HC Deb 23 February 1965 vol 707 cc332-48

9.10 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Mackie)

I beg to move, That the Civil Defence (Emergency Feeding) (Amendment) Regulations, 1965, a draft of which was laid before this House on 10th February, be approved. These amending Regulations are straightforward. They are necessary because of the London Government Act, 1963, and merely correct an anomaly arising out of that Act. The Regulations amend the Civil Defence (Emergency Feeding) Regulations, 1951, which placed responsibility for emergency feeding arrangements on certain authorities. Local authorities are required by them to appoint emergency meals officers, to prepare and carry out plans for feeding the homeless after an attack, and to provide training in emergency feeding methods. It is this last function which concerns us tonight.

Section 49 of the London Government Act will have the effect of making the new London Boroughs and the City of London responsible for emergency feeding arrangements in their areas with effect from 1st April, 1965. Therefore, one of the duties of these authorities will be to give training to any of their own staff who would man the emergency feeding services.

Normally, the staff of the school meals service help with this work and so require training. Under the present Regulations, however, the new boroughs in inner London would have no powers of training because education in inner London will, as a result of the 1963 Act, be the responsibility of the Inner London Education Authority and so the school meals staff will come under that Authority. In order to give local authorities in inner London the power to train school meals staff after 1st April the 1951 Regulations have to be amended.

These amending Regulations will put the matter right by giving the requisite power to train staff to the local authorities which will be responsible for the emergency feeding arrangements in inner London. This is in line with the arrangements that operate elsewhere.

The local authority associations have been consulted about these Regulations and no objections were raised, but I would point out that the L.C.C. made it clear that it would have preferred the Inner London Education Authority to be empowered to train the school meals staff in these arrangements. However, Section 49 of the Act places responsibility for civil defence generally on the London boroughs and the City. I hope that, with that explanation, these regulations will be approved.

9.13 p.m.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for explaining these Regulations so clearly, but I have one or two questions. These Regulations amend the 1951 Regulations, which lay specific duties on local authorities to perform. I understand, of course, that I cannot discuss the functions laid down in the 1951 Regulations except in so far as these Regulations amend them. In this respect, of course, the new inner London boroughs are being given certain powers.

How will the splitting up of existing functions take place? As things stand, the L.C.C. has been in charge of these functions for emergency feeding. Now these functions are to be split up between the inner London boroughs and, I assume, the Greater London Council. They will take on the functions which the L.C.C. has so far exercised.

Among the functions laid down in the 1951 Regulations was the duty of providing premises in which the population could be fed in the case of an emergency. This was a function to be undertaken by the local authority, in this case the inner London boroughs. Are the existing premises so designated by the London County Council to be taken over? The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in the case of an atomic attack premises would be useless unless they were proof against blast and the kind of damage which would eventuate from such an attack. What instructions has he given to the inner London boroughs about the provision of premises which could operate in an emergency?

The original Regulations also said that the local authority, that will now be the Greater London Council, should supply the Minister with an estimate of the necessary equipment for carrying out these functions connected with feeding the population. Presumably, the L.C.C. had made estimates and had acquired equipment. How is that equipment to be split among the G.L.C., which I imagine will operate on the fringe area of London, and the inner London boroughs which are to take over these duties inside London? There will be a fair amount of equipment and presumably it will have to be apportioned by some method and on some scale.

This takes us to the crux of the matter, which is whether the Government have decided rightly in making their decision to divide these functions between the Greater London Council and the inner London boroughs. Would it have been better to have given this function solely to the G.L.C. for the entire area, even though that did not coincide with the area designated in the 1963 Act?

The 1951 Regulations provided for the establishment of liaison among the various authorities. Now that there is a proliferation of the London boroughs dealing with the matter, I assume that some kind of co-ordination has been arranged; otherwise, there will be chaos in an emergency. What kind of coordinating body does the Parliamentary Secretary envisage and what kind of mutual aid, as provided in the original regulations, does he have in mind? The local authorities are charged with coordinating their efforts with those of their neighbours and co-operating with them. Some kind of liaison will be needed. The L.C.C. would have fulfilled this function, but it is not difficult now to understand that a great deal of confusion could arise, because we now have seven or eight inner London boroughs together with the G.L.C. all trying to do the same thing. This could easily lead to confusion unless the hon. Gentleman has some scheme in mind to obviate it.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that the education staff of the inner London boroughs would be trained for this work, but he will appreciate that it is not just a matter of feeding the population. He has to get the food, hold it and cook it. Where does he intend to get the kind of personnel necessary for all that? Will he instruct the inner London boroughs to continue with their work, work which they and the L.C.C. were doing, of designating officers to be responsible for procurement and cooking and so on, people who would have to be qualified and expert and perhaps outside the local government service but whose services would be essential in an emergency?

I should like to know how much this will cost. Premises and stores which are blast- and bomb-proof cost money—if they are not that, then the exercise is completely useless. Also, what will be the cost of recruiting, not only local authority officers, but presumably experts, like butchers and others, outside the local authorities? Finally, what estimate has the Parliamentary Secretary received, or expect to receive, from these authorities setting out their needs as laid down in the original Regulations?

This is a rather extraordinary draft Statutory Instrument. I am glad that it has been presented. The Government have now accepted our nuclear policy. They are accepting the Greater London Council and the changes which that has meant. May I assume that they now accept the need for a first-rate Civil Defence and that they will give top priority to ensuring that we have a first-rate Civil Defence? Will they pursue vigorously the object of having a Civil Defence which is worth while and which can operate?

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will answer the questions which I have put.

9.21 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I propose to refer only to paragraph 2(c) which deals with training suitable members of the staff of the Inner London Education Authority". It seems to me that this is conscription by the back door. Have the members of the teaching staff of the inner London Education Authority been asked whether they are prepared to volunteer for these tasks?

As I understand it, when they entered into an agreement on their terms of service it was not part of their duty to go into contaminated areas to provide food for the population of London. Yet, by this very simple Statutory Instrument, the Parliamentary Secretary, on behalf of the Government, proposes to put increased onerous responsibilities on the teaching staff of London. Have they been asked whether they wish to undertake them? Have they been consulted? Have they expressed their willingness to undertake these responsibilities? If not, what power does the Parliamentary Secretary have to say that suitable members of the staff of the Inner London Education Authority will undertake these duties?

This is introducing a form of conscription to carry out duties which will be very dangerous if ever a catastrophe overtakes this country and the population of London have to be fed. I am sure that if they were properly asked, the education authority and the teachers would be willing to have these responsibilities included in their terms of engagement. Has this been done?

If this is being done simply by a Statutory Instrument in this House, on which, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows, there is usually not a great deal of discussion, he is enlarging the commitment of the individual citizen very widely. If this is right for London, presumably members of the teaching profession all over the country will be saddled with the responsibility for emergency feeding in the event of a nuclear war. Is this clear, or is this just a forerunner of conscription by the back door? The Parliamentary Secretary should not smile. It is a very serious issue.

When I became a soldier of the Crown I had to swear oaths and do all sorts of things. The Leader of the Liberal Party mutters that I was an officer. I was not an officer when I first joined, but that does not make any difference. Every enlisted man in the Forces undertakes a commitment which implies that he will put himself in danger in the service of the State. No teacher entered into such a commitment.

I should like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to make it clear that before the Regulations are put into force, he will find out whether the teachers, without any arrangements for compensation and the like, will be prepared to undertake this onerous duty in the event of a nuclear war without further cover from the State to protect them in the course of carrying out that dangerous work.

9.25 p.m.

Mr. John Horner (Oldbury and Halesowen)

It is proper and necessary that these amending Regulations should be before the House tonight and it is quite obvious that we shall see similar amending Regulations as the various Boundary Commissions which are to adjust the local government boundaries become effective in the next year or two.

We see in the Regulations the names of the new inner boroughs of the Greater London Council. My purpose in intervening in the debate is to remind the House that the 1951 Regulations, which tonight's Regulations amend, were adopted by the House of Commons in the age of the atomic bomb and that we are considering these amendments to the original Regulations in the age of the hydrogen bomb.

I should like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, in the exercise of the functions which these amending Regulations impose upon the inner boroughs of the Greater London Council area, to bring his mind to bear upon some of the problems which those authorities now face, not in the atomic bomb period of 1951, but in the present day and age, when we are dealing with something of a quite different character in terms of feeding by emergency methods the population of London. It is these matters to which I should like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and the Government to give their thoughts.

Perhaps I may illustrate the situation in this way. The nominal bomb, which was the term used in the Government's civil defence manuals when the original Regulations were drafted and put before the House, was the sort of bomb which was used in the latter stages of the war. The nominal bomb today to which reference is made in civil defence manuals is what is known as the 10-megaton bomb. Therefore, if hon. Members at my invitation were to apply their minds to the problem which the Regulations seek to assist to resolve, they would see something like the following.

If a 10-megaton bomb—a nominal bomb—were to be exploded at ground level on the site of the Houses of Parliament, then at Romford, Waltham Abbey, Stanmore, Harrow, Surbiton and Chislehurst, which is roughly the area of the Greater London Council, a radius of 12 miles from this spot, the firefighting services would be engaged in handling what is called the main fire zone. That is to say, over a diameter of 24 miles, almost every building which had been exposed to the heat flash of the bomb would have been set on fire.

If one comes into the inner ring designated by these amending Regulations, a ring which would be rounded by Tottenham, Highgate, Fulham and Greenwich, that is, a radius of five miles from this site, we would then be in what is known as the area of total collapse. All the buildings would have collapsed.

An area within a radius of three and a half miles from this site from Hampstead to Stepney, and from Stoke Newington to Battersea, would be an area of total destruction. Everything would be flattened with a nominal bomb exploded at ground level here, and where this House now stands there would be a crater nearly one mile wide and deep enough to take Nelson's Column.

Those are the circumstances in which the volunteers, or conscripts, from the education authorities will be asked to organise emergency feeding. It is a very difficult task. It may well be that the Ministry of Agriculture has the means of supplying this area 24 miles in diameter, involving what is known as fire storm, with winds up to 180 miles per hour. I do not know whether it has, but what I do ask the Ministry to consider in drafting any further Regulations and in seeing that these amending Regulations are applied, is that the Ministry of Agriculture is not held responsible for Civil Defence generally. The Ministry is concerned with only one aspect of Civil Defence arrangements.

I have here an article prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture for a symposium organised by the County Councils' Gazette, a responsible journal which, as I am sure hon. Members know, is the mouthpiece of the county councils. Dealing with this problem of providing food in the event of an emergency, the Ministry advises that certain foods will be fit for human consumption. For example, the reader is advised that any crops which have been subject to fall-out will call for careful handling, but peas within the pod will themselves be safe.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Member is journeying outside the scope of the debate on these Regulations which deal only with the matter of the transfer of training resulting from this local Governmental change.

Mr. Horner

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, and I accept your correction.

I want to suggest to the Ministry, through my hon. Friend, that when these Regulations are issued, and when the responsible authorities are obliged to implement them, advice will be given to them to ensure that this House is not being asked to agree to something of a totally unrealistic and empty character, but that we are in fact dealing with the realities of the situation.

I say with respect to the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) that this has nothing to do with conscription. It has nothing to do with forcing people to do something which they do not want to do in the event of a nuclear war. I have suggested that we would be doing our job effectively as a House if we considered the other aspects of the problem which I have sought to introduce tonight.

9.35 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) has shown the House how dangerous are the duties which, as I read the Regulations, we are asking teachers to undertake in connection with civil defence, and the absolute necessity for giving those people proper training. As I read the Regulations, we are appointing amateurs to carry out this very difficult, dangerous and expert duty. These Regulations are made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and deal with the division of local government functions, which come under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I see no representative of that Ministry on the Front Bench opposite. Why is not that Ministry represented, to tell us something about the division of local government functions under the Regulations? The Regulations apply to the teaching staff of an education authority, which I presume would come under the Ministry of Education.

Mr. John Mackie

It would help us if the hon. Member would show us exactly where in the Regulations teachers are mentioned.

Mr. Page

The Regulations refer to the staff of the Inner London Education Authority. If that does not mean teachers it must refer to the clerks in the offices of the Authority. If that is the case, I come back to what I said at first, namely, that we are appointing amateurs to carry out a very dangerous duty.

I do not know whether the phrase "the staff of the Inner London Education Authority" covers teachers or not, but I assume from the wording that it does. The staff of an education authority surely includes teachers as well as the clerks in the offices of that authority. An education authority must come under the Ministry of Education. I look at the Front Bench opposite and ask, where is a representative of the Ministry of Education? The members of the staff of an education authority are directed by the Regulations to carry out civil defence duties. Where is a representative of the Home Office on the Front Bench opposite? These are hybrid Regulations, and we should have them explained by each Ministry. It directs the inner London boroughs to undertake certain duties, but not by members of their own staffs; they are to enrol members of the staff of the Inner London Education Authority.

Under what terms of their contracts do these employees undertake these duties? Can they be forced to undertake them? Whether they are teachers or clerks in the offices their contracts are with the local government authorities, and as far as I know they do not sign any contracts to undertake these duties. They are not civil servants; they are local government servants. Yet they are to be directed by these Regulations to undertake certain civil defence duties. What happens about compensation, if any of them is injured? These are very dangerous duties which they are expected to undertake. How is it that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food orders educational staff to carry out these duties for a local authority? They are employees of one local authority, but they are ordered by a Government Department to carry out these duties for another local authority.

We need much more explanation of these Regulations. We need to be told how these poor, unfortunate amateurs will be trained to undertake these expert duties.

9.40 p.m.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

I want to say a few words to support my hon. Friend. I appeal to the Ministers concerned with Civil Defence, and particularly with Regulations such as these, to treat the House and the country with candour and to make known, as a function of their training, the real truth of nuclear war if it should happen.

Up to date the country has not been treated with candour. Last year we spent £23 million on Civil Defence. I have friends in the Territorial Army who are particularly concerned about the duties that they would have to carry out in assisting the feeding which we are discussing tonight, if such feeding ever became possible. I am told that there is great unrest among those Territorial officers because the country has not been properly informed about the nature of the emergency which we should have to face. I hope my hon. Friends will bear in mind what has been said.

9.41 p.m.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I think that one fundamental error of policy has been committed in introducing these Regulations. It is in deciding to have the responsibility for training these people, presumably from the school meals service, in the boroughs and not in the Greater London Authority. It is understandable why the decision has been made. Generally speaking, in Civil Defence organisations it is considered to be right and more efficient for each area to carry out Civil Defence. For most of the functions of the Civil Defence organisations that is a right decision but in respect of training this staff, from members of the school meals service, I suggest that it would be more effective and efficient and more helpful in an emergency if they were trained at a centre of responsibility by the Greater London Authority.

What are the advantages of the choice? The principal advantage of having them trained in the boroughs and not in the centre is that obviously, if there are a large number of headquarters there is not the same danger of them all being destroyed at one time. That is true in the case of Civil Defence organisation generally but not in a case such as this where trained people in an emergency would come together at various emergency centres.

What would be the advantages if the responsibility were taken on by the Greater London Authority? They are obvious. First there is the question of recruitment. That is one of the greatest problems in Civil Defence if it is to be taken seriously. Hon. Members will understand our doubts about whether the Government are taking it seriously after the speeches we have heard from the benches opposite on the whole question. I can assure hon. Members opposite that we on this side of the House take Civil Defence seriously and appreciate the great benefits which will accure in the event of an emergency.

In almost every aspect of Civil Defence work there is great difficulty in recruiting suitable people. The obvious way to improve recruitment and to offer people the best facilities for training is to do it on a larger scale. I suggest that we should have the benefit of increased recruitment if the responsibility were accepted by the Greater London Authority.

The second thing is economy of administration. Training could be done in a centre and the responsibility shared jointly by the various boroughs. I do not feel that this would be the case if powers were given to the various boroughs. Each borough would set up its own training centre and encourage the people in its school meals service to be trained in the borough. There would be greater economy in administration and a higher standard of tuition if responsibility for this service were at one centre.

The third and most important matter is the question of the geographical deployment of people being trained. In Scotland during the war there were far too many cases where the whole of a Civil Defence organisation, or all the prominent people in the rescue services, were wiped out when a few bombs were dropped on a city centre. In two places, in particular, we saw cases where too many key personnel in Civil Defence and in the Home Guard organisation were wiped out at one time.

It is obvious that if this is to be an effective service we must make sure that the trained personnel are geographically deployed in a much greater area than that of the Greater London Authority. It may well be that people working in certain boroughs in the school meals service or other educational services reside in different boroughs. If these responsibilities are taken on by the boroughs, the people will be wrongly distributed geographically. If this service is to be useful in an emergency it is essential to have a proper geographical distribution. This kind of planning can take place only if the broad aspect is looked at and if someone in the Greater London Authority deals with the problem all the time. In these circumstances great benefits can accrue if we give this responsibility to the centre. I would emphasise that in many aspects of Civil Defence it is obvious that we could have local organisations. There would be far greater benefits if this service were undertaken by the Greater London Authority.

The final point which I would make is that it has been suggested that if a hydrogen bomb dropped on Parliament this would be a most inappropriate service to undertake emergency feeding. It is obvious that it would be. But if we have this kind of nuclear threat, it is absolutely essential that we have emergency feeding services in operation throughout the country. We do not know where the danger will arise. We do not know where the bomb will drop. It is essential that around the area of destruction we have authorities with equally effective emergency feeding services. The only effective way in which we can do it and have the best recruits, the best training and the best services is to have it undertaken by the Greater London Authority. The Parliamentary Secretary did not make it clear why this choice has been made, why it has been decided to give the responsibility to the boroughs. If he is presenting and asking us to accept these regulations, he should provide more convincing arguments for this responsibility devolving on the boroughs and not on the Greater London Authority.

9.48 p.m.

Mr. John Mackie

I think that this is one of those debates which could be described as far-ranging, though on a very small point, in a way—that of amending a Regulation to fit into certain new things which have happened under the London Government Act. First and foremost I can reply to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). He wonders why the boroughs are given this responsibility. The Opposition when they were in power brought in the London Government Act and they gave the boroughs this job. We are carrying out an Act which they brought into force which gives the boroughs the job of civil defence. That includes emergency feeding. We are simply carrying out what the party opposite brought into being not so very long ago. I do not know why the hon. Member should object to what they have done, although I know that he was not here at the time. Nevertheless, that is the reason for it.

The Minister of Agriculture was given this job—again by the previous Government—in an amending Order. It comes under our food responsibility and it was the previous Government which gave us that too. I would ask hon. Members opposite to take the responsibility for what their Government did and not to criticise it unless they have some better alternative. This is what they did. I will try to reply to the points which were raised. Of course, I shall not reply to those for which I have no responsibility, but I shall reply to those for which my Ministry is responsible, among them some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Cornwall. North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins).

The first is, how is the splitting-up to be done? There is to be no splitting-up. All this is being done at the present moment. These are amending Regulations about the training of emergency staff, who are all volunteers. No teachers will be involved unless they volunteer. This is for the emergency feeding arrangements; people volunteer, and there is no conscription about it. I make this point in reply to the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). I was amused by his synthetic indignation and his talk about bringing in conscription by the back door. It makes nice stuff at this time of night.

I was asked about the premises. The premises are there now; how good or bad they are will be the responsibility of the Civil Defence people, and it is not for me to disclose that now. They will be the same premises. Under Section 49 of the London Government Act, responsibility for Civil Defence is given to the boroughs. I have dealt with that point. Co-ordination is done by Civil Defence staff, too. Nothing is added to the cost by these Regulations. They simply mean that the inner London boroughs will incur the cost at present incurred by the L.C.C. This expenditure is 100 per cent. grant aided by the Ministry. I have already dealt with the point about conscription. These people are volunteers and they are trained for emergency feeding. They are mostly school meals staff, including supervisors and cooks, and they are not teachers.

Mr. Graham Page

The Regulations do not say that they are volunteers. They say such suitable members of the staff of the Inner London Education Authority". This is what puzzles us.

Mr. Mackie

The hon. Member well knows that the Civil Defence people are all volunteers and that they are trained for the job.

Mr. Graham Page

The Regulations do not refer to Civil Defence staff but merely to the staff of an education authority. There is nothing here which says that they are volunteers.

Mr. Mackie

It is clear to anyone who has anything to do with Civil Defence how this operates. The staff are on the schools for school meals, they volunteer and they are trained for the job.

I have answered most of the points raised by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North. I should be going outside the scope of the alterations to the Regula- tions if I dealt with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner). He said that when the original Civil Defence Act, 1948, was introduced we were considering the high explosive and the atom bomb and that we are now considering the hydrogen bomb. He painted a dreadful picture, and we all know how dreadful it would be if a hydrogen bomb were dropped. He said that in those circumstances Civil Defence arrangements were totally unrealistic, when we consider what could happen following the explosion of an atom bomb or a hydrogen bomb.

Mr. Horner

I did not say that Civil Defence was unrealistic. I suggested that the original Regulations, which these Regulations amend, were drawn up in an entirely different situation and that it is the responsibility of the Ministry to draw full attention to this when they send such Regulations to local authorities.

Mr. Mackie

That may be so, but it is completely outside the subject of the training of staff for emergency feeding.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

These Regulations amend the 1951 Regulations, in which the Minister is empowered to give directions to local authorities. By the Amendment he can give directions to local authorities in the inner London area not only about the training of educational staff but also about the nature of their functions under the 1951 Regulations to provide premises—and that covers the point made by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner).

Mr. Speaker

Order. But that situation remains the same whether or not the House accepts these Regulations. For that reason that point is out of order.

Mr. Mackie

I do not wish or think that hon. Members would desire me to go over the whole matter again. Hon. Members are aware of the contents of the Regulations, ample copies of which are available. They merely allow the new London boroughs to train staff—I admit, it is Inner London Education Authority's staff—to take on the job of emergency feeding. I repeat that they are voluntary staff. That is all the Regulations do. Mr. Speaker has already drawn attention to the fact that the debate is straying rather wide. I hope that I have said sufficient to enable the House now to accept the Regulations.

9.56 p.m.

Sir Martin Redmayne (Rushcliffe)

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary should not feel aggrieved because this threatened to be what he called a rather far-ranging debate on what he described as a small point, subject of course to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. This is a subject which we seldom have a chance to debate, although there is the most lively interest in it. Indeed, the Secretary of State for Scotland will agree that Governments have a duty to be prepared for eventualities in Parliament, even if they themselves think that the points in their Orders are small ones. I am sure that that comment strikes a chord with the Secretary of State, who was himself active in bringing this fact to the attention of the House in earlier days.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary should not be surprised that the debate has gone wider than he expected, and he has been guilty of an inaccuracy. He used the tactic which is becoming familiar to us from the benches opposite; of trying to throw off every suggestion on the difficulties involved by saying that it was the fault of the previous Government. In this case he said that it was the previous Government who appointed his Ministry to be in charge of these Regulations. I remind him that it was the Labour Government of 1950 who appointed the Minister of Food to be in charge of these Regulations and that, in due course, the Minister of Food became the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; so it was simply coincidental and on this occasion that excuse will not wash.

I will not go into all the details of the arguments adduced tonight, but I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite have taken careful note of the reactions of their hon. Friends sitting behind them and, without making invidious distinctions among my hon. Friends, have also taken note of the points made by my hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) and my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). They made some extremely important comments—

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

Those which were in order.

Sir M. Redmayne

—especially those which were in order. It does not lie with the Secretary of State to say what was and what was not in order.

As has been pointed out, this is a subject which must not be treated lightly and one on which we would like to have a more detailed debate at a more convenient time. Perhaps I might give a general warning to the Government. Since we have listened with such active interest to the boasts of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that the Parliamentary programme is going through with such smooth ease, they should be warned that when they bring Orders before the House they must be prepared to produce the answers which hon. Members require.

9.59 p.m.

Mr. John Mackie

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir M. Redmayne) on having taken over the subject of agriculture on the Front Bench opposite. I am sure that we all look forward to his lieutenants keeping us up to scratch in future. I am not aggrieved about anything at all. I never said that it was the fault of the previous Government—I simply said that two Bills promoted by that Government created these things. I accept the point that the Ministry of Food was amalgamated. We certainly do not treat Civil Defence lightly, or anything like it. I accept it all, but I cannot accept the right hon. Gentleman's last general warning.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Civil Defence (Emergency Feeding) (Amendment) Regulations 1965, a draft of which was laid before this House on 10th February, be approved.