HC Deb 23 June 1966 vol 730 cc873-5
7. Mr. Sharpies

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement with regard to the outcome of his discussions with local authorities concerning the reorganisation of civil defence.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I cannot yet add to the statement which I made to the House on 2nd February.

Mr. Sharpies

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is now nearly a year since a major reorganisation in civil defence was first announced and it is six months since he said that discussions with local authorities would take place forthwith? Does he not appreciate the very real effect on morale among voluntary workers which this continuing delay and frustration has?

Mr. Jenkins

It is not six months, it is four months and these discussions are proceeding actively.

16. Mr. Bessell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that the film, "The War Game", has created the impression that civil defence would be ineffective in the event of atomic warfare; what steps he is taking to correct this impression; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The film deals mainly with the situation in an area subjected to direct attack by nuclear weapons. No one has suggested that civil defence measures could prevent widespread death and injury in the immediate vicinity of an attack. The Government consider, however, that general adoption of efficient and sensible preparations could do much to save lives, relieve suffering, and help the nation to survive. That is why we are maintaining a limited but effective civil defence programme.

Mr. Bessell

I am very grateful for that reply. The Home Secretary's statement will help to set people's minds at rest.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does the Home Secretary, as a literary gentleman, agree with Emile Zola who said that the truth must out? Would it not be better for the human race if the truth came out now rather than after we and our children have been incinerated? More particularly, would it not be better if it were made known through the medium of television so that people could be stirred against this danger?

Mr. Jenkins

I have no desire and have taken no steps to prevent the truth coming out, either in this or in any other matter. I am merely pointing out that the film deals with the situation in the immediate vicinity of an attack, where the results would undoubtedly be appalling. There might be a different situation some distance from the attack, and it is the duty of the Government to take that into account.

Mr. Marten

Is the Home Secretary aware—he probably is not—that I have been trying to obtain a copy of the script of this film from the B.B.C. so that I can study it and that the B.B.C. has steadfastly refused to allow me to have one? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the B.B.C. to let him have a copy so that he can place it in the Library and we can all study it?

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman will surely be aware that relations with the B.B.C. are not a matter for me.

Mr. W. Baxter

Will my right hon. Friend indicate to the House on what evidence he bases his claim that civil defence will be effective in a nuclear war?

Mr. Jenkins

I am basing my claim on the view that in areas some distance from the immediate scene of attack it is undoubtedly the case that reasonable measures could help the nation to survive and greatly relieve suffering. Nothing I am saying or doing means that we in any way underestimate the severe effects of such an attack or that we shall abate our efforts to avoid one.