrial army. They will not be called up for service at all.
Therefore, in order that they can discharge their duties as citizens, either in the industries where they follow their daily occupations, or at home at night whether looking after their families and neighbours, it would be the most simple, commonsense thing to ensure that they are trained in civil defence while doing their National Service. This will not detract in any way from the £1,500 million which we are spending on defence. In fact, it will increase the men's efficiency as soldiers, sailors or airmen because it will give purpose to their training.
One of the greatest indictments of National Service is its purposelessness. The Services take the young man and give him basic training. He is marched up the street and marched back again and he gets completely browned off. He does not know what it is all about. But if we can convince the young men not only from Coventry, but from the industrial areas and from London and Dudley, that in civil defence training there is purpose in their call up then we shall be making a considerable advance.
As the years go by their chance of recall becomes less and less. Why, in the name of goodness, will the Government not adopt the commonsense policy of seeing that though they have to be trained as soldiers, they should be treated 1889 as civilians, so that we can use them to provide the nucleus of trained personnel for civil defence?
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
But if they are in industry, they will become involved in industrial civil defence schemes and they will not be available for mobile columns, because the same considerations with regard to their industrial occupation will apply.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am not talking about the mobile columns but about what I regard as the local foundation, the part-time men. We should give them the best training we can while they are doing their two years. The mobile columns ought to be manned exclusively by members of the Armed Forces. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the other men should do their basic training and then should go into civil defence.
I regard what I call the heavy mobile civil defence as an essential part of the Armed Forces of the Crown in the same way that R.E.M.E. or the R.A.S.C. are a part. It must be one of the services which the Army, if that is chosen, renders to the community. Asking that the National Service men, as part of their training, shall be taught the rudiments of civil defence seems to me to be absolute common sense, if only because the men will spend a limited period of their time in the Armed Forces and will spend the rest of their time as civilians.
If ever the terrible misfortune should come upon us that we are attacked either by unconventional or by conventional weapons on the scale of those directed against us at the end of the last war, one of the major factors will be the maintenance of law and order. From the description given by the Home Secretary this afternoon of the devastation that can be caused, it is obvious that here is another problem which will have to be faced, and it can never be solved if we depend upon local resources.
So, from whatever point of view it is regarded—mobile columns, the maintenance of essential services, the maintenance of law and order—this problem has to be considered from a national point of view. We shall never work it out until the Government either charge a Minister with this task or see that whoever is responsible has all the power and authority of the Government behind him in tackling the job.
1890 I do not believe that is being done at the present time, for the reasons I have indicated. If I may say so with respect, even if the right hon. and learned Gentleman was a greater man than he is, he could not deal with this work and also deal with his multifarious other tasks. If this debate does nothing else, I hope it will convince the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he will be doing his duty to his colleagues and the country if he will go back to the Prime Minister and ask him to have a look at the matter again.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
I have some sympathy with what the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said about part-time direction and I shall return to that later. He was a little hard on my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary over the R.A.F. Reserve, for I think that the Home Secretary has solved two problems at once by the decision which has been taken.
My main reason for asking for the attention of the House is because I have a bright story to tell in a rather gloomy debate. It so happens that my constituency has had far and away the best civil defence recruiting figures in the country. No fewer than 32 people per 1,000 have been recruited, which is several times the national average and is about 50 per cent. better than any other county or borough. It is not only that a large proportion of people have been recruited, but of those who have been I understand that we have about the highest percentage of trained civil defence people as well.
It might be to the advantage of the Committee to know how that is being done. I should say, in the first place, that I have had no part in it. In any event, politics are best kept out of it. There are four main reasons why Huntingdonshire has been successful. The first is that there is the right spirit among the people, a spirit of responsibility and patriotism, which also has brought them to the top of the whole country in the National Savings campaign. Secondly, good leadership is needed.
I do not think that we could possibly have achieved what has been achieved in Huntingdonshire on the basis of part-time leadership by a civil defence officer. We happen to have a retired brigadier, a very able man who is very good at persuading 1891 people, firmly but tactfully. Before he came we achieved very little, but his methods have certainly brought very great success. It is most vital that in each county and county borough and large town one man should be chosen as a paid whole-time leader, he having been trained in the essentials and being a man of proved ability and personality.
The third thing which is necessary for success, and which has certainly prevailed in Huntingdonshire, largely because it is a very small county and one could not obtain it so easily elsewhere, is co-operation between the multifarious people and authorities concerned. There must be co-operation between the civil defence organisation and the local authority, of which it can be said the civil defence organisation is part though they could easily drift apart, and the various voluntary organisations and also the police and Home Guard and all kinds of people.
Unless the effective civil defence unit is small enough for all those people to make co-operation easy, co-operation will be lacking. We have heard talk of central and regional direction. I think it best for direction to be based on the local authorities and for the grouping of the local authorities to be such as not to make units which are too large. Some of our counties are too big for this kind of co-operation. Sometimes a large county could very well be split. Greater keenness and efficiency would result.
The fourth essential is that every town, village and volunteer should be made to understand—and it should be clearly defined—what their part is in the scheme of things. It is not enough for people to know that there is a threat of war and of hydrogen bombs. It is vital that they should know exactly what part they themselves would have to play if the worst should happen.
Moving from the subject of Huntingdonshire to matters of more general interest, I should like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary two questions. The first concerns the mobile columns of which we have heard a great deal. At the moment, I am rather perplexed about transport for these columns. We understand that the personnel of the columns will be formed into cadres. What about the vehicles they will use? Are they to be requisitioned at the last moment when 1892 an emergency breaks out—requisitioned from we do not know where—or will they be requisitioned from vehicles which are definitely allocated for the purpose beforehand? I suppose it is too much to hope that the vehicles which the mobile columns will use will be kept in a good state of maintenance in storage. I do not suppose the money would run to that and it would be a counsel of perfection.
My second point follows very closely on that. What is happening about emergency transport services which will be needed, most especially for the delivery of food? I anticipate that the railways will be partly paralysed or, in any event, very heavily overburdened on the outbreak of war and after the first few bombs have been dropped. It is most essential that we should be prepared to make the fullest use of our fleet of commercial goods vehicles and buses, public and private.
I do not make a party point of this; when the last war broke out there were no nationalised vehicles and the railways had not been nationalised, but everything was put under Government control. A scheme had been worked out beforehand. In the light of experience gained, one would expect that already there would be a workable scheme. I should like to know whether that can be confirmed and how far it has been developed.
With regard to the general higher organisation, the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) that there should be a Minister for Home Defence should have further examination. It seems to me that the various authorities and forces, which will be responsible for the defence of this country in the event of an emergency, should be cooperating a great deal, especially on what I would call the Q-side. It seems rather absurd that civil defence and the Home Guard should have separate rationing arrangements. It may be that there is already a measure of co-operation, but a Minister for Home Defence would be able to ensure that there was saving in manpower, in energy and in organisation, which could follow from closer co-operation between the various forces.
I wish to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). There is no one who 1893 can develop a fallacy with greater eloquence than he. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not here. I thought he developed a major fallacy this afternoon when he based his argument principally upon the mere arithmetic of expenditure. He said that only £29 million of our very large defence budget was being spent on civil defence and that was a measure of the inadequacy of civil defence, which he called "a mere façade." The hon. Member was not, of course, comparing like with like when he made that point. He overlooked the fact that civil defence is based largely on voluntary organisation, whereas the whole, or nearly all, of our defence expenditure is based on the principle of everyone being paid.
It might interest the Committee to know that in Huntingdonshire, with our very efficient state of affairs, the average cost per volunteer per year is only about £9. In civil defence a little money goes a very long way in terms of effort and organisation. I do not know the cost of maintaining a soldier in the Army today, but it must be hundreds of pounds. I say that the arguments of the hon. Member were not valid.
I trust that the rest of the country will benefit from the fine example set by my constituents. These country people are only too proud and willing to be setting up an organisation now, which will be of great benefit, especially to people evacuated from the large cities—perhaps in-chiding Coventry—and I hope that their example will be an inspiration to others.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I wish to say only a few words which I think we should reiterate to the Government. We must put to them the main issue which faces any Government of this country. And an agonisingly difficult issue, of course, it is at the present time—the issue of civil defence. As we have listened to this strange and rather doom-laden debate, in a thinly-attended Committee, but yet discussing an issue which we have all felt is quite literally one of life and death, I do not think that any of us has really been able to conclude that, as things stand today, with our present measures, this country is not fatally vulnerable to attack by the hydrogen bomb.
It was not the eloquent words of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, 1894 East (Mr. Crossman) which convinced me of that; it was much more the careful understatements of the Home Secretary himself. It was much more the sense of every speech we have had. When one really thinks of the consequences of hydrogen bomb attacks—there is no reason why it should be only one hydrogen bomb today—on this country and the measures we have so far even thought of taking to meet them.
It seems to me that one is bound to say that. It is not to say that this country is impotent, because, after all, potential aggressors too are fatally vulnerable to hydrogen bomb attacks. I believe it is not the case that the enormous land masses, the countries like Russia, are invulnerable to hydrogen bomb attacks. The hydrogen bomb has turned out to be so much easier to make—it is a terrible thought—than the scientists thought, that even those vast countries are almost as vulnerable as we are. So it is not true to say that that makes us impotent.
Nevertheless, let us face the fact that in present circumstances, and doing only what we are doing today, we are appallingly vulnerable. Therefore, what are we going to do about it? There seem to me to be only three policies. There is a policy of throwing our hand in and saying that there is nothing we can do about it. That is a policy which speaker after speaker on both sides of the Committee has rejected.
Then there is the policy of doing about what we are doing now, spending about £30 million a year. I put it to the Home Secretary, and to the Joint Under-Secretary who is to reply, that there is really very little to be said for that half-measure. To spend about £30 million, remembering the results which can be obtained by spending it, makes it a fair and unanswerable point of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East when he says that that only gives a pretence of civil defence, and can give no more.
Fact after fact has come out in this debate. Fact after fact comes out in the Report of the Select Committee, where we see that up to now civil defence has simply been used as a convenience, as for instance, it was used during the textile depression—to give orders to the textile industry; as it has been used when the 1895 Air Ministry did not know what to do with its reservists—to provide a convenient purpose for calling up reservists for their reserve liability.
The Home Secretary's speech today simply carried on in that tradition. I thought so especially when he came to his main announcement about the controller-designate, and we found that he was only to be half-time. It really was the most terrible bathos, when we think of the magnitude of this problem, to be told that we are to have a half-time controller-designate. I have a sort of picture of him catching the H-bombs in one hand, as it were, as they fall down. That is no spirit in which to meet such a problem.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to talk about the measures to ensure a water supply for fire fighting, I could not help remembering that the scientists have told us that if, for example, a hydrogen bomb were dropped in, or near, the River Thames, the temperature in that part of the river would probably rise to boiling point, and the area would become radioactive. Therefore, measures of this kind, and the sort of amiable measures we heard described by the hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), while no doubt excellent, are only toying with the problem.
The Home Secretary said no word about what is perhaps the biggest single issue of all, the question of shelters. Once that subject is approached it involves an entirely different order of magnitude of expenditure. Therefore, not perhaps this evening, because that may be asking too much, but sooner rather than later, the Government—not only the Home Secretary but the whole Cabinet—must face this issue.
I am the last to deny that if the Government came to the conclusion—reluctantly, as any Government would—that civil defence has to be taken seriously, it would make an appreciable difference to the offensive power of this country, and very different decisions would have Lo be made. To take civil defence seriously would mean a different order of magnitude of expenditure and of diversion of manpower, and that would have an enormous consequences. It would mean a radical revision of our whole military policy and of the appre 1896 ciation of the Chiefs of Staff regarding the capacity of this country in other directions. Manpower and money used for this purpose could not be used for other purposes. It would mean a revision of our Commonwealth policy and our commitments all over the world. It might mean a revision of our foreign policy. That is why, in discussing this apparently limited matter of civil defence, the Committee is touching on one of the most vital questions at present before the country.
We wish the Government to give far more serious consideration to this question. All this amiable description of detail which we have heard from the Home Secretary is only toying with the problem. We desire a broader outline of the Government's proposals. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not the man to give it to us, it should come from some other member of the Cabinet, or from the Prime Minister himself. Now that we realise the extent of the menace, we should know the mind of the Government on the problem. I repeat that if it is to be taken seriously, policy decisions must be made, and consequences of enormous importance must be faced.
All the Committee can do today is to say that we see no sign that the Government are facing the issue. We must call upon them, sooner rather than later, to tell the House their mind and their decision on this issue of life and death, on which the safety—the very survival—of the British people may well depend.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) correctly stated the nature of this debate when he said that it had been conducted along two lines: that not only was too little being spent on civil defence but—and this was a more detailed criticism—what little was being spent was being spent badly. I agree with that.
I disagree with by right hon. Friend in his comments on the Home Secretary's reference to measures for preserving and increasing the water supply for fire fighting. Surely we are up against the problem that not only have we to prepare to meet an atomic bomb attack, but also to meet an attack by conventional weapons. If the debate were limited merely to what we were doing about the hydrogen bomb 1897 there might be some validity in the argument, but we have to cover the whole range of conventional as well as of atomic weapons.
§ Mr. Strachey
I entirely agree. I am not saying that we should not take measures for water supply and fire fighting, but that the scale on which we are doing those things only toys with the problem facing us.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Then there is less difference between us than I thought.
On the subject that what little was being spent was being spent badly, I thought it strange that the Home Secretary did not comment in any way upon the Select Committee's Report. Others—my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) and my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu)—have certainly reminded the Home Secretary of that. I am sure that the Joint Under-Secretary will deal with some of the criticisms which were in the Select Committee's Report and which have been repeated here tonight.
It has been natural, I think, that the mobile column was the topic most discussed. Eighteen months ago I went to Epsom at the Home Secretary's invitation and heard him launch the first experimental mobile column of Royal Air Force and Army men. That was 18 months ago and it is still the only column. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) that it would be better to have 6,000 men permanently in a column rather than sitting in the Canal Zone. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said that in the event of war whatever we did about calling up reservists for mobile columns, what was important was that there should be already in existence the officers, warrant officers, and potential non-commissioned officers to instruct and organise the reservists.
I am sure that that is the key. Let the Home Secretary take his courage in both hands and attack the Service Departments to get from them the men and the money he needs for these mobile columns. Let him take courage from the remarkable fact that there has been almost unanimous approval for the principle of using National Service men for civil 1898 defence. I cannot recall any hon. Member who has spoken against that.
There is little I can add about the mobile columns except a comment on the proposed use of Royal Air Force reservists. I think that it is time we realised that in its effect on reservists the mobilisation of the Air Force is completely different from the mobilisation of the Army. The Army, especially infantry, can expand rapidly with the call-up of reservists, since they have been trained. The Air Force can expand only slowly, because its size is governed to a large extent by the availability of expensive and elaborate equipment.
I cannot see any condition in which there would not be tens of thousands of R.A.F. reservists who could not possibly be used in the first year, and possibly within two years of the outbreak of war. What greater use could they have than in a mobile column? But only if there is a regular component of officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers in that mobile column.
I want to make it clear what we on these benches are suggesting. My right hon. Friend made it clear, and I should like to repeat it. The control of a column is a military matter. But there should be civilian control of services such as welfare. The Home Secretary stressed the importance of the welfare service, to which I have just referred—
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
The hon. Member was talking about military control. What exactly does he mean by military control—under whose control?
§ Mr. de Freitas
I do not want to go into the whole of that again, because I have other points to make. I did not want any confusion to arise lest it be thought that what was being suggested on these benches was that there should be military control of such things as welfare. When I last went out of this Chamber I found that one or two hon. Members were under the impression that that was being argued.
The welfare service suffers from the fact that it is nobody's baby, and I wonder whether the Home Office should not think again on the organisation not only in Whitehall, but in the country as a whole. What is the present position? Evacuation comes under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government; the care of the 1899 homeless is under the Ministry of Health; emergency feeding is under the Ministry of Food; information—that is tracing and inquiries—is under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government; and training is under the Home Office.
This division is repeated at the lower levels. The care of the homeless—the rest centres—come under the county councils; billeting under the district councils; food under the county councils; and information under the district councils. How much study has been given to the possibility of appointing a controller of welfare, just as there is a controller of civil defence? I do not know if that is the answer, but it appears to me and to many other people concerned about civil defence that there is a great disadvantage in these divisions of responsibility.
I mentioned a moment ago that the Home Office was responsible for training. Am I right in thinking that the Home Office is responsible for the whole of Great Britain, including Scotland, and assists the Secretary of State for Scotland in that task? I ask this question because although some hon. Friends of mine from Scottish constituencies have intervened, unfortunately they have not actually made any substantial, connected speech. I notice that at Taymouth the cost of training a student is higher than in the English colleges. I wonder whether, since the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is present, he could tell the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department the reason. I hope that it is not a separate training establishment in Scotland, but that the whole task is performed by the Home Office.
There is always a danger of private armies in circumstances like this, but nowhere is it more dangerous than in industrial civil defence. One of the dangers of working through local authorities is that other organisations such as industrial civil defence tend to think that they are being left out and that their particular rôle is not sufficiently appreciated, their particular rôle being to protect the workers in industry, maintain morale and, at the same time, keep the wheels turning and production going.
I know that there are some factory managers and others who have a wonderful excuse for doing nothing, because no 1900 one has yet devised the perfect organisation. There are some. They are the men who moan. "Give us a lead," and then sit back and do nothing. But have not the good units of the Industrial Civil Defence Service some justification for their complaints? Last week I asked the Home Secretary a Question concerning radiac equipment and its availability for training Industrial Civil Defence Service units. The answer I got was that certain arrangements had been made and that, as far as he was aware, those arrangements were working satisfactorily. I had not put down that Question idly. I had had definite information that units which were not getting their training equipment were repeatedly asking the Home Office for them but could not get them, and were thrown back upon buying sub-standard equipment if they wanted to go ahead with their training.
There is another small point to which I should like to refer, because it makes me wonder whether the Home Office is doing all it can to help in this important field of industrial civil defence. Last year's "Industrial Bulletin No. 2"—it came out last July—gave a design of the suggested badge. It had the English lion standing up and the Scottish lion lying down—although I admit it had a sword in its hand, which is in accordance with heraldic tradition. I do not know who is responsible for producing those badges, but I am told that when a unit which is proud of itself wants to obtain these badges it cannot get them. I should like to know what is the present position.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton was pleased to note that so many of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Estimates had been acted upon by the Home Secretary. I was pleased to note that many of the recommendations of the First Report of the Mabane Committee were accepted. Tat Committee was charged with the improvement of publicity and recruitment. The Home Office is certainly more in need of guidance on publicity than any other Department. By long custom it is a dignified, reticent Department, and by long tradition it does not like self-advertisement. That may be justified in the traditional range of its duties, but it is a weakness in civil defence.
I wonder whether more than two or three hon. Members present know that 1901 in May of last year Her Majesty the Queen was graciously pleased to assume the title of Head of the Civil Defence Corps. This was a great honour—so great that the Home Office virtually kept the good news to itself. Hardly a member of the Civil Defence Corps knew about it, or knows about it now.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I do not envy the job of the public relations officer at the Home Office. He must have a terrible time.
One aspect of public relations concerns the Ministry of Health. That Department has a first-rate organisation in the National Hospital Service Reserve. What uninspiring initials—N.H.S.R.? Surely the Ministry of Health can think of more attractive initials—something which can be compared with the W.R.N.S. "Wrens," or the W.A.V.E.S., "Waves," instead of a mouthful like N.H.S.R.? The whole effect is lost behind that most uninteresting collection of initials.
The Home Secretary and others who followed civil defence at times when it was not so much in the public eye as it is today now know that I have often asked for the publication of a book giving information on the effect of atomic bombs. More than once I have pointed out in this Chamber that unless such a book should be forthcoming the public would fall back on the popular Sunday newspaper approach of horror and hopelessness. The problems we have to face are terribly hard without the vast exaggerations put about by people who obviously do not understand the fact that the Home Secretary gave us today, which anyone concerned with civil defence knows, that the radius of destruction of a bomb varies not as to its power but as to the cube root of its power. The absence of reliable information is one of the greatest single causes of helplessness and hopelessness, of which Coventry is an example.
Whatever we do we must not either mentally or physically dig a hole in the ground and creep into it. The western world is accustomed to being under the threat of war, destruction and starvation, yet it built up a great civilisation. Ignor 1902 ing possible dangers, the people built not only for the present but for the future. We have evidence of that in the great cathedral in my constituency. So today, we have to build for the future. We must plant forests, build cathedrals, build factories and power stations, and houses—and control centres.
I was encouraged by what the Home Secretary said about the W.V.S. I shall concentrate on the welfare aspects of it because it is in welfare that, I believe, the W.V.S. can be of the greatest service. It can supplement information that the Home Office issues. Being an unofficial body it can issue Roneoed forms interpreting official instructions, and giving useful information and advice to housewives. In not having ranks it can fit in with other organisations, such as the local authority civil defence organiations, without creating problems of seniority.
I am a convert to this view. I thought that the undemocratic, somewhat officer class outlook of the W.V.S. would have so many disadvantages that the disadvantages would outweigh the advantages. I have been converted, as I say, to the other point of view, and I believe that its advantages certainly outweigh the disadvantages.
I referred earlier to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West, and I said that we had to be careful, in dealing with this problem, not to concentrate entirely on the hydrogen bomb type of warfare. I think that in this debate I have missed only one speech, but I have not heard any one refer to the problem of gas.
I feel it is right that we should consider that because in our anxiety to mitigate, as far as possible, the damage that can be caused by atomic and hydrogen weapons we must not overlook the problem of gas. I am particularly worried about the possibility of nerve gas attack. It is horrifying to think of killing millions of fellow human beings with odourless, colourless, tasteless, deadly gas, but I cannot believe that that can be any worse than blowing people to pieces with high explosives.
If we were to kill each other by the million with gases we might yet earn the gratitude of the historians and archaeologists of the future, who might say that at least the inhabitants of the west 1903 ern countries, in the second half of the 20th century, were civilised or cultured enough to kill each other but not to destroy everything their ancestors had made during thousands of years of civilisation; that they at least did not destroy the buildings, books and pictures which their ancestors had created.
Not a word has been said about the defence against the nerve gases. I am particularly worried about the gas which was developed during the last war in a town which is I believe in Poland. It seems to me that there are obvious military advantages to our enemies in occupying a country where the factories and houses are intact, although the people have been killed, rather than in moving into an entirely devastated area. Consider how difficult it was for us to move into bombed Germany when we occupied it after the war.
Four years ago this month, when we had an important civil defence debate, I mentioned by way of illustration how my world differed from that of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, who was then Home Secretary, saying that my earliest memory was of a bomb falling during an air raid in London in the First World War. Since then, of course, our powers of destruction have increased beyond imagination, but the greatest danger which confronts us is that of hopelessness and despair. There will always be a perimeter to an area of attack, and the men and women on that perimeter are entitled to as much help as is possible from their fellows. London should be ready to help Liverpool, Liverpool ready to help Glasgow—wherever it may be.
Having talked so much about mobile columns and the higher standards required, we must remember to look at the welfare side of the civil defence and see it as a service of neighbours coming together to help. We must not forget Mr. and Mrs. Jones coming together and apparently doing nothing but drinking quantities of tea. That is an aspect of the welfare side, of the neighbourly side of civil defence.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State knows that he has many questions to answer, and I will give him full time to answer them. Above all, we have criticised the slow progress in developing the mobile columns. Perhaps the Home 1904 Office was to blame for that, or perhaps it was the Service Departments. I do not know, but certainly the Government have not tackled the problem firmly enough, Secondly, I criticised the lack of information about the effects of a hydrogen bomb attack. Thirdly, there was my criticism about defence against gas.
There is no question but that the Committee as a whole—it was not a case of one side of the Committee only—is becoming more and more critical of the way in which civil defence matters are being handled. We believe that the Government have many criticisms to meet. There is no division between the two sides of the Committee, however, on the need for civil defence, and we on these benches will continue to work with the Government in bringing what protection we can to our fellow citizens and in encouraging the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have come forward to serve the country in civil defence.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
The debate has shown a remarkable unanimity about the importance of civil defence. No hon. Member in any part of the Committee has done other than emphasise its very great importance. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) made a number of criticisms, as did hon. Members from all quarters of the Committee, and, if I may say so, that was to be expected in the case of a developing service such as civil defence. The right hon. Gentleman's criticisms were of a practical character and were most helpful, as, indeed, were those from other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas).
The subject matter of this debate impinges on major aspects of policy. My right hon. and learned Friend has already made a full review of the subject in its general context. I shall not attempt to make a second review this evening. My task is to answer specific points which have been raised during the debate. There is one large subject which has been mentioned by so many hon. Members that I think that I should say a word about it right away, and that is the question of the total expenditure upon civil defence.
I think all hon. Members, without exception, have urged the need for greater 1905 expenditure. I think they have also recognised that if more money were to be spent upon civil defence it would have to be at the expense of other expenditure, and, in particular, at the expense of the Fighting Services. I think it is right that I should point out that £27 million a year, although it may not be very large by comparison with other figures which have been mentioned, is quite a considerable sum of money.
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) has pointed out, we are not here dealing with a full-time service but with a service the vast majority of whose members are voluntary and paid nothing.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It is only fair to point out that we are dealing largely with matters of planning rather than of practice. I do not think any hon. Member is suggesting that we should keep anything like a standing full-time Civil Defence Service. Therefore, the comparisons which have been made are not really valid. I think that it is also fair to say that the plans which were put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend today involve using no fewer than 100,000 men on a full-time basis in the event of an emergency. So we are proposing to take a considerable share of the nation's manpower in that unhappy event.
Hon. Members have suggested directions in which further expenditure might be incurred. The two directions which have been mentioned are, on the one hand, dispersal in the widest sense of that word—I do not think I need enlarge on the term—and, on the other hand, shelters. As hon. Members have pointed out, these two aspects of civil defence are to some extent rivals for the money that is available, and it is necessary to complete our appreciation of the situation which has been created by the hydrogen bomb before deciding on which of these two the emphasis must be laid. Hon. Members will, I think, agree that to seek to go ahead now before that appreciation is completed might involve very considerable waste of money.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has pointed that out. I quite agree. I do not think, however, that that invalidates the conclusion to which I came, namely, that the appreciation must be complete.
I will try to deal one by one with the various points which have been made, and I will start by referring to a point made in an interruption of the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend by the right hon. Member for South Shields. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the fall-out from atomic cloud of radioactive matter. The behaviour of the radioactive cloud resulting from an atomic explosion is governed by factors such as the height at which the explosion takes place and the direction and force of the wind at varying heights. Even with the most powerful bomb, however, danger to life would result at any particular place only through some circumstance such as rain falling through the atomic cloud. Because of these considerations, it is impossible to give the precise information for which the right hon. Gentleman asked, but I think I have made it clear that it would be exceptional to find serious danger to life from atomic fall-out.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
When the hon. Gentleman says that, is he taking into account the petition which has been placed before the United Nations Committee from the Marshall Islanders, who suffered serious damage, although they were 500 miles away from the explosion in the Pacific?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I am giving the best scientific advice that is available to the Government. I think that the hon. Member can take it that it is as good as may be within the limits of what is possible.
The right hon. Gentleman referred, as did a number of other hon. Members, to the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates. The reason my right hon. and learned Friend did not refer to that Report is that detailed answers to the specific points raised have been given to the Select Committee and have been published; and the reply which my right hon. and learned Friend made today covered a great deal, if not all, of the ground. I remind hon. Members that the scene has changed somewhat since the 1907 publication of that Report. We would have been fighting the last war, if I may use an unfortunate metaphor, had my right hon. and learned Friend dealt with the points raised at that time, although, of course, some of them are still valid.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
That is because, no doubt, my right hon. and learned Friend answered the points fairly fully in the previous reply.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The right hon. Member for South Shields, speaking about the mobile columns, said that he hoped there would be—I think this was the term he used—a full-time skeleton available in the event of mobilisation becoming necessary. Other hon. Members raised questions to a similar effect.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; a fully-trained skeleton.
The main benefit of the scheme which my right hon. and learned Friend outlined will be to provide a reservoir of partly-trained manpower. It is recognised, however, that this will lose much of its value if the men cannot be mobilised in operational formations. This depends in part upon providing a nucleus of officers and N.C.O.s and in part upon organising suitable mobilisation centres. That, I think, is what the right hon. Gentleman had in mind. Both these problems are being dealt with by the Home Office, in conjunction with the Air Ministry. It is intended to make progress with these plans in time for them to be effective when the flow of trained men becomes available. The R.A.F. in particular have accepted the commitment to provide officers for the purpose.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about fixed controls above ground, and the hon 1908 Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) also made a point in that connection. The original intention was to provide an extensive network of protected control rooms for all or nearly all Civil Defence Corps authorities. I am not making a point of this, but I think that was the intention of the previous Government. It was taken over and accepted by us, and considerable progress has been made with this work in the principal built-up areas. That was at the time before the appearance of the H-bomb.
It is true that the possibility of more powerful bombs makes it necessary to reconsider this programme. It would not be wise to attempt to lay down hard-and-fast rules. In many cases the local authorities concerned are most anxious to proceed with new control rooms. It is proposed to examine the borderline cases individually and decide whether to proceed with the plans which have been made.
§ Mr. Crossman
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to ask a question about these borderline cases? Is he seriously telling the Committee that there is a single case in which a land telephone line connected with a control room above ground could possibly make sense, not only in terms of the H-bomb, but in terms of the T.N.T. bomb of 1943? Can he tell us what he means by borderline cases. Is it the local authorities which can be duped into wasting their money on these structures?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It does not mean that. It means there are cases where it would be convenient to have the control room above ground.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Convenient for the purpose of the control room and the whole system of civil defence.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It all depends on the particular circumstances. It is perfectly true that if they are in a place where they are likely to be put out of action—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I recognise that in some cases control rooms above ground might not be effective in war.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Yes, but they are useful in stimulating interest; they have a very definite value; and it would be wrong to abandon them altogether.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of the operational organisation of civil defence and he asked about regional commissioners. He expressed the hope that the list will be kept up to date. Persons needed as regional commissioners in war would have to be men of great ability and standing. It is a heavy responsibility and it is necessary to choose between the risk of appointing them too late and the risk of appointing men now who might not be available when they were needed. This is a question which has been and which will be kept under continuous review. It has not hitherto been thought that the time has come to make these appointments, but headquarters have been earmarked and a nucleus of staff is available in the persons of the principal officers and skeleton staffs maintained at the regional offices. Certainly my right hon. and learned Friend will bear in mind the right hon. Gentleman's observations.
A great deal has been said during the debate about the commander-in-chief being appointed only on a part-time basis. What my right hon. and learned Friend said was that the appointment would be on a part-time basis in the first instance. This is not unprecedented. There is the exactly parallel case of General Dempsey, and in this instance, if it is found necessary to have a full-time appointment, it will be made. In the first place, however, it was thought that this should be a part-time appointment.
§ Mr. Summers
Will my hon. Friend allow me to interrupt him on a point which has attracted the attention of many hon. Members? Will he give an assurance that the appointment on a part-time basis will be of someone who could act full-time if that were necessary?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
My right hon. and learned Friend has indicated that that is his intention.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about emergency water supplies. As he pointed out, in the last war fixed pumps were installed on many of the bridges over the Thames and other rivers for the purpose of drawing water rapidly from the river to the fire. It is still thought that there may be room for arrangements of this kind, and many of those pumps are still in position. However, experiments are being made with other more mobile means of drawing water from rivers in order to avoid the disadvantage of fixed installations which may be put out of action. It is too soon to say whether these experiments will be successful, but they are part of the programme referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend, designed to supplement the resources available from the water in the permanent mains; in other words, here, too, the emphasis will be put on mobility rather than on fixed installations.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) spoke of the need for a review of full-time manpower on account of the competing needs. That is an important and interesting point but it is not concerned with civil defence alone. Indeed, the very suggestion indicates that it extends over a much wider field. I will bring the suggestion to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour, because it is a matter for him to consider.
My hon. and gallant Friend spoke of the R.A.F. men who will have two periods each of a fortnight's training, and he asked what they would be doing at weekends. I am not certain what he had in mind, but I understand that the R.A.F. men in question, who have the obligation under the National Service Acts to have training during those two fortnights would have no further obligation. If my hon. and gallant Friend has some specific point in mind, perhaps he will write to me?
My hon. and gallant Friend made two other points about the difficulty of training in driving, particularly after dark with no lights. He also spoke of the need for the use of, and training in, wireless. Those are points which we have noted. These men, of course, will not come com 1911 pletely untrained. Although they will have had no training in civil defence, they will have had some general training in their period of service with the R.A.F. which will be useful.
The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) said, "Let civil defence share in conscription." He suggested that civil defence would be only taking the R.A.F. mistakes, to use his own words. The Bill which is now in another place is quite general in terms and I am glad to hear, therefore, that those terms have the approval of the right hon. Gentleman. No doubt he will give the Bill his support when it comes to the House of Commons.
The right hon. Gentleman also drew attention to the fact that in West Bromwich there was only 25 per cent. of the establishment of volunteers. I believe that that figure is approximately accurate. Nevertheless, including West Bromwich, the national average is 65 per cent. I can only suppose that the right hon. Gentleman has not been using his oratory to good effect in his own town.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The average in the cities is just over 60 per cent. I think that the highest of all is Coventry.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The lowest is Birmingham. If any hon. Member wants to see the figures, I will obtain them.
The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) spoke of structural precautions in new buildings. Applicants for building licences have been encouraged by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to do the necessary work. Since the decision was made to ask that this work should be undertaken nearly half those approached have agreed to make the necessary structural reinforcements. Approximately 10 per cent. of the cases have refused, and the rest are outstanding.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Yes, without reimbursement. It is voluntary. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The hon. Member for Coventry, East made a wide-ranging speech which might have been more suitable for a general defence debate than a civil defence debate, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary gave an effective answer to that speech before the hon. Member delivered it.
The hon. Member for Dudley suggested that all young men should receive compulsory civil defence training.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I accept that. I had no intention of misrepresenting the hon. Member. If I had added, "during the course of their National Service" I should have been literally exact. I think that the hon. Member's purpose was that these young men should become volunteers in the Civil Defence Corps after completing their service. That is an interesting suggestion. It is a novel one and, of course, it will receive due consideration. If I may say so without going beyond the bounds of order, it will be open to the hon. Member to make his proposal when the Bill which is now in another place comes before the House of Commons.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon asked about the vehicles which would be required by mobile columns. I think the answer is that there will have to be a build-up of vehicles in the first place for training purposes. The columns do not yet exist and cannot come into existence until the Bill is passed—in other words, until some time next year. There will have to be a build-up of the necessary training stock and then the necessary operational stock. My hon. and learned Friend also asked about the vehicles which would be used for carrying food in the early stages of a war. I think the answer is that such vehicles would not be part of the Civil Defence Service at all, but part of the general defence arrangements of the 1913 country and quite outside the sphere of civil defence.
The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) asked about responsibility for training in Scotland. The school at Tay-mouth is run by the Home Office. The supervision of the training of the Civil Defence Corps in Scotland is handled by the Scottish Home Department on the basis of the Home Office technical manuals and other guidance given by the Home Office. The cost of Taymouth Castle is slightly higher than corresponding costs in England because the intake is smaller and the situation less convenient.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The hon. Member for Lincoln asked about gas. Elementary training in chemical warfare is given to all members of the Civil Defence Services and selected members are trained to a much higher level. In particular, Technical Reconnaissance Officers, who are holders of science degrees or equivalent professional qualifications, are provided at university courses with information about the latest forms of war gases. A vapour detector kit for use in detecting gases in the field has now been devised and prototype models are available for defence training. The production of these kits on a scale large enough to enable training to be given to a much wider extent is now under way. Local authorities are now being issued with a quantity of new civilian respirators for use in training.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I think that almost everything I have said has been in effect an answer to that speech.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The hon. Member for Lincoln also asked about industrial Civil Defence and radiac equipment. The difficulty about radiac equipment is that, unlike other training equipment, it has to be more delicate than the operational equipment because it is impossible to experiment with doses which might prove dangerous. Therefore, the equipment has to be more—
§ It being Ten o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.