HC Deb 14 June 1955 vol 542 cc411-2
30. Mr. Ian Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement with regard to the progress made to date with the organisation of the Mobile Defence Corps.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)

Courses on rescue work for volunteers and potential Army instructors are already being conducted by former Home Office instructors at one Army centre. Rescue and fire training for National Service men who are to go to the Mobile Defence Corps will begin in October.

The controlling staff of the Mobile Defence Corps has been at work for some time. The organisation of the rescue and fire battalions has now been decided and the battalions will be built up to strength as trained men are turned out by the centres. Although National Service men who will eventually form the greater part of these battalions will not begin to join them until the end of this year, I am glad to say that the volunteers who have so far come forward from Anti-Aircraft Command are sufficient for 25 Army battalions.

Mr. Harvey

Is it not a fact that not enough publicity has been given to this new organisation and that many people who might otherwise join it are in the dark about it? Would my right hon. Friend give consideration to a greater degree of publicity for this very great new arm?

Mr. Head

We have already considered this question, and I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I have no doubt that his Question will add to the publicity. A great deal of publicity was given at the inception of this organisation, and I hope that more will be given as it grows.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

How many mobile defence columns are planned and how many have so far materialised?

Mr. Head

There are 48 planned, and as I have said in answer to the Question we have cadres for 25 Army battalions, for which my Department are completely responsible. We have a further 11 planned, but we think there is no point in forming a cadre for them until the intake of National Service men arrives, which will not be until next year.

Mr. de Freitas

is it not true that hardly anyone in the Army has ever heard of these things, in spite of debates and discussions in this House? Would not the right hon. Gentleman take up the point made by his hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) and circularise the units, explaining the form and the nature of this new organisation?

Mr. Head

All the units have been circularised. It is my impression that the vast majority of those who might volunteer are well aware of the formation of these new units.