HC Deb 10 November 1954 vol 532 cc1208-50

Amendment made: In page 2, line 20, at end, add: (2) In this Act the expression "civil defence" includes any measures not amounting to actual combat for affording defence against any form of hostile attack by a foreign power or for depriving any form of hostile attack by a foreign power of the whole or part of its effect, whether the measures are taken before, at or after the time of the attack, and the expression "designated Minister" has the same meaning as in the Civil Defence Act, 1948.—[Major Lloyd-George.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

3.51 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)

I would remind the House, as I did on Second Reading, that the Bill has been introduced for the purposes of a specific scheme and that the powers which the House has been asked to approve are for a limited purpose. They are the minimum necessary to provide a first step —I emphasise that—towards the development of a Civil Defence mobile column force. I emphasise that the taking of this first step will not prejudice in any way the introduction of wider measures. These are now under active consideration, and the Government are considering what form they should assume.

I recognise that hon. Members on the opposite side of the House have had misgivings about the Bill. I gathered from the speeches made on the Second Reading that they would like to have been presented at this stage with a complete picture of all the plans to be made in the field of Civil Defence and, in particular, in the matter of mobile columns. The Government are not at this moment in a position to do that, but we are insisting that, in the meantime, the scheme for which the Bill provides must go forward. We cannot afford to waste this valuable source of manpower, or to incur any delay in making the necessary physical preparations for its use.

I can give the House this express assurance, that this scheme, whatever happens as a result of the review, will have an essential place in any scheme devised for strengthening the aid to be given, should the need arise, to the local forces of the Civil Defence and fire authorities throughout the country.

3.54 p.m.

Mr. Wigg

The Minister has told us that this Bill is a first step. I hope he is right. Every hon. Member on this side of the House will accept it as the first step, but we want to know when the second, third and further steps will come along. In three or four months' time we shall have the Defence White Paper and if we have not then been told what the further steps are to be, we shall expect to find the answers in the White Paper together with the results of the Government's investigations into Civil Defence, which have been going on during the last few months.

I believe that every member of the Labour Party wants to see adequate Civil Defence. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends makes reference to Coventry. I remember what happened to Coventry during the war. I do not want to see that happen again. I believe that Coventry wants its Civil Defence to be a reality. It does not want smoke screens or a pantomime Civil Defence which exists only on paper. It certainly does not want Civil Defence, or the lack of it, to be used as a means of besmirching political opponents. For heaven's sake let us try to do in Civil Defence what we have done in other defence matters —let us have our differences, but let us keep Civil Defence above the narrow give and take of party.

I do not believe that astronomical sums of money need be spent on Civil Defence and I do not believe that we should tie down a very considerable number of men waiting for atomic attacks which never come; but we must have realistic Civil Defence. We must make sure that we do not get overburdened by military advice. I am a little worried on this point because it may look as if I am contradicting what I have said previously. I want to see the Armed Forces play a very full part in Civil Defence, but I want them to be under civil direction. I am a little worried about the emergence of retired generals into our public life. We have them in the B.B.C., in N.A.T.O., and here, there and everywhere, lots of them. They may have admirable qualities but democracy does not thrive in this country on directives. We need spontaneous co-operation down to the point of action. We do not get that kind of thing in generals who have spent their lives waiting for the next directive.

I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will get every support, but not the kind of support which means looking back to see whether the space between his two shoulder blades is still intact. We know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is up against in fighting the Service Departments. Bows and arrows are quite good enough for some of them, combined with Trooping the Colour and other forms of ceremonial. Those are all right when we can afford to pay for them. As far as we can afford to pay for them, let us have them now. They will not do us any great harm, but we must not have too much, if it is at the price of efficiency. We must have a streamlined defence which is not based upon grandiose display but upon value for money.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman and his defence colleagues must play the role of miser and see that for every penny spent they get if possible 1¼d.'s worth of value. Let us base Civil Defence on the principle of public service. Let us use the Bill to encourage the desire to serve, If the Bill can make our young National Service men more efficient, so much the better. In so far as the Home Secretary does that, he need not worry. Let him come here for support if he needs our help. We may keep him a little longer than he expects, but he can rely on us to support him in his efforts to weld the Armed Forces of the Crown and the Civil Defence Force into a working Civil Defence team.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. de Freitas

On Second Reading, and during the other stages of this Bill, we argued that it was evidence of the failure of the Government on Reserve policy. This afternoon, in a reply to a supplementary question, the Under-Secretary of State for Air indicated that the policy of the Air Ministry was to reduce the number of National Service men by taking in more Regulars. I am not arguing against that, but I am wondering whether the full implication of such a remark has been considered in connection with the reservists for these mobile columns.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)

I do not think I said anything about reducing the number; I merely said what was the quota of National Service men in the R.A.F. at present.

Mr. de Freitas

My right hon. Friend and others understood the Under-Secretary to indicate that it was the policy of the Air Ministry to get the National Service men to become Regulars and, in that way, to reduce the pool of men with National Service Reserve obligations.

Mr. Ward


Mr. de Freitas

Then that point is cleared up.

The fact is that this Bill, all the way through, has been evidence of the failure of the Government in the field of reserves. We shall judge now whether the Government have a true sense of urgency by the way they get going with mobile columns. We supported the principle of these columns and we support the Bill.

During the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) an hon. Member interrupted to say that even Coventry wanted Civil Defence. The fact is that the Coventry trouble was born out of Home Office dither; it was the Home Office which was to blame. This does not mean that we support what Coventry did, but the Government must learn that time is getting shorter, and it may well be that the next time we have a Civil Defence debate it will be our duty to the country to show our lack of confidence in the policy of the Government on Civil Defence by dividing the House.

The first task for these mobile columns will be to build up their prestige, because they appear to come into existence to cover up the mistakes and embarrassments of the Service Departments. They will not automatically have the prestige of, say, the Brigade of Guards or of some other famous brigade of the British Army, but we must see that these columns feel that they are the brigade of guards of Civil Defence because they must have prestige if they are to do their job.

On the Report stage I spoke of the casual way in which this Bill was drawn up. We amended it to meet our point on the definition of Civil Defence, and there is another Amendment we made in Committee to which I must refer. It will be remembered that Clause 2 was not originally a separate Clause, but came to us tucked away as a subsection of Clause 1. It is right that it should be a separate Clause, because it recognises formally the fact that Civil Defence is more than a Home Office and local authority matter. Of course, we have to prepare our defences against atomic war, nerve gas war and high explosive war. Also, we must remember that in atomic war and in nerve gas war the traditional local authority Civil Defence is not enough, and the mobile columns are the first step towards that recognition.

I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley that this emphasis on military mobile columns does not mean that the traditional local democratically controlled Civil Defence is no longer required. In an atomic attack it would have a great part to play, especially in the relief of distress in other areas. If there was high explosive attack it would have a rôle similar to that which it had in the last war.

The Bill recognises this obligation of the Armed Forces to take part in Civil Defence, yet, under Clause 1 (4), the Home Office has to bear the cost of these columns. This is absurd. The Home Office Civil Defence budget is very small as it is, and I have no confidence that the Home Secretary will get any more money at the expense of the Ministry of Defence. Civil Defence must have more money, and the only place from which it can get it is the Services. But in subsection (4) there is clear evidence that the "brass hats" have won because the Home Office is to pay for these mobile columns.

The Minister of Defence is a master of camouflage; he spent most of this Session, as Minister of Housing and Local Government, introducing a Bill to raise rents and disguising it as a crusade on the slums. So I beg the Home Secretary to be careful when he is discussing Civil Defence with his right hon. Friend, because if the Minister of Defence follows his usual practice he will convince the Home Secretary that H.M.S. "Vanguard" is a police launch and ranks for Home Office grant.

As the Bill stands, subsection (4) is a complete surrender to the Service chiefs. This time, we let the Government off with a caution. The Government are relying on the fact that the country will either forget or forgive their promise to cut the cost of living—that may happen—but the country will not forget or forgive a Government which, in the words of Lord Montgomery, has grossly neglected our fourth arm of Defence.

4.7 p.m.

Mr. Ian Harvey

I follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) with pleasure because he has enunciated in his speech the determination of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite not to divide the House on this issue. He himself, because of the deep interest has has shown in Civil Defence, has been consistent in taking that line. Perhaps I may take up two points made by the hon. Gentleman. First, he said that this Bill arose out of the Government's failure to deal with the National Service situation. That is not true.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Montgomery said that.

Mr. Harvey

The hon. Gentleman perhaps takes his orders from what Field Marshal Montgomery says; we do not.

The hon. Member for Lincoln knows rather better than most, having been at both the Air Ministry and the Home Office, that the nature of the R.A.F. is such that it cannot absorb effectively the complete total of reservists available and, as has been fully admitted in this debate, nobody wants to call up people for no purpose. I believe that this arrangement has certain shortcomings which have been fully discussed, but that it is a satisfactory and reasonable one I want to pay tribute to the clear definition of the National Service system which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air gave during the Committee stage of the Bill. It was an absolutely factual, fair and sensible one.

The hon. Member for Lincoln then said something which I found extraordinary, knowing the origin of mobile columns to have been partially in his own mind. He said that the idea of the mobile column was an embarrassment and suggested that it was something with which the Home Office was not equipped to deal.

Mr. de Freitas

I certainly did not mean to say that.

Mr. Harvey

Even if the mobile column is a great embarrassment to hon. Gentlemen opposite, we must pay a tribute to the hon. Gentleman himself for, in the previous Government, he played a considerable part in initiating the introduction of the prototype mobile column. I should like to ask him whether, when he set on foot that proposal, he had in mind that they should be paid for by the Home Office or by the Services? I think he had in mind that the cost would be met very fully by the Home Office.

Mr. de Freitas

It never occurred to me that the military troops in a mobile column should be paid for out of the Home Office Civil Defence budget—I am speaking from memory.

Mr. Harvey

I fully accept that explanation.

If I may, I should like to follow the hon. Member for Lincoln in his plea to my right hon. Friend on this extremely important subject of the development of mobile columns. Because of the views which I have expressed in these debates I know that my right hon. and gallant Friend will acquit me of any form of disloyalty when I say that we should look at the matter a little more carefully. The answers which have been given as to who shall pay the various elements in the mobile columns, and the indications as to how the men for the mobile columns are to be trained will not, I think, on examination, prove an entirely satisfactory proposition.

The prototype mobile column, which the hon. Member for Lincoln and I had the pleasure of seeing on the first day of its assembly, has taught Civil Defence a great lesson, but that lesson will only be learnt if the prototype system is extended, in cadre, to the areas, and actual cadre mobile columns established area by area. I do not believe that the present generalised system for assembling the resources available for mobile columns, as indicated by my right hon. and gallant Friend, will produce quite the result that is intended.

I accept very fully what my right hon. Friend said on Second Reading, that this is only a small Measure which, eventually, has to be read against the big one to come. I do not agree with the misgivings expressed by the hon. Member for Lincoln that my right hon. and gallant Friend will not be able to get the money out of the Minister of Defence. I sincerely trust that he will be able to get greater resources for Civil Defence from defence funds. He will certainly have the support of many of my hon. Friends in any effort he may make to achieve that.

Mr. Wigg

Would the hon. Member say that his hon. Friends would follow us in the Division Lobby?

Mr. Harvey

The procedure of following the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) anywhere is full of pitfalls.

I do not share the rather cynical view expressed by the hon. Member for Lincoln about the achievement of the present Minister of Defence. I do not find the building of 300,000 houses a year a facade of any kind. The Bill having been given the full support of all hon. Members, I sincerely hope that it will go forward, that the views expressed—without, generally, any party point being made—on both sides will be noted, and that the Bill may be read against what, we hope, will be a greater and more progressive Measure in the not too distant future.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)

I cannot join in the valedictory cooing about this Bill. I do not take the view that a thing is necessarily harmless because it is small. This is a small step in the wrong direction, and nothing that has been said during the various stages of the Bill will convince me to the contrary. The Minister made exactly the same speech this time as before, only shorter. The same Bill—the same speech.

Mr. Ian Harvey


Mr. Crossman

He answered none of the questions which we asked on Second Reading.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman tells us now that, in view of the great scheme of Civil Defence in prospect, it is essential to get this little thing done before February or March, but he gave absolutely no reason why this particular thing had to be started last July in another place and brought forward as a matter of urgency. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not deny that, as a result of this essential first step, the net effect will be that the first men will only be in by 1958, nor that his mobile columns will be activated only after all the H-bombs have fallen and all the damage done.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is not here. I am a little baffled by the view, expressed even on this side of the House, that one cannot afford to have mobile columns doing nothing in peacetime. That is rather like saying that one cannot afford a fire brigade until the house is burning; that one cannot afford a police force until the burglars are in the house. In Committee, an hon. Member described this as a Cinderella Measure, but Cinderella did have her moment of glory. There is no moment of glory about this, because we shall all be blown to pieces before the first mobile column can conceivably come into operation. The Minister can say what he likes, but someone must explain what is the good of a mobile column which will not be in action until well after the war has started.

I was not one of those who was eating turtle soup at the Mansion House last night, when the Prime Minister made a very important statement on this subject. He said that it was not a question of who gets hit—I suppose we all do—but a question of the time-table of warfare. I think we all know what he meant. He meant what was said in the White Paper published in February; that the next general war, if it comes, will start with an interchange of thermo-nuclear weapons. It is laid down in the strategy on which the whole of our defence systems are based that we are to drop the things first. We must reckon on the bombs being dropped on the first day of the war.

It is, therefore, relevant to ask what is the good of a scheme which trains a few R.A.F. National Service men, lets them disappear again into civilian life, and says "Somehow, we shall collect them again"—some months after the first week of the war. Why is it essential that that should be done before February? Last February we were told of the grand plan for Civil Defence. I am glad hon. Members on this side understand the position of Coventry. In Coventry, we have studied this from a practical point of view. Outside of London we were the first city to be blitzed. We had religiously carried out every one of the instructions of the then Home Secretary. We had put our brown paper on the windows; we had our air raid wardens dispersed over the city, with the central control above ground and with underground telephone lines. We did everything that the then Home Secretary told us to do, and, within 20 minutes, the whole of that organisation had been destroyed—and destroyed by 500 lb. bombs.

Now we are told that we are to have an organisation which is to be exactly the same, except for this great new thing the mobile columns, which will actually have been called up successfully three months after we have been destroyed. Nevertheless, it is said that this is the first great action to be taken; something so important that time must be wasted, first in the other place in July and now here.

Could we please know, before the end of this Third Reading debate, what— apart from the Under-Secretary's gorgeous phrase about the encouraging and stimulating peacetime effect—is the effect of the mobile columns except to deceive ourselves in peacetime? What other effect will there be in training the men, except to make one believe that in peacetime something is being done when actually nothing whatsoever will have been done? That is the first question I asked on Second Reading. I ask it again now, because nothing has since come out to answer it.

We had a very interesting debate in Committee about the presence on the Defence Committee of the Home Secretary. We were told that it is not necessary; that, after all, he is called there whenever he is required. If the Secretary of State for Air were just called in to the Defence Committee when required, he might think that he was not getting quite the status in the Defence Committee which he deserved, and the type of Home Secretary who is willing to be called in to the Defence Committee when required is the type of Home Secretary who permits the Services to dominate this matter and give him the fag end of the spare time of the R.A.F. when it has got nothing else to do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley is quite right. The only point of this Bill is to find some occupation for the R.A.F. National Service men who might otherwise have an unfair advantage over the National Service men in the Army; and that is what the Home Secretary has decked out as an essential Measure.

In Coventry, we shall not, as a result of this Bill, cease to believe that Civil Defence is an organised hypocrisy and an organised fraud, even though, in the eternal words of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, it has a stimulating effect in peacetime. This Bill is a perfect addition to the control centre above ground, which is growing in Coventry every day as a mausoleum to commemorate the crass, platitudinous stupidity of the Under-Secretary. I am glad it is there. I am glad of every brick which is laid there to commemorate the Under-Secretary who survived the deluge of the Prime Minister's reshuffle of the Cabinet. The one thing that he was bound to leave was the Under-Secretary who deals with Civil Defence, for without him where would Coventry's protest be?

As long as he is there as the expression of organised hypocrisy, we can with justice pay the 2½d. rate for the privilege of not participating in a Civil Defence plan which solemnly tells us that we are going to have mobile columns which will help us three months after the bombs have dropped, and we have to spend all our time here passing a special Act of Parliament to ensure that not one of the men will be organised in time for duty when the moment of crisis arrives.

I am rather amazed that my hon. Friends were able to support this Bill. Perhaps they support it because they, also, in their heart of hearts, think that we ought not to have any Civil Defence.

Mr. de Freitas

If my hon. Friend was not able to hear my speech on Second Reading——

Mr. Crossman

I was.

Mr. de Freitas

I am sorry. I thought that on Second Reading I made the position abundantly clear. Of course, we understood the Coventry gesture, and we called upon the Government to give us a policy; otherwise, in the next Civil Defence debate we would certainly have to reconsider our attitude.

Mr. Crossman

This is a slight violation of our ban on fraternal frank discussion. I find it mystifying for someone who is concerned with Civil Defence to support a Bill which does not provide Civil Defence at the moment of crisis, and which leaves the Home Secretary right outside the Defence Committee, taking odds and sods from the Services instead of having any——

Mr. Ian Harvey

The hon. Member is making a most insulting reference to the people who have been called up, and who are in no way odds and sods of any kind.

Mr. Crossman

I withdraw the phrase "odds and sods" and I will say "manpower or bodies for which no Service can find any useful occupation." That is what is being allocated to the priority of saving the home front in time of war.

All I would say to my hon. Friend is this. Having exposed the utter futility of this Bill, and the fact that it is a piece of organised hypocrisy and is not part of a serious Civil Defence plan but is merely an addition to the futilities that we have had before, having joined with me in trying to expose its utter futility, he should join me in the Division Lobby.

4.25 p.m.

Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)

I only heard the latter part of the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). As usual, he abuses his great gift of oratory to make as much mischief as he possibly can in the Press and in the country. He knows perfectly well, as do others who have attended this debate, that this is only a small Bill dealing with one specific subject—that of mobile columns.

Mr. Emrys Hughes


Brigadier Prior-Palmer

The answer has been given no fewer than four times, as the hon. Member would know if he had been here during the whole of these discussions. The answer, for the benefit of those hon. Gentlemen who do not read their HANSARD, is that there is taking place at this moment an overall survey of the whole situation which has been created by the new menace of the hydrogen bomb.

Mr. Crossman


Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have only been on my feet a minute.

Mr. Crossman

The hon. and gallant Gentleman attacked me without having heard what I said.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

There is now being undertaken a general survey of the whole new situation created by this devastating weapon, and it is impossible to expect a report on that matter to have been issued by this time.

Mr. Crossman

Hear, hear.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

What was done by the Government was this. There was clearly going to be one aspect of Civil Defence which, apart from anything that the report may say, would have to be an integral part of any future Civil Defence organisation in this country, and that integral part of which we are speaking is the mobile columns. Therefore, the Government would have been guilty of tardiness and neglect had they waited for the overall report to have been made before bringing in this Bill. This Bill would have had to be introduced anyway, and there is no reason why this small Bill should not be introduced now while we are waiting for the overall report because, as I have said, these mobile columns will have to form an integral part of any future Civil Defence plan.

The answer to those who ask the reason for mobile columns is surely simple. Only columns operating from outside a devastated area will be able to do anything inside that area; and, therefore, it is vitally important to plan these mobile columns. Indeed, I believe we shall have to go much further on this question of mobile columns than is contemplated at the moment.

Mr. Crossman

Hear, hear.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

All Civil Defence will have to be mobile, and its personnel will have to brought in from outside.

Mr. Crossman

Hear, hear.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

The hon. Gentleman keeps saying, "Hear, hear." Why is he complaining, then?

Mr. Crossman

The hon. and gallant Gentleman walks into this House and attacks me for saying things, not even having heard the part of my speech in which I dealt with those things. I agree that Civil Defence should all be mobile, but why bring in a puny little Bill which does not make it mobile and, indeed, only enables the columns to be called up after the war has started?

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

For the simple reason that until the overall plan has been decided upon, it cannot be known what proportion can be mobile, but there is no harm in having these people trained to form mobile columns first. At least, there will be something on which to build. One has heard of cadres building on cadres as being one of the principles of the defence of this country for many years. Is there any reason why we should not build on cadres in this case?

I am not going to deal with this point any longer. I want to repeat what I have said before and what, no doubt, I shall say again: I hope that whoever is given charge of this organisation will see his way, as politicians apparently are unable, to give training to these people in driving vehicles at night. I am getting almost tired of saying that, but it is not the slightest good wasting time training these people in fire-fighting, rescue work and all the rest if, when the time comes, they will not be able to drive their vehicles to the scene of action. It takes a long time to do this. It is a highly skilled job. The regional commissioner will have to give orders by wireless to the mobile columns; he will not be able to do it in any other way.

One thing I should like to know is this. Why has the Home Guard not been mentioned? We have heard about Regular troops and Territorials and part-time Service men, and so on, but we have not heard a word about the Home Guard. Surely the Home Guard is the one force which will be here in England if there is a crisis. There is no reason why the Home Guard should not duplicate its duties and be trained—as, in fact, in my constituency Home Guards were in the last war—in Civil Defence duties as well.

All the little difficulties about command and administration could be easily overcome. Such difficulties are only smoke screens put up by people who do not want to accept the proposition. We know perfectly well that these difficulties could be overcome. I implore the Government to take seriously the point on wireless communication and that on training these columns in actual movement.

4.31 p.m.

Mr. Bellenger

I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) was quite right when he said the Opposition had given their blessing to this Bill. It is true that we are not voting against it, but I do not think that we could take any other course. Surely his argument has been to insist that this and something more comprehensive than this is needed.

The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has posed some of the questions at earlier stages of this Bill, about what the Government intend to do when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. I understand the difficulties of the Home Secretary, who is not able to draw the curtain aside, as it were, and show us what the Government really intend to do about national defence, of which Civil Defence is only a part.

We have been pressing the Government to tell us what those intentions are. Indeed, we believe that when the Government tells us what their comprehensive plan is, this Bill will then be lost in the limbo of a much wider Act of Parliament or series of Acts of Parliament which the Government may be forced to put on the Statute Book.

Our trouble is, and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East will realise this, too, that if Civil Defence is necessary, and I think he agrees that Civil Defence is necessary—certainly the constituency he represents agrees that it is —then we must have an effective form of Civil Defence. The real question he posed is whether this system, which is enshrined in this Bill, of calling up 15,000 or 30,000 Royal Air Force National Service reservists for whom the Air Ministry can find no other work, is the right way to do it.

In early stages of the Bill, we have probed this weakness—we think it is a weakness—by asking the Home Secretary, or another Government spokesman, what will happen if war should break out and the National Service Air Force reservists are mobilised as a Civil Defence arm. We have been told by the Home Secretary himself that it is really in the first year of war that these men will be wanted for Civil Defence. But, what happens a year later, when the Air Ministry has got going thoroughly and presumably wants these men back? We think that is a weakness of this Bill.

That question has not been answered and my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry is quite right in throwing doubts on the essence of the Bill—whether those who are to provide Civil Defence will be available. I have never complained about military reservists, whether Air Force or Army, acting as mobile columns in Civil Defence. What we do complain about——

Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)

On a point of order. I do not know whether the Chamber is on fire, or whether we ought to bring up stirrup pumps, but there is a lot of smoke coming from the Gallery. Could you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have inquiries made.

Mr. Crossman

A smoke screen from the left.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I have taken steps regarding it.

Mr. Bellenger

We have not passed this Bill yet, and it is obvious that any steps to be taken in the matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) has raised will not affect Royal Air Force National Service reservists.

I was going on to say we have doubts. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East has posed some of them in his usual emphatic way and the Home Secretary must recognise those doubts. If this Bill is going to be really effective then it would be wrong of the Opposition to oppose the Government. Indeed, on all stages of the Bill we have shown we were trying to help them to get what they say they really want, an effective Civil Defence.

I make this personal appeal to the Home Secretary. He is a Member of the Cabinet and I suspect that in principle he already knows about some of that comprehensive review of defence of which he spoke today and during earlier debates in this House. I suspect that he does. I suspect it is because he knows that, that he is insisting it is necessary to have this Bill. I urge him to do all he can to see that the House is placed in full possession of more of the facts than we have had so far.

After all, the Opposition is part of Parliament, and it is our duty to take part in ensuring that the Defence Forces of this country are the hest we can possibly have if, unfortunately, we are faced with the difficulties envisaged in this Bill. We should have more of that defence review placed before us. I believe that when the House sees that review it will be seen that there are to be revolutionary changes, not only in Civil Defence, but in other parts of the defence of this country.

Already, we have had suggestions made in the newspapers that the Minister of Defence is now considering the antiaircraft defences of this country. Obviously, it would be out of order to discuss that at this moment, but these matters reveal themselves to the country and to Parliament, as it were, in dribs and drabs. I suggest that the proper way to deal with Civil Defence, which is probably the fourth arm of defence in the country, is for us to know the facts on which we can base a sensible judgment.

The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing has voiced some of his own doubts. He has had great experience of training soldiers in war with a much greater discipline than one could probably get in Civil Defence forces. He knows the difficulties that arise when bombs are raining down—whether atom bombs or other bombs—in making sure that one's columns, whether mobile or supply, can reach their target.

It is not the slightest good thinking that these 15,000 or 30,000 men, who will receive rudimentary training—because in my opinion that is all they will get—will be all that will be needed. It is like trying to put out a fire with a pint pot of water. It cannot be done. We shall have to have better defence forces than this Bill envisages.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the Home Guard. I think that the Home Guard come under Armed Forces of the Crown. If they do, they are under a Service Minister, in this case Secretary of State for War. They do not come under Civil Defence in this Bill except, I presume, that under Clause 1 of the Bill they could be called up equally with all the other Armed Forces should the necessity arise. Perhaps whoever is to reply to the debate will clear up this doubt.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I understand the Bill to deal with Regular Forces and part-time Service men and not with volunteers. When I say volunteers I am not talking about Regular volunteers but amateur volunteers, so to speak, and not professional.

Mr. Ede

It all depends on whether they are members of the Armed Forces.

Mr. Bellenger

Clause 2 deals with that point, when it says: It is hereby declared that the duties which members of the Armed Forces of the Crown may be called upon… I take it that that is comprehensive. The phrase "Armed Forces of the Crown" surely comprises Regular forces and ancillary Forces, Territorials, Home Guard and others. If there is any doubt upon this point, surely the Minister can easily clear it up.

While we do not give this Bill our blessing, we recognise the duty of a responsible Opposition to join with the Government in providing adequate, efficient and effective forces for our defence if, unfortunately, we are attacked by our enemies.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In an interjection in the speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) I pointed out that the most severe critic of Civil Defence at the present time was no less a person than Field Marshal Montgomery. In reply he said that if I took my orders from Field Marshal Montgomery he did not. I certainly pay the respect to Lord Montgomery that his position in the military world deserves, and when he tells us that our Civil Defence has been grossly neglected I assume that he speaks the truth, and I think he deserves to be protected from his enemies on the other side of the House.

Surely at this time, when we are discussing a Civil Defence Bill after about five years of rearmament, the fact that one of the leading military strategists of the day tells us that Civil Defence is grossly neglected constitutes an indictment of the policy of the Government? If that is so, we are entitled to examine the Bill in order to see what defence the Government have against the gratuitous and well premeditated attack of Field Marshal Montgomery.

I have been surprised that on occasions when we have discussed the possibility of future attacks upon us the Minister of Defence has never made any attempt to give us an explanation of the Government's plans. Why has he not been in the House to explain the background to us? In previous debates upon this question I have pointed out that we are also entitled to have something more than a casual intervention from the Secretary of State for Scotland. In the last two debates the practice has been for the Home Secretary to open and the Joint Under-Secretary of State to wind up. As a Scottish Member I feel justified in asking that the spokesman for the Scottish Office should make some attempt to deal with problems affecting Scotland.

We have never seen the Secretary of State for Scotland in these debates, and the only intervention from the Joint Under-Secretary—perhaps because he has been present in a purely decorative capacity and has not been allowed to say anything on behalf of Scotland—was in reply to a very definite question that could not be evaded, namely, where the headquarters of the mobile column in Scotland were to be situated. His answer was that the Government have not yet decided that matter.

What is the background to this problem? We are presumably to expect atom-bomb and H-bomb attacks in the event of another war. In his opening speech, the Home Secretary said that in one H-bomb attack we could expect more darn-age than we suffered in the whole of the last war. We have been told that London and an area within a radius of 50 miles around it was likely to be totally destroyed.

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) described this Measure as a pill for an earthquake. The only proposal contained in the Bill in relation to the huge population of London is that a mobile column will operate from Epsom.

I listened with very great respect and interest to the speeches made by the military gentlemen in this debate, and to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) who has recently been attending the manoeuvres in Germany and who called the Bill a "Box and Cox" Measure. A "Box and Cox" Measure is not likely to give much assurance to the civilian population. My right hon. Friend added that, under the impact of hydrogen or atom bombs, there is no longer any such thing as Civil Defence.

I believe that he was stating the truth, and that all this talk about establishing some kind of organisation—the Government cannot define it—is merely an attempt to reassure the civilian population instead of a realistic picture, facing the fact that if we have H-bombs dropped upon us all these preparations are hardly likely to affect the position.

What would happen if half a dozen H-bombs were dropped on this country? In the previous debate we were told that this question is so urgent that we need an immediate conference of the Big Four in order to deal immediately with the position. The Prime Minister, very rightly and patriotically, has repeatedly stressed his concern at the possibility of an H-bomb attack. In Air Force debates, when the argument is put forward for a bigger Air Force, it is said, "Oh, yes; the Russians have 20,000 aircraft." It is safe to assume that if they have 20,000 aircraft, at least 20 of them—one thousandth of the total—will be able to drop 20 H-bombs upon us.

We must therefore envisage a situation in which this country will be turned overnight into a smouldering radioactive cemetery. I would point out that if that is so—and it would appear to be so, judging from the answers which the Prime Minister gave to Questions yesterday—we are in danger mainly because we are preparing to send our bombers to destroy the cities of other countries. If we did not intend to send out our bombers to do so we should not be in danger ourselves.

Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)


Mr. Hughes

The hon. Member does not read the speeches of the Prime Minister. Over and over again the right hon. Gentleman has stressed the fact that we are in danger, and need Civil Defence, because we have allowed the American Air Force to base its atom bombers here. The only way to remove the apprehension is to have these atom bombers taken away.

We have the authority of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw that the military authorities are groping in the dark about the new warfare nearly as much as the rest of us are. I do not believe that we should blame the military authorities. These decisions are essentially political decisions of the House of Commons, and if ever we do have a war of this kind the Front Bench opposite, who are responsible for these affairs, will ultimately find themselves on the lamp posts, and probably rightly so.

The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw, who is a former Secretary of State for War, should be broadcast throughout the length and breadth of the country, because in it he showed how impotent, in the face of the development of scientific weapons, the military gentlemen are. They will, of course, say that they are only carrying out a decision of the House of Commons, and so it is we in this House who are ultimately responsible. My right hon. Friend said: I believe that when atom bombs begin to fall most of these services will be destroyed and it will not be the civilian authorities who will be able to put them into operation again.

Mr. Bellenger

By "services" I meant local government services such as the supplying of water, and things like that.

Mr. Hughes

Yes. I understood that my right hon. Friend meant that. My right hon. Friend envisaged a state of affairs in which water supplies, electricity, sanitation, and all such services would be obliterated. He went on to say that the restoration of all these services …will have to be done by the military, as happened during the heavy bombing of Caen and all the other towns during the advance through Normandy in the last war."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 2189.] What a responsibility we are putting on the military. We expect to have an area with a radius of 15 miles from London destroyed, and we are going to give to the military the task of restoring the public services in London, although according to the strategy of war the military will not be here, because they will be somewhere in Germany. My right hon. Friend went on to talk about his experiences in Germany. He said: From my experience of seeing an operation in Germany in which atom bombs and similar missiles were theoretically used, I am convinced that it will be impossible for civil authorities, or, indeed, military authorities to operate to any extent above ground."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 2190.] Where are we to go if we are not to be above ground? We shall be underground. We talk about mobile columns, but I do not know how much mobility there is likely to be underground.

Are the headquarters of the operations to be underground? If they are, I should think that the proper place for headquarters would be some coalfield in South Wales, some beautiful coalmine waiting to be made into headquarters for Field Marshal Montgomery and all the rest of the military authorities. But where are the headquarters to be? Above ground in Epsom. And from Epsom there is to be operated a mobile column which is to come to the rescue of the people of London.

What is this mobile column to do? I have listened with great interest and respect to a definition of a mobile column. This is what the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said: The whole object of a mobile column is to keep it outside the area of damage and under the command of some central authority." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 2191.] So there is to be a mobile column which is to keep outside the area of damage. If it is going to keep outside the area of damage what is it going to do? All that we get from the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing is not a definition of what a mobile column is to do but an insistence that it should be trained in driving vehicles. He said on another occasion: Let us not talk about further training in fire-fighting."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1954 Vol. 532, c. 650.]

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I did not say that.

Mr. Hughes

I am quoting from HANSARD what the hon. and gallant Member said, and he can check it in HANSARD. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member does not remember what he does say. I hope that the mobile column is to be run more proficiently than that.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

The hon. Member really cannot get away with all this. First of all he quoted me as having said that the mobile columns will stay outside the area of operations. What I actually said was that they will be stationed outside the area of operations and will come into the area of damage after the attack. That is point number one. Point number two is this. The hon. Member said that I said that they will not do fire-fighting and rescue work, but will concentrate on their vehicles. I did not say that. Of course they will have to do fire-fighting and rescue work, but they must also learn to drive their vehicles.

Mr. Hughes

In regard to the hon. and gallant Member's first correction, I would point out that I was quoting what he said: The whole object of a mobile column is to keep it outside the area of damage."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1954 Vol. 531, c. 2191.] If it is to keep outside the area of damage I do not see what earthly use it is going to be to the people inside the area of damage.

Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

Perhaps there will not be any left there.

Mr. Hughes

We ought to have here the Minister of Defence to explain exactly what the military mind means.

The hon. and gallant Member, later in the same speech, said: When a disaster has taken place the column will be unhurt."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1954; 531, c. 2191.] The Home Secretary has already told us exactly where the mobile column will be. For the benefit, presumably, of the forces that are going to attack us he has explained that it is to be at Epsom, and he very considerately assumes that the Russian air force will leave Epsom alone so that this mobile column will be able to get going. If Epsom is to be a headquarters for Civil Defence it is a natural assumption of the non-military mind that the potential enemy may attack the mobile column first.

Now I come to the question of firefighting. The hon. and gallant Member's interventions in this debate remind me of the famous words of Clemenceau to the effect that "War is far too dangerous a thing to be left to soldiers." This is what the hon. and gallant Member said——

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

On a point of order. Is it in order to quote verbatim what a Member has said without actually using HANSARD and reading from it? The hon. Member is reading from his own manuscript notes.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am not sure what the point of order is.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I am inquiring, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether it is in order for an hon. Member to quote, as if he were quoting verbatim from HANSARD, the words of another Member when in fact he is quoting only from his own manuscript notes.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

An hon. Member may do that if he wants to.

Mr. Hughes

I have too much respect for the House to quote at length the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member, especially as on this subject they are all really one and the same speech, but he certainly said: Let us not talk about further training in fire-fighting."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1954; Vol. 532, c. 650.] London may be in flames, and here is the hon. and gallant Member saying, "Do not talk about fire-fighting." To my mind that is simply being irrelevant.

If the mobile columns are not to come in to attempt to put out the fires, if they are to remain somewhere outside, I want to know what exactly is the function of mobile columns. I have not yet heard any clear attempt from any hon. Member to define the duties and functions of these mobile columns. I pointed out in the last debate we had that if H-bombs were dropped in the same way as our bombs and atomic bombs have been exploded in the Pacific, the places where they dropped would be radioactive. Are we to send mobile columns into radioactive places?

I do not know whether hon. Members have read the reports of the injuries that were inflicted on the Japanese fishermen who were hurt by radioactive dust, though they were miles and miles from the place of explosion—much farther from it than Epsom is from London. Not only London but, presumably, Epsom, too, would be covered by radioactive dust if a hydrogen bomb were dropped on London. We have not heard about that problem in these debates of ours. All that we know is that there are to be mobile columns, which, for all practical purposes, will be immobile.

This is a farce of a Bill. It is not an attempt to face up to the situation, because the problem is beyond human solution. We should be far better employed thinking out again the terms of our policy which has resulted in the country being in so much danger. If the emergency arises, and the people of the country look at the problem with any sense of realism, they will demand not only a strong Civil Defence force but a change in our military and foreign policies.

5.1 p.m.

Mr. Ede

One of the disadvantages which the House has suffered in the debates throughout the Bill has been the curious series of understatements made by the Home Secretary about the Bill. This is not a failing in the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's family, but there is no 9d. for 4d. in his presentation of the proposition to us.

I welcomed the Bill from the first because it establishes that Civil Defence is part of the responsibility of the Home Forces, and that it is part of their duty to perform it when called upon and to undergo training for it. Although the Government tell us that these powers will be used only in respect of the Royal Air Force men who have been referred to throughout the discussions, the Bill applies to every person in the Forces and makes them liable to perform, and to have training in, every form of Civil Defence. That is a very substantial achievement on the part of the Home Secretary.

We can now have the men. We can have as many men as the House thinks appropriate. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) that, as we have the power to get the men, the points which he raised consist in the main of administrative action to be taken by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Service Ministers after they have the men. Once the men are there, the way they are to be used, organised and trained is a matter of administration about which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will not have to come back to the House.

For instance, the House does not lay down the way in which R.E.M.E., which used to be part of the Royal Engineers, shall be organised; it is a matter for the Service chiefs. On the Service Estimates, the Minister in charge usually explains the new training which is being, or has been, given, and hon. Members, with greater or lesser knowledge, express their praise or criticism. I imagine that that will be what will happen from year to year when we have a Civil Defence discussion in the House. It will be one of the responsibilities of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to explain to the House how the Bill is used when it becomes an Act.

I hope that the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East will be borne in mind by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. While, if I had been a member of the Coventry Council, I do not think I could have taken the line which those councillors did, frankly, I nevertheless believe that they have performed a public service in drawing the attention of the country to the fact that up to the present any talk of Civil Defence does not measure up to what we all know will be demanded if the emergency should arise.

I agree that the scheme which has been presented to us as being within the scope of the Bill is within the scope of the Bill, for the greater must include the lesser, but I believe that it will measure up quite inadequately to what is necessary. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East that we must have some mobile columns standing by in time of peace, for after Pearl Harbour nobody expects to get six months' notice of when the first bomb is to be dropped.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not have the responsibility of framing the Bill, for he found it in the Home Office when he got there. The person who was to have defended it has gone to the place from which the Bill came, and he will there have to defend the Amendments which his right hon. and gallant Friend has made. In the circumstances, I consider that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman could have been more outspoken to the House about the exact powers that he has taken, for I hope he will not deny that they are very great powers indeed, their effect being that the Government can call on any member of the Armed Forces to participate in this Service.

What I have said about the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East applies also to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer). The hon. and gallant Member got into trouble about what he said about the fire service because he was replying to something which I had said and was trying to expand it.

I had urged that the men should be trained in fire-fighting and rescue work. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that training in fire-fighting is not of much use unless one can get the fire-fighters to the scene of the conflagration; and, therefore, as it is likely that some of the attacks will be delivered at night, it is desirable that the men who are to be the drivers should be trained for driving in the dark. To go a little further, they should be trained in the conditions of the black-out, which one may assume will be in operation at the time.

That, again, is a question of the use which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman makes of the Bill when it becomes an Act. There is no need to put into this Bill or any other Bill that members of the Civil Defence force shall be trained in travelling by night. One assumes that that is part of the ordinary training that the men will undergo.

I regret very much that the Government have tried to write down the Bill in the House. I recollect that when Sir John Anderson, as he then was, spoke about the Beveridge Report, his speech produced a feeling of alarm and despondency among my hon. Friends who were then in the House because he wrote it down so much. A colleague of mine in the Coalition Government said to me, "What a pity David Lloyd George did not have to explain the scheme to the House, because he would have persuaded us that he was giving something far more than Beveridge ever dreamt of."

I regret that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has adopted the English method of understatement in his presentation of the Bill to the House. There is enough in the Bill, if it is really analysed and understood, to justify our feeling that he has to some extent stolen a march on some of the other Departments which are involved. We have here, at any rate, a claim staked out, which this House, as I am quite sure he will feel, regards as a claim that it must in no circumstances surrender.

In the negotiations which will go on, after this Bill has been passed, inside the Government in the elaboration of the scheme on defence, which we understand we shall hear about early in the New Year, we expect the full impact of this Bill on the situation to be given full attention by every one of the Departments; and we expect to find Civil Defence occupying, both in men and money, a far bigger place in the defence arrangements of this country than it has hitherto done.

5.11 p.m.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Hon. Members have given general support to this Bill with one exception, that being the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)?"] I was not quite certain what that hon. Member's views were about the Bill because he spoke of Lord Montgomery and other matters. But the hon. Member for Coventry, East was opposed to the Bill, and he honoured me personally with so much abuse that I thought for a moment that I must be sitting on the Front Bench opposite.

The way in which he put his case—and I think that he will agree with my short paraphrasing of it—was to say, what is the use of this Measure or any Measure of this kind in the present situation?

Mr. Crossman

No. I asked for information on two points. One, what is the good of a mobile column which is only activated after the H-bomb has fallen; and, two, what is the good of a Home Secretary and Joint Under-Secretary content to take odd bits of military labour for which the Services cannot find any use? These are the two questions which I asked.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

So far as this Third Reading of the Bill is concerned, I think that it is fair to say that he asked, "What is the use of this Bill?" I think it is fair to put a question to him and to others who may be persuaded by his oratory that there may be something in his argument. It is, what is the alternative that he wishes to see? There are really only two possible alternatives. One is that it is no use doing anything at all, and the other is that we should have in peace-time a permanent army of standing mobile columns of adequate numbers able to deal with the kind of situation which is envisaged in the event of war.

These are the two alternatives, and if he makes any sort of calculation as to the kind of numbers involved and the cost of maintaining such an army, I think that he will agree—and I am certain that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will agree—that would be out of the question at the present time.

Mr. Crossman

We have now had a clear statement from the Joint Under-Secretary that any adequate form of Civil Defence is ruled out on the grounds of expense. What he said is that we can spend £150 million on the Army, Navy and Air Force, but there is not enough money left for the protection of civilians. I did not think that he would be quite such a fool as to say that.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Is the hon. Gentleman then proposing a standing army of Civil Defence of the size necessary to deal completely with the sort of situation he envisaged? I say that if that is the alternative he is proposing to this Measure, he had better argue it on its merits, because I think that the case he was putting to us was that, it being out of the question, the only course was to do nothing.

This Bill is only the first step towards constituting a defence reserve of mobile forces earmarked and trained so as to be immediately available in the event of emergency. That is what this Bill is; it is nothing more or less than that.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Available to do what?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields, in the course of his speech, said quite rightly that the Bill would not preclude further development, and I entirely agree with that.

This Bill is nothing more than a first step. It, therefore, does not preclude further development which will certainly take place, and in all probability the right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that that would probably be a matter of administration rather than of further legislation. That is for the future.

Mr. Bellenger

Would that include, for example, an increase in the number of mobile columns in peace-time?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Certainly, of course it could.

The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) sought, in the course of his speech, to damn this Measure with faint praise. I think that it is fair to say that he really succeeded in praising it with some faint damns. I agree on the whole with the constructive points which he made. In particular, he argued that the Bill does not mean that the importance of the part which local authorities must play in Civil Defence is in any way diminished. I thought that was a most important point.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) asked about the Home Guard. I can tell him that the arrangements concerning the Home Guard are, strictly speaking, outside the purview of this Bill, but perhaps I may be allowed to say that arrangements have been made for the Home Guard to be given some training in Civil Defence, so that they may give effective assistance to Civil Defence authorities if they are called upon to do so in war.

Eventually this training will be given by Home Guard instructors who have qualified as Civil Defence instructors. Meanwhile, it can most conveniently be given by Civil Defence Corps authorities. Circulars will shortly be sent asking them to train members of the Home Guard, if they are asked to do so by local commands.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that if this point is developed we shall be starting another debate altogether.

Mr. Ede

Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman is trying to prove that the Home Guard are not members of the Armed Forces, because if they are members of the Armed Forces then clearly they come within the Bill. That was the point raised by my right hon. Friend and by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brig. Prior-Palmer). Surely it would be a very dangerous proposition to suggest that they are not members of the Armed Forces because, if they are not, what becomes of them in action should there be an enemy landing.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

What I said was that these arrangements are already in existence and, therefore, are outside this Bill. It is not necessary to use this Bill for the purpose of giving this training. For that reason I hope I might be in order to explain, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, that it is not necessary to take action under the Bill in order to give the Home Guard the training which he wishes it to receive.

In the course of the debate we have had a great deal of constructive criticism. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing have all spoken about the scheme for which this Bill gives the necessary powers. The points that they made are matters which will certainly be borne in mind when we come to use the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields indicated that these are matters rather of the use that is made of the Bill than of the actual content of the Bill. I can assure those hon. Members who have made these suggestions that they will certainly be borne in mind. I hope that the House will give the Bill a unanimous Third Reading.

5.21 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

This Bill is the classical legislative example of lighting a farthing candle in Dover to illuminate the cliffs of Calais. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said that the policy of the Opposition was fiat lux and that as this was lucus a non lucendo it should not be wantonly legislatively snuffed. I do not dissent from that as an academic argument, and in so far as it represents the policy of the Opposition I am not here to raise any dissent.

But it is well to remember that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) put forward a somewhat different argument. He said that this was a small but important Bill, that because it was a very small one it must not be criticised by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) because he knew that though it was small something bigger was coming. He was then interrupted because he developed the point about the mobile columns, with which everyone agrees. I do not think that anyone dissents from the proposition that mobility will be necessary when towns are laid flat.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman was interrupted because we wished to ask him whether he realised that the columns would not be mobile until some time after the war started and until some time after our great towns were flattened. He then said that we must realise that that must be the case under this Bill because we must wait until a committee has reported. I interrupted to ask him what committee, and he replied that I could not have read the debate on Second Reading or else I would have known that an expert committee was now considering Civil Defence at great speed, that it was covering the whole ground and that it would report very soon.

I then referred to the remarks of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary to see what he did say. What he said was that a committee was considering the question of defence, that is, defence relating to the Army, Air Force and all the Fighting Services. That, he coyly pointed out, includes Civil Defence. One thing we got last week from the organs of dissemination of Sabbatarian opinion whose influence is so great is that the Minister of Defence, who has just entered on his new office, is to slash the Defence Estimates. We are told that he is able to forecast large reductions in general expenditure.

If this be so, what is happening about the committee which is dealing with Civil Defence, because it is right to say at once that the facts with which such a committee will have to contend are known. They are no longer in dispute. It may be a question of whether the area of damage is 10, 12, or 13 miles radius, but everyone knows that we are confronted with weapons of such calamitous and destructive power that they dwarf almost every other consideration, and we are discussing a matter of such importance that all other questions pale into insignificance by the side of it.

The levity of the Under-Secretary of State in these circumstances is something to be very much regretted. This is not a matter for frivolous comment or for party riposte. It is a matter of predominant consideration by what the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would call the great palladium of the nation or for the council of the nation sitting as a Council of State and acting as a great driving force in regard to these serious matters.

The facts have been published. The American atomic scientists' journal recently published a well-informed article by Professor Hornell-Hart, of Duke University, who is a well-known and respected scientist of outstanding ability. What he said in terms of the United States was that, taking a careful survey of Russian stockpiles—and how he knows that I do not know—but apparently the system of espionage referred to as Russian is not a one-way system but a bilateral operation—and Russian weapons, he estimated that an all-out attack by Russia on 25 of the largest American cities—assuming them as the likely targets—would result in the first series of attacks in 9 million dead and 11 million injured. Professor Hornell-Hart argued, not unreasonably, that that would largely cripple the United States war effort.

Others replied that 9 million dead and 11 million injured would not affect the mobile striking force. We are told that there would be a mobile striking force able to impose similar casualties on the Russians. No one can say what it will do or what will be the result of that operation or what would be the result to the brotherhood of man or to the comradeship of peoples or to the art of living in the world.

Mr. Bellenger

Has not the thought occurred to my hon. Friend that this modern professor might have made a mistake? Does my hon. Friend recollect that before the outbreak of the last war the official estimate made about the terrible casualties proved untrue, and that they never happened?

Mr. Hale

That is a point of view, but would my right hon. Friend not agree that some of the people who did not survive the last war are in a distant Elysium, thinking that the casualties were great. I am addressing the House not in terms of thinking of individuals as Englishmen, but as individuals. The last war resulted in how many casualties, 25 million, 30 million or 40 million? Let us remember how many there were in the concentrated area attacked by one atomic bomb. Over 100,000 people were killed at Hiroshima by a bomb the weight of which and the explosive power of which was measured in kilotons or thousands of tons of T.N.T., while now we talk about megatons or a thousand times as great. The bomb which was exploded at the Marshall Islands was one thousand times as powerful as the bomb which fell on Hiroshima.

These are the facts that we are considering in the terms of the Third Reading of this Bill. One single bomb like that exploded in the Marshall Islands would, if dropped at Charing Cross, wipe out almost every house and every building, including all the historic buildings, within a radius of 10 or 11 miles and would exterminate, at a rough estimate, two or three million people, would destroy every main line station in London and miles of rails. There would be no question about transport then, because there would be none. It would destroy every hospital in London of any importance and virtually every doctor and nurse. That would be the result of the first hydrogen bomb which got through our defences and was accurately dropped.

We do not know the rest. Probably the Thames would change its course. Certainly, there would be the jab of collecting two million corpses, the job of preventing looting among the few survivors, the job of stemming the fires, and in view of such a stupendous task no one would wish to criticise any Minister who would come to this House and would say, "This is precisely what we are going to do and this precisely what we are not going to do."

But there is one other matter which bears directly on this Bill which is relevant and important. Already, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has alluded to it. I was born into a world in which people were worried about individuals. I was born into a world in which it was thought that wars were matters for soldiers and fought by soldiers.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

A Tory world.

Mr. Hale

Indeed, it was a Liberal world. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) was in a great difficulty in those days, because in the Tory world he was a member of the I.L.P.

I remember, at least, the shocked horror with which we thought of a policy of exterminating civilians. We thought that to kill off civilians was one of the war crimes of the worst type. It is not my wish to criticise anything that happened in the last war—people had to take responsibility, and I did not have to take it; I know it is easy to be wise afterwards—but it is well to remember that, in the terms of General Gruenther, it is the policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the moment it has come to the conclusion that an act of war has been committed, be it the shooting down of an aeroplane in China or over the China Sea, the sinking of a ship or the crossing of a frontier, to try at once to slaughter as many men, women and children in the hostile country as we can as soon as we can.

If that be the policy of any party to which I belonged, at once I should cease to belong to it. That is a policy which I cannot tolerate and which I must oppose. It is much easier to say these things in the modern world than it is to find the answers. We ought to renounce the hydrogen bomb. I would renounce it unilaterally if necessary, but, first, I should try to get agreement, which would be difficult. I never understand the arguments for not trying to get agreement, or the arguments why we do not go and see people. I am shocked when we hear——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We are going rather beyond the Third Reading of the Bill. We can deal only with what is in the Bill.

Mr. Hale

I do not want to widen the argument or on a serious matter like this —or in any matter even—to find myself in argument with the Chair. Therefore, I shall try carefully to keep myself within the ambit of the Bill.

Let us look at the Bill in terms of Lancashire. One of the propositions in the Bill is that a Civil Defence station should be established at Chorley. There is nothing wrong with Chorley——

Major Lloyd-George

The hon. Member makes the same mistake as was made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). These are training centres.

Mr. Hale

I am sorry, and I apologise; the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite correct.

I certainly took that as meaning that the immediate headquarters could be regarded as being there for Lancashire. Indeed, I should not dissent from the point of view that Chorley was reasonably central and that if for the moment there is to be only one mobile column for Lancashire, Chorley might have advantages to be considered; I am not raising a geographical point.

But if one looks at industrial Lancashire and considers the possibility of a bomb attack upon it, it is quite obvious that it would be a widespread attack. In these modern days no one would send 10 or a dozen planes to attack Oldham or Manchester alone; it would be an attack on industrial Lancashire as a whole. The consideration of what can and cannot be done under this Bill is appalling.

The Joint Under-Secretary said something that I found very difficult to understand. He said that we could not have Civil Defence officers standing by in peace-time doing nothing. We have asked Question after Question in the House about men in uniform standing by and doing nothing during the three years of the present Government. Thousands of them are standing by doing nothing. Butchers are called up to "butch," musicians are called up to play, and so on. Never has there been such a waste of manpower.

Has this argument ever been applied before to any operation in history? Has it ever been said of the Navy that we cannot have ships standing by doing nothing, that we cannot have the Navy patrolling the seas, we cannot have boats that can be adapted for service later as hospital ships, we cannot have material that can be used only in war, and that we must wait until war comes before we start? Is it only in the sense of protecting our own people that we cannot do that?

The Joint Under-Secretary went further in letting this unsavoury cat out of the bag. He said that we all know we cannot afford Civil Defence and that this is a question of money. We all know that we can pay people to kill but we cannot pay enough to save life. But, of course, that is Government policy in relation to the International Children's Fund and in relation to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. We can spend money on arms, but we cannot spend it on saving life.

Let us look at it in terms of Lancashire. In Oldham, there is a first-class Civil Defence organisation under a first-class Civil Defence officer, so far as we can have a first-class Civil Defence organisation. What is it to do? From whom does its (AGM take his orders? What is its area of operation? Who takes over in the case of an emergency in Lancashire? Who directs the mobile forces, and where do they go? What happens to the Civil Defence organisation in Oldham if there is an alert in Blackburn and damage is done? We have tried to find out, and the whole thing is in a state of suspended animation.

I dissent from only one word of what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said. Had I been a member of the Coventry City Corporation, I should have acted as that Corporation did. I do not oppose participation in Civil Defence. To train a man who saves a single life is worth while, and any of us who can help to save life will be doing a job which is worth while; I am sure that that was in the minds of the Coventry City Council. But what that Council did was to call attention in a way that no other action could have done to a grave public problem and to grave public concern. Indeed, it has had its effect on the Floor of the House, because certain measures have been taken. As the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said, it is a very small baby, but it is a baby and it shows at least some interest in the matter by the Government.

No one wishes to be discourteous to the Home Secretary in the first days of his now office, because he enjoys the respect of the House and we wish him well. No one wants to be fractious over a problem that is essentially the most difficult problem that any Minister has had to tackle. No one dissents from the view that the bill for a really effective and full Civil Defence might prove so wholly exorbitant that we could not carry it out. If we try to construct deep bombproof shelters for the whole population we are embarking on an operation which would mean giving up all other building operations and going on, probably, until any thoughts of war had gone.

But I am still wondering about a few things. I should have thought that the cost of a journey to Moscow might be worth while and that when we are talking in terms of £100 million, a journey over there might be well spent.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

This is a little beyond the Third Reading of this Bill.

Mr. Hale

The only point I was making was that the consideration for voting for or against the Bill tonight arises to an extent on whether the Government are serious in their attempt to remove the necessity for Civil Defence and to remove the necessity for further expenditure upon Civil Defence. However, I do not want to elaborate the point or to come into conflict with the Chair, and I return, in conclusion, to the main point.

The British public have shown through the years, and particularly in times of danger and difficulty, that the best way of dealing with them is to trust them with the facts. The British public have shown, particularly during the last war, in the days of bombing, that they can be trusted, and trusted much more if they know the facts, if they know what they have to face and if they know what are their hopes and what should be their fears. The frivolous attitude of the Joint Under-Secretary today is one to be deeply regretted in the light of the magnitude of the matter that we are discussing.

Tell the public the facts. Tell them what the hydrogen bomb means. Tell them what is the state of the modern world. Tell them of the utter helplessness of politicians in the face of this menace, and tell them that we are sitting here in a state of almost mental decay because none of us can grapple with the problem. Tell them that in the militarists' world we have now reached the inevitable end of militarism. Tell them we have come to the position when the whole of the arguments have gone by the board. Tell them there is no answer to this menace. Tell them they have got to take their chance of survival in antagonism or pin their hopes on a solution by peace.

If we do that, we shall not need Civil Defence. I believe that if we gave a lead in that direction, there might be hopes of an answer in terms of the thesis which we on this side represent, the thesis of human understanding and world brotherhood.

5.40 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I had not intended to delay the House in the consideration of the question of whether or not we shall give a Third Reading to this Bill, and I hope not to delay it for more than a few minutes now. I would not have delayed it at all but for two statements made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State in his final speech for the Government. One was that everybody in the House was in favour of this Bill except my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), and the other was his statement in which he appeared to be saying that we could not properly tackle the problem of Civil Defence because we could not financially afford to do so.

I should like to make it perfectly clear that I am against the Bill because, at best, it is a farce and at the worst a fraud. Before the Bill was introduced, the country had no adequate Civil Defence. If, after the Bill becomes an Act, no more is done than is contemplated by its provisions, the country will still have no adequate Civil Defence, and I, as a humble Member of this House, would refuse to take part in any conspiracy to deceive the public into believing that something was being done by the Bill to give them the Civil Defence which we all know that they will not get without it and which they will not get with the Bill either.

Had the Government come along and outlined their ideas for defending the civilian population in the event of a war in which hydrogen bombs were used, and if they had asked the House to give a Third Reading to the Bill at this stage against the background of a constructive policy of much wider scope with which they proposed to deal with the whole problem, that would have been a totally different factor. But they have done nothing of the kind, and I think it is a fair inference to draw from their silence —I know it is only an inference, but I think it is a fair inference—that they have no plans at all for Civil Defence. If they have, I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who is responsible—not the Joint Under-Secretary—will tell us so before the House parts with the Bill.

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree with the Joint Under-Secretary that it would be possible to have a system of Civil Defence if only we were willing to spend enough money on it? Does he agree with the further statement that we have not got it only because we cannot afford it? Will he tell us what plans there ought to be, what they would cost and why we cannot afford them? Is the country not to be told anything about this, or are we to understand from the silence of the Government that they have no plans at all?

If they have no plans at all, then one would want to know why. They are not irresponsible persons, and they are not inhumane persons. Whatever one may think about their politics, and however we may differ in our approach to political, social and economic questions, or to problems of international affairs, no one supposes that they would willingly leave the civilian population of this country as defenceless as the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki if they were able to afford them any defence.

It is, therefore, reasonable to infer that they do not believe that such defence is at all possible. If that is so, are they going to say it, or were they intending this Bill to be some kind of answer to the protestation in which the Coventry City Council expressed what is the overwhelming opinion of most civilians in this country? Do they believe it possible to do anything at all to defend the civilian population? If they do, will they tell us what it is? If they do not, will they tell us what bearing that will have upon their policy generally, either in defence or in foreign affairs, or are they like a former Conservative Prime Minister of whom the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's father once said that he was continually stumbling across a great truth and then picking himself up and going on as if nothing had happened?

Sir W. Darling

The hon. Gentleman does not appear to be doing justice to the Bill. He is asking for a general statement about policy. Did he read or hear the opening remarks made by my right hon. and gallant Friend on Second Reading? On that occasion, my right hon. and gallant Friend said: This Bill provides the necessary legislative authority for the training by the Home and Health Departments of certain National Service reservists with a view to their mobilisation in time of war as members of Civil Defence mobile columns."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 2159.] We are not discussing the general policy of defence.

Mr. Silverman

I am gratified that the hon. Gentleman has so effectively and with such facility seized the point that I am endeavouring to make. I thought that I had made it quite clear in my first sentence that my objection to the Bill was precisely because it was not offered to us as a single part, however small, of a general scheme dealing with civilian defence. That is why I am on my feet, and that is the only reason I am making this speech. I am glad that for the first time in our joint Parliamentary careers the hon. Gentleman has succeeded in understanding what it is that I am trying to say. I hope, therefore, that I shall have his continued attention during the few minutes left to me.

Sir W. Darling

What the hon. Gentleman has just said is correct. He is out of order in discussing civilian defence on this specific Bill.

Mr. Silverman

The hon. Gentleman is not so intelligent in understanding what I wish to say. It is perfectly in order on Third Reading to say, of a particular policy advanced in a Bill—subject, of course, to the Ruling of the Chair—that it is insufficient to deal with the job with which it purports to deal. It is quite true that this Bill purports to deal with only one tiny section of Civil Defence. That would not be an objection to it if, in my opinion, it were clear what part it played in a general, effective, adequate system of Civil Defence. I take it as a perfectly valid reason for opposing the Third Reading of the Bill that it does not form part of any such thing, and is, therefore, completely ineffective to achieve anything that the House wishes to achieve.

That is precisely the point that I was making. I was saying that one must presume from the complete silence of the Government on this point that they have no idea how the people could be defended in the event of a war in which hydrogen bombs were used. If that is wrong, perhaps they will take an early opportunity of telling us what their policy is, how it may be done and how they propose to do it.

So far, all that we have heard is a statement by the Joint Under-Secretary that we cannot do it at all, and that if we could we cannot afford it. If the hon. Gentleman knows of any other Government statement on the matter, I will willingly give way, because I would not willingly be wrong. The reason why they know quite well that the people cannot be defended is that they understand some of the elemental facts of geography.

It is just possible that the Soviet Union, with its vast expanse of territory, might survive a hydrogen war. It is just possible that the United States, with its vast expanse of territory, might survive the hydrogen war. Does any hon. or right hon. Member think that this small island, with its 50 million densely crowded population, could survive a hydrogen war? Nobody in his senses believes it, and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) was perfectly right in saying that it is the duty of the Government and of every hon. and right hon. Member not to falter with the matter and to let the people know the truth.

There is no defence for the civilian population of Britain in a hydrogen war, and the Government know it perfectly well. That is why they have not told us their plans. If the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) wants to know why the Government have put forward this Bill I can tell him. One has only to go back to the last White Paper on Defence to see exactly what the Government had in mind.

That White Paper was not written on the basis that the nation could survive a hydrogen war. It was written on the basis that, somehow or other, after the first attacks, with their catastrophic results and their nation-wide devastation, it might be possible to salvage a little installation here, a piece of machinery somewhere else, a small handful of individuals in some other place, in order to continue what the Government describe as "broken-back" war. The purpose of the Bill is to try to keep unaffected by that devastation and trained in advance a small number of people, not at all for the purpose of defending a civilian population, which by that time will be largely wiped out, but for the purpose of carrying on in this broken-back way some kind of military activity.

If that is what their Bill is about, if we are to have the training of a handful of reserves over a great number of years, if that is really all that the Government have to say in the context of the imminent catastrophe, they really must be undeceived when they say that it is only my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East who is against it and will have nothing to do with it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.

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