HC Deb 30 March 1961 vol 637 cc1529-30
60. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what are Her Majesty's Government's present plans for the evacuation of the civil population from the cities of the United Kingdom in the case of an attack by megaton bombs; and what total of population they consider could be evacuated.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)

In the light of the latest appreciation of the strategic situation, I am carrying out a comprehensive review of evacuation problems, including the one referred to in the second part of the Question. I hope to be able to take further steps before long.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does the Minister hope that it will be possible to evacuate 12 million people, as we were recently told, and that in any case it will be possible to evacuate enough people to save 45 million lives, as reporters have recently said?

Mr. Brooke

I am not responsible for what reporters say. I answered the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question in my reply to his original Question. The numbers involved are one of the matters which we are further examining.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I shall put down a Question to the Minister in the early future.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

How far does the Minister co-operate in civil defence with the Secretary of State for Scotland? Is he aware that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) recently stated in the House that if one megaton bomb exploded over Glasgow everything within a radius of 100 miles would be destroyed? In that case, what relevance has this whole business of civil defence to the future of the civil population? Is it not a fact that all the civil defence busines is completely irrelevant to the new situation which has come as a result of the hydrogen bomb?

Mr. Brooke

I am a wiser man than to express any views about Scottish affairs when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is in charge of them. I assure the hon. Member that there is the closest liaison between all members of the Government who are in any way concerned with civil defence.

Mr. Zilliacus

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in reply to a Question from me in November, 1957, assured me that discussions were going on with the local authorities about a plan of evacuation and that he hoped shortly to report to the House on the result of those investigations and discussions? Without seeming unduly precipitate, may I ask whether it is not time that the Government had advanced beyond the stage of reviewing and surveying, and either came to the House and produced a plan or admitted what is the truth, namely, that they have no plan and that there is no possibility of carrying out their civil defence and evacuation policy?

Mr. Brooke

I cannot accept the last words of the hon. Gentleman. But since 1957 there have been far-reaching changes in the appraisal of the strategic situation, and an evacuation plan which was related to a strategic situation now out of date would clearly be worse than useless.