HC Deb 28 March 1968 vol 761 cc1738-811

3.59 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Ennals)

I beg to move, That the Civil Defence Corps (Revocation) Regulations 1968, a draft of which was laid before this House on 29th February, be approved.

Mr. Speaker

It may be for the convenience of the House to consider at the same time the second Order: That the Civil Defence Corps (Scotland) Revocation Regulations 1968, a draft of which was laid before this House on 29th February, be approved.

Mr. Ennals

I understand that it is the wish of the Opposition that we should discuss these Regulations together first before proceeding to the Civil Defence (Fire Services) Regulations.

I hope that the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) will not be offended if to avoid repetition I do not mention their Scottish counterpart when I refer to the Regulations affecting England and Wales; the same arguments apply to both sets of Regulations. However, if there are any particularly Scottish points arising, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will be pleased to deal with them in winding up.

Having, I hope, avoided the obvious danger of giving rise to ill-feeling among my Scottish friends, I come now to the Regulations proper. In his speech in the House on 29th February, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that it was the Government's intention to disband the Civil Defence Corps and the Auxiliary Fire Service on 31st March next, and he explained that this would require the revocation of the 3ivil Defence Corps Regulations, 1949, an amendment to the Civil Defence (Fire Service) Regulations, 1949—to which we shall come later—and comparable action in relation to the Scottish Regulations. The purpose of the Regulations is to relieve local authorities of their statutory obligation to maintain these forces. This is the only way to ensure that the savings, which the Government had decided are necessary, can be achieved.

The Civil Defence Corps was established in 1949 primarily to assist local authorities to perform the civil defence functions placed upon them by Regulations made under Civil Defence Act, 1948. The Corps is a national body, established by a Warrant signed by the Secretary of State, but it is administered locally. Under the Civil Defence Corps Regulations, 1949, it is the duty of county, county borough and London borough councils, and certain other specified authorities, to organise divisions of the Corps.

The active strength of the Corps in Great Britain as a whole was 58,700 in September, 1967, and in addition there were 10,900 fully trained members on reserve. Hon. Members may have noticed the special mention of Scunthorpe in the draft Regulations. Scunthorpe did not become a Corps authority until 1951, when, at its own request, it was added to authorities listed in the Schedule to the 1949 Regulations, and, therefore, needs to be separately included in the revoking Regulations.

The background to the Government's decision to reduce the level of expenditure on civil defence which, in turn, has made necessary the disbandment of the volunteer forces, was very fully discussed during our debate on 29th February. When we spoke in that debate, the Home Secretary and I made it quite clear that the decision to take the painful course of disbanding the voluntary organisations became inescapable once the Government had decided that substantial economies in civil defence expenditure had to be achieved. I explained to the House that, by the actions we are taking, we shall achieve expenditure reductions to the tune of £20 million in 1969–70 and subsequently though not, of course, this year. The cost of the volunteer organisations was a substantial proportion of the cost of our total civil defence programme.

A further reduction in the size of the Civil Defence Corps would not have been practicable because the reductions we made in December, 1966, when the Corps was reorganised, were the largest that could be made consistent with an intention to keep the volunteer forces alive. Any further reduction in their size or capability would have seriously pre- judiced their existence as viable forces. There was no more pruning which could be done.

Nor would it have been possible to make any substantial economies by taking advantage of the many sincere offers which we have received from the volunteers themselves to serve without bounty or other direct payment. As I have already explained to the House, these payments amount to less than 10 per cent. of the total cost of the two services. It is the cost of administration, including the salaries of full-time local authority employees, and the expense resulting from the use of premises rather than direct payments to the volunteers which make up the bulk of the cost.

The maintenance of any standing body, even if it consists, like the civil defence force of volunteers, necessarily costs a good deal of money. It involves continuous rather than "once for all" expenditure. Training is essential if a force is to be any good and training cannot be once for all. If the force is to be effective, there must be a constant influx of new members, constant refresher courses for existing members as well as regular training sessions. This cannot be carried on without spending more money than can be afforded, if we are to achieve the necessary savings in public expenditure which the economic situation demands.

We also made it clear in the debate that the decision to disband the volunteer forces, forced upon us by economic necessity, was taken with reluctance and genuine regret. We paid tribute to the enthusiasm, devotion and sense of public duty shown by the volunteers in the past—the qualities they have displayed not only in training sessions and exercises, but sometimes also at the scenes of peacetime disasters. The nation has reason to be truly grateful for the work of the volunteers who have given their energy and time and deserve an honourable place among those who have served their country well, especially in times when the danger of nuclear war seemed much greater than it does today.

That is the background to the decision. I want now to deal with the consequences of the decision for the volunteers themselves and the country as a whole. First, if Parliament approves the draft Regulations before the House today the volunteer forces will cease to exist on 31st March, 1968. The actual arrangements for disbandment are in the hands of the Corps authorities who have planned ceremonies and stand-down parades of various kinds. No doubt tributes at local level will then be paid to the work of these men and women.

The House may wish to know about arrangements for the payment of bounty. Bounty payments were introduced in 1962 and were intended as a tangible recognition of the firm obligations which volunteers were then required to undertake for the first time. Under the present arrangements it is payable to members twelve months after they join the Corps provided that they have completed a course of training, passed a test and entered Class A of the Corps.

Members of Class A undertake to serve for three years and to undergo a minimum of 40 hours' training each year. Since January, 1967, service as a recruit has counted in the twelve month qualifying period for bounty. At the end of each of the three years they receive payments of £10, £12 or £15 according to rank. The arrangements we have made will mean that any member of the Corps whose bounty year is interrupted by disbandment—that means this week—will be paid the full amount of the bounty to which he would have been entitled in that year in the normal course. The only proviso is that he should have done some training since the start of the bounty year and that his Corps authority should be satisfied that he would have completed the year.

There have been many suggestions that the former members of the Civil Defence Corps might maintain some voluntary activity after the Corps itself has been disbanded. Most of these suggestions have come from the volunteers themselves and I should say at once how much I admire the sense of public spirit which has inspired them. It may be possible for some continued activity to be maintained on a voluntary basis—that is, not involving any financial assistance from the Exchequer. Groups of volunteers may continue to meet for social purposes, and to keep alive certain elements of civil defence knowledge not involving elaborate training. Since we shall not be able to provide Exchequer assistance for this purpose I am reluctant to offer positive encouragement to something that is bound to cost money. If groups of Corps members are thinking of such informal activity, they may wish to pursue the question of possible accommodation with their own local authority.

I have more serious misgivings about suggestions that the disbanded volunteers should act as a civil emergency corps involving some form of rescue operation. For this work volunteers have to keep in regular training with properly maintained equipment, and unless they are kept in practice they could be a danger to themselves as well as to those they were trying to help. If, on the other hand, we were to provide the financial assistance for the proper training that would be required for such an emergency corps, then we shall frustrate our efforts to get the economies which the Government has decided that we must achieve.

Moreover, the country is not without resources now to deal with civil disasters. In any disaster the main burden falls on the regular police, fire and medical services, sometimes with the help of the Armed Forces, all of whom are all well equipped to deal with it. It is certainly true that the civil defence voluntary organisations have readily come forward when disasters have occurred and that the Government and the country have good reason to be grateful for their help.

But all the major disasters of recent times have emphasised the need for expert advice in different professional techniques before engaging the forces best able to give it effect and the main value of the Civil Defence Corps units has been as a support to the professional forces already engaged.

The Home Office has always been ready to send civil defence equipment to scenes of disaster and we are ready to continue to do so. Moreover, assistance has also been given by other voluntary organisations who cover part of the same field, such as the British Red Cross, the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the W.R.V.S.

Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)

When the Home Office sends this equipment to the scene of a disaster, who will man it?

Mr. Ennals

It depends upon what the requirements are. It may be that the full-time police or fire services may need such equipment. It might mean that there was a call from a fire brigade for some of the supplementary equipment previously held by the A.F.S. This will be held in care and maintenance, and I give the assurance that if there is that call the Home Office will be only too anxious to respond.

I know that some members of the Civil Defence Corps have already joined or have expressed an intention to join one of these voluntary organisations, and I feel that there may be many others who will see in membership of one of these bodies which devote special attention to peacetime accidents, an opportunity of continuing to serve their community. There is quite a lot to be said in favour of volunteers joining as civil defence groups, if that is possible, in order to maintain personal associations within the larger framework of the voluntary aid societies. I know that is in the minds of some people who have written about this. The precise arrangements had best be left for direct discussions between members of the Corps or its association on the one hand and the British Red Cross or the St. John Ambulance Brigade on the other.

I ought to try to indicate what the nation has lost by reason of the disbandment of the Civil Defence Corps. It must be accepted that there has been a loss, but I want to put it in its perspective, particularly since there has been a great deal of quite unjustified exaggeration which can only lead to growing alarm and despondency. We shall now be less ready to face a nuclear attack at short notice than we were before. For years planning has been on the basis that it might be necessary to put the country on a war-footing in a matter of a few days and, in order to achieve this, it was necessary to have a large number of people continuously trained and exercised. These were provided by the civil defence volunteer services.

But, as the Home Secretary explained on February 29, there are good reasons to believe that we do not now need to think on such a short time-scale. There has been a gradual but undeniable improvement in relations between the great nuclear powers over the past few years. Whilst it would be foolish to suggest that there is no possibility of this situation deteriorating, we do not believe that such a deterioration would happen overnight or even over a few days. Moreover this state of almost immediate readiness had its price—over £6 million for the Civil Defence Corps alone. We had to consider whether we were justified in continuing to spend this money. We concluded that not only in the present internal circumstances, but especially in present economic circumstances, we were not justified.

We have frequently heard the suggestion that, by disbanding the volunteer services, we are abandoning all civil defence preparations.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Ennals

Hon. Gentlemen who say "Hear, hear" either know that it is not so or have not troubled to find out. This is just not so. The volunteers were certainly a most valuable part of our civil defence preparations, but they were only a part of civil defence in the sense in which that term is normally used.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

Ninety-nine per cent.

Mr. Ennals

Civil defence really means all civil defence measures by civilian organisations, or all measures to enable the whole civilian organisations of the country to prepare for the dreadful consequences of nuclear warfare.

It is unreasonable for the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), who interrupted from a seated position, to suggest that the volunteer forces were 99 per cent. of it. He is greatly, and unfairly, underestimating the contribution made, not only by the regular full-time forces, but by those who will continue with the planning to face a challenge, if it came, under the new arrangements. Most countries have no civil defence volunteer services. The majority of European countries do not have them, and it has never been suggested in those countries that there is no civil defence.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

Those countries which do not have volunteer services have complusory services, do they not?

Mr. Ennals

They have compulsory services, but they do not necessarily have conscription services. Often responsibility falls, as it does in this country, heavily on the regular forces such as the police, fire and medical services. It is quite wrong to assume that all the other countries of Europe conduct their civil defence on a basis of conscription.

Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)

Would the hon. Gentleman say which countries in Europe require National Servicemen to undergo civil defence training? Can he tell us that so that we can see the whole picture?

Mr. Ennals

I will not run through the list of the 23 countries in Europe to answer the hon. Gentleman. The pattern varies from country to country. He will know the truth in my statement that most civil defence preparations in Europe are not based on the sort of voluntary civil contribution made in this country.

We shall be retaining the civil defence control system and its communications, and the warning and monitoring organisation. The regular police and fire services are, retaining their war plans and a certain amount of planning and training will be continued to preserve the skills and techniques which have already been developed. We are keeping extensive stockpiles of equipment—radiac instruments and wireless sets—and stores such as food, oil and medical supplies, so that we can raise the level of our preparations fairly quickly, should the need arise.

As well as the services of the other voluntary organisations which will still be available, the country will also still have the benefit of the very considerable resources of the local authorities themselves.

Local authorities will continue to have the responsibility in war of carrying on the essential services which are their responsibility in peacetime, as well as some responsibilities for which there is no peacetime counterpart. We are making plans to preserve in local authorities a basic knowledge of the facts about nuclear warfare which will enable them to help the survivors of an attack to continue to live. We in the Home Office, and other Government Departments, too, will continue to provide local authorities with support and guidance in civil defence matters. I might add that a further circular of guidance to local authorities will be dispatched if these Regulations are approved today.

One point on which concern has been expressed is the preservation of essential scientific knowledge, particularly in relation to radioactive fall-out, so that the proper advice can be given should the need arise. While I am not in a position to give detailed information at this stage because the Home Office intend to pursue this matter further with the regional scientific advisers and with the local authorities, I can say that the broad intention is to retain on a voluntary basis the most valuable assistance previously supplied by regional scientific advisers and regional scientific training officers, most of whom are on the staff of the universities, and that, in addition, it is hoped to keep a small nucleus of scientific knowledge among a few of the permanent staff of each local authority—people such as science teachers, who have already had the basic training formerly given to scientific intelligence officers in the Civil Defence Corps. They will be kept up to date by an occasional course at the Home Office civil defence training school and by the circulation of information about more recent developments.

I hope that I have said enough to indicate that by disbanding the Civil Defence Corps we are not, as some hon. Gentlemen have suggested, abandoning civil defence planning and preparations, nor are we placing the nation in jeopardy. What we have done is to take a new look at all the circumstances, the level of public expenditure, the nature of the risk, and the state of the economy, and we have struck a balance. I believe that the balance is a sensible and responsible one and I ask the House to approve these draft Regulations.

4.25 p.m.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

I would never have believed that any Minister could bring himself to make such a speech as the one we have just heard. It was so misleading that it misled nobody—certainly nobody who knows anything about the subiect—and I do not think it could have misled many others either.

The hon. Gentleman has made it quite plain that what he calls "economic necessity" is the sole reason for the decisions which the Government have taken. He has made it abundantly plain, too, that strategic and life-saving conditions were ignored for reasons of what he calls "economic necessity". I shall have to deal with this further in due course.

Mr. Ennals

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. I did not say that, and he knows that I did not say it. It is perfectly clear. I said that we assessed both the international situation and the risks, together with the economic situation. If, faced with our present economic situation, we were also faced with a much more dangerous world situation with the prospect and likelihood of a nuclear war, then of course the Government would not have taken the decision it did. All these considerations, and I said so, were put into the balance in taking the decision.

Mr. Speaker

An intervention cannot be a second speech.

Sir D. Renton

I do not wish to make a lengthy reply to that intervention, but HANSARD will reveal, of course, what the hon. Gentleman said, and among the things he said was that the disbanding of the Civil Defence Corps would mean that this country would be "less ready to face a nuclear attack than before." I shall show—I hope quite conclusively—that what we shall be left with will be no preparedness worth anything whatsoever.

Ever since the Prime Minister announced on 16th January that the Government had decided to disband the Civil Defence Corps and to put civil defence on a care and maintenance basis there has been despair among not only volunteers but also the Corps authorities, the local authorities. But there has also been dismay among many millions of people who were not taking part in civil defence. Those people feel that there should be some effective preparation for minimising the effects of war, whether conventional or nuclear. Until 16th January the Government thought so, too, and they said it was essential to pay the modest premium, which, for all local authority expenditure, including the cost of the Civil Defence Corps, come to only £8 million out of a total budget of £10,000 million, of which over £2,000 million is spent on defence. That is the position.

The Civil Defence Corps was formed nearly 20 years ago. As the hon. Gentleman and others have rightly said, its members have given devoted service, and a tribute has often been paid to them for their valuable, vital, voluntary service. It is worth reflecting that only a little over 1 per cent. of the population are engaged in this voluntary work and that they are modest, earnest people who are not the sort to shout their own wares, but have just got on with a necessary and not always very exciting job because they thought it was good insurance, as successive governments had told them it was, to do this work. Now, only three days before the Corps is to be disbanded, Parliament is asked to affirm these Regulations. In spite of the fact that we were told as long ago as 16th January, I feel bound to say that there has been indecent haste by the Government in this matter and that that haste causes confusion and betrays an offhand attitude to volunteers, to local authorities and to Parliament.

We have learned from the Press that the TAVR III may be reprieved. That would be splendid news and, if it is to be reprieved, why not reprieve the Civil Defence Corps as well? But I suppose we are to wait until after these Regulations are out of the way and the Civil Defence Corps is disbanded before any announcement is made about TAVR III.

On 8th March the Home Secretary published Civil Defence Circular No. 4 of 1968, and paragraph 5 said that members of the Civil Defence Corps should be allowed to keep their uniforms, and that they should be so informed. But they were advised that badges of rank should be stripped off. I hope I am not being ungenerous, but it seems to me that the Home Secretary assumes that volunteers are going to treat their uniforms as gardening clothes. It is not even suggested that the badges of rank should be kept for sewing on again in a national emergency. I think that in view of the splendid willingness expressed by volunteers all over the country to continue their training after disbandment without bounty it is hardly credible that they should be given such a snub as this. Surely the right instructions to go in that circular should have been something like this: Volunteers should be asked to keep their uniforms proudly ready for an emergency and permission is given to wear them when taking part in training activities organised informally after disbandment. If something like that had been said it would have been much more appropriate in the sad circumstances of this matter.

Paragraph 6 of that Circular No. 4 says this: Further guidance will be issued about the effect of these formal instruments that is, the Regulations we are discussing today— once the Parliamentary processes are completed. Presumably that further guidance is already prepared and will be sent out tomorrow, although I hope that some of the things said in this debate will be borne in mind. However, that further guidance can reach local authorities only when it is too late to retrieve the chaotic situation which the Government have created.

Why do I use the word "chaotic"? The broad background to the Regulations is this. At present, we have a well-manned expert staff at the Home Office, and at the Staff College at Sunningdale, and in the three training centres—one in Scotland and two in England. The Home Office, with the help of those people, is ready to form a chain of emergency control in the event of attack. That involves two things: a chain of emergency government of all kinds, and a chain of communication for passing information about fall-out.

May I say this about fall-out? As the House may remember, I have had considerable contact with civil defence over the years, and it has always seemed to me that, as the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) never ceases to remind us, there is no hope of saving oneself from a direct hit by a nuclear bomb. Nobody ever thought that there was. The same applies to a small explosive bomb. But the hope of saving millions of lives lies in protecting people against fall-out if we can give sufficient warning of it and if they and others are trained to help them survive from fallout. It is, therefore, in that respect that the chain of emergency control which has been established is important.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

Does not the right hon. and learned Member recall that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said that there would be no survival from fall-out or anything else?

Sir D. Renton

My right hon. and learned Friend did not say that, or anything like it.

Mr. Jenkins

I will quote the exact words. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said at c. 1650 of HANSARD for 4th March, 1965: "…we would not survive". That is what that means.

Sir D. Renton

On a previous occasion the hon. Member for Putney was challenged when he quoted and misunderstood what my right hon. and learned Friend said. I do not propose to go over all that again. It is already in HANSARD.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Too many people want to join in the debate simultaneously. It is unusual.

Sir D. Renton

It might be best if I were to continue briefly to describe what civil defence consists of now and what it will consist of from All Fool's Day onwards.

The Home Office is at the peak of the chain of emergency control in the event of attack. Under the Home Office there are the regional headquarters and the sub-regional headquarters, with expert staff, mostly situated in purpose-built control premises. There are the corps authorities at county council and county borough council level which organise the chain of control right down to contact with people in every village and street.

Under the reorganisation which the Government carried out only a year ago, the corps authorities are required to ensure that the chain of control goes down through borough councils and district councils. Most of the manpower at the base of the pyramid is provided by the Civil Defence Corps. This setup did not cost very much. It has often been referred to by Government spokesmen as a modest and essential premium.

The Under-Secretary of State said that we were not abandoning all the civil defence services. Let us test that and see what is left. The House may be surprised to learn that all that will be left will be this. The Home Office staff will be halved and, therefore, severely truncated. The Staff College will have gone and so will two of the training centres. The regional and sub-regional staffs will have been dismissed—and this is a most serious break in the chain of control, because it means that the Home Office and the Scottish Office will have to deal direct with a multitude of local authorities instead of having the present administrative pyramid.

The local authorities will be required to continue with emergency planning but will be deprived of the means to do so, as I shall show. The Civil Defence Corps is to be disbanded and with it will go, unless something is done quickly, a vast amount of expert knowledge and proficiency. In particular, what is to happen to the scientific intelligence officers, who are absolutely key people? When the fall-out information is relayed down through the Royal Observer Corps, it is for the scientific intelligence officers to interpret it to the people on the ground. In an emergency, it would be vital to get the scientific intelligence officers quickly back in position, because without them the whole system breaks down. They are not very numerous, but, like everybody else, they are being disbanded. We should be told that an attempt will be made to keep in touch with these vital specialists.

That is the dismal background to these Regulations. I suggest that we should not affirm them. We should however be assured of three things, at the very least: first, that the Government will let the local authorities have the means to carry out their statutory responsibilities, which will remain; secondly, that the Government will encourage, and do nothing more to discourage, volunteers from carrying on training on an informal basis thirdly, that the Government will allow local authorities to provide reasonable facilities to volunteers who wish to continue training in that way.

The statutory obligations of local authorities will remain. In Circular 2 this year, the Government said that …emergency planning should continue at the minimum level needed to enable more active preparations to be resumed if necessary without too much loss of ground. To enable that to be done, the Circular said that …the gross amount of local authority expenditure on civil defence is to be reduced from the present £8 million a year to about £1 million. That means £1 million a year. But it now transpires that they will not be allowed to spend anything like £1 million a year, which anyway would not be anything like enough. I understand that the sum which they will be allowed to spend is only £480,000 for all corps authorities. The regional officers have already been to see the corps authorities about this. In practice, there will be only between £1,500 and £4,500 for each authority, according to its size. I understand that Birmingham, which has a population of over 1 million, will be allowed to spend only £4,500 for its emergency planning work. The valiant people of Coventry, with such unhappy memories of enemy attack, will be allowed to spend only £2,000. It is quite disgraceful.

Let me tell the House that the statutory responsibility of local authorities for emergency planning will involve four things. First, they will have to ensure that planning for each level of control, down to control post level, is prepared and maintained. That is the War Book planning. Secondly, they will have to coordinate their own departments' emergency plans with the plans of the police service, the fire services, the Armed Forces and public utilities especially water supply, electricity and gas, and with the plans of the voluntary aid societies. Thirdly, they have to make plans for the requisitioning of premises, vehicles, equipment and stores in case of emergency. Fourth, they have to ensure the training, planning and disposition of local authority staff in accordance with the Civil Defence (Public Protection) Regulations of 1967.

All that under those four heads will be an enormous task which will require at least one man with expert knowledge, considerable administrative ability and enough status. He will have to have an office and some clerical help and it simply cannot be done on the money allocated. No authority could do that satisfactorily on £4,500 and of course £1,500 or £2,000 would be a ludicrous amount. If this is wrong let us be told, but I am assured this is not wrong. but that this is the position. I have heard that from more than one local authority source. We should be told why, over a few weeks, the £1 million has become £480,000. Can I make a plea, as much in sorrow as in anger—because I really believe the Government should think again about this even at this late stage. As it stands their future policy for emergency planning, of which they have made so much and on which the hon. Gentleman hopes to reassure the House and the public, is not preparation for total war. It is total deception.

As to the second matter on which we should have minimum assurances, volunteers continuing to train on a voluntary basis, we must remember that for the past year or so the county councils and county borough councils have had to reorganise their Civil Defence Corps down to a lower level so that the district councils and small borough councils have been involved. Therefore, if volunteers are to meet together again it will not often mean much travelling for them, and they could meet in town halls and district council buildings; and those buildings could be used at a trifling cost to cover heating, lighting and cleaning. I hope the Government will give their blessing to this. The hon. Gentleman said that the Exchequer assistance could not exceed what was prescribed, which for these kind of purposes is £480,000. But is there any impediment on these trifling sums of money being found out of the rates? I hope that when the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland replies to this debate we may have the assurance that it would be in order for local authorities to charge these small amounts against the rates. It would be very sad if that did not happen.

Many volunteers possess training pamphlets and instruction books and they should be told in the next Home Office circular that they may keep them. They should be requested to store them carefully and might even be instructed to refresh their memories from them from time to time. But at any rate they should be kept so long as those people intend to continue training on a voluntary basis. On 22nd February last in an Adjourn- meat debate the hon. Gentleman when considering this question of volunteers continuing on an informal basis first of all poured cold water on it—though not quite the deluge of cold water he has poured today—and said: Nevertheless, the Government do not want to discourage the volunteer spirit, if some ready and reliable means of retaining voluntary activity, without cost can be found. It will be interesting to see what happens to some of the local ideas and experiments which are being proposed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1968; Vol. 749, c. 809.] Since then, of course, some of the civil defence volunteers have got together and put forward most elaborate proposals well worthy of consideration. I suggest that their efforts should be encouraged just as much, as for example, the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and Women's Royal Voluntary Services are encouraged. If those voluntary bodies can be encouraged, why cannot, for example, a Voluntary Civilian Aid Association be encouraged? I hope we shall be assured that the Government will help and not hinder this praiseworthy offer of voluntary public service.

As to the third matter, allowing local authorities to provide reasonable facilities, I will just add that the Government already know from the representations made to them that local authorities themselves are willing to give a modest amount of the help required to enable volunteers to continue training; but unless the Government grant or allow local authorities to spend the money to perform their own statutory duties, that is to say, to have a civil defence officer to perform those four tasks I have mentioned, the chance of the volunteers effectively remaining together to train for emergency is dim indeed. So it goes back to this £480,000.

There are in various parts of the country what are called, I believe, battle training grounds. They are a mass of bricks and rubble. I have visited several of them and they are unlikely to be valuable for any other public purpose. I hope that the Government will at least be so generous as to allow these splendid shambles to be used by civil defence volunteers for voluntary training and I hope we shall not have cold water poured upon that suggestion. In a Home Office circular it on Civil Defence issued in January, 1967, it was said: If, against all probability, an attack were to be made there might be only a very short time for overt precautions and emergency plans must reflect this. That was the Government view then. Now the Government have switched right round.

In the last resort, the test of whether these Orders should be affirmed and the Civil Defence Corps disbanded lies in the answer to this question: could civil defence, with all its elaborate training, chain of control and organised readiness, be reactivated quickly enough in an emergency?

I suggest that the answer is, certainly not, in the light of the speech which we have heard today and in the light of the Government's present decisions and attitudes. But, if the Government were to have second thoughts, even at this last minute, about local authority expenditure and if they let the volunteers fulfil their hopes, something would be immediately available at short notice and plenty of lives could then be saved.

I am afraid that I interrupted the hon. Gentleman in his speech on the question of compulsory service, and he did not seem quite certain of the answer to give. I hope that I do not sound offhand if I presume to give the House an answer from the information at my disposal.

The position is that some countries have civil defence corps rather like ours. Other countries have regular police, fire and life saving services, full-time and fully paid, and neither volunteers nor any form of compulsory service. In other countries, notably Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland, civil defence service is an alternative to compulsory military service and, therefore, they have compulsory civil defence service. But there is no country in the world likely to be threatened which has or will have so little preparation for nuclear war as this country will have once the Civil Defence Corps is disbanded and civil defence is put on to a care and maintenance basis. If there is any other country which counts in these matters, perhaps we shall be told and given the comparison. That is the challenge which I put to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ennals

Our assessment is that, once the changes have been made, we shall be spending about the same proportion on civil defence as France.

Sir D. Renton

But the hon. Gentleman has mistaken the situation in France, where to a very great extent they rely upon the training of their regular services of police, fire and so on. With great respect to him, his comparison is not a valid one.

This is a tragic occasion. The credibility of the deterrent is being diminished. The country is being deprived of the readiness of a service which could save millions of lives if war should come, whether total nuclear war or something less damaging but still destructive. All this is happening because the Government have so squandered the people's hard-earned money on bad and inessential purposes that they cannot find the modest premium to reassure and protect the people.

4.54 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

I am sure that the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) is right when he says that there is no real possibility of the speedy reactivation of the Civil Defence Corps once the consequences of these Regulations have taken effect.

The Civil Defence Corps is virtually being disbanded. The Under-Secretary of State was at pains to suggest that this is not happening. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right in his definition of what is taking place, and in that respect he is being more realistic than my hon. Friend. I differ from him when I come to consider his estimation of the consequences.

I do not need to rely upon what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said on 4th March, 1965. I need not repeat it, because HANSARD speaks for itself. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes that he had not said it. It is probably very inconvenient for his hon. Friends that he did.

I prefer to rely upon what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said on the same day: I do the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone the credit of believing that he was sincere in what he said … He talked very seriously indeed about the need for world government. He talked very seriously about what would happen if any thermo-nuclear exchange took place. He understands these facts. He knows that if we ever loose off this weapon, life on this island would be extinct within three days."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 1660.] That was no irresponsible person speaking. It was my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

If what my right hon. Friend said is true, as I believe, the discussion which has taken place in this debate until now has been unrealistic. We are not alone in this House. We do not exist here in a vacuum. Scientific evidence about the probabilities of the consequences of thermo-nuclear war is at our disposal. Taking the best scientific information that we can get, the probability is that, in this crowded island, human survival is a matter which cannot be counted upon unless one accepts the word "survival" as meaning survival after the first few minutes. If one says that a person who is alive after the immediate impact has survived, in that sense there will be survivals.

My right hon. Friend has quoted a period of three days, after which all life may be extinct, and I think that that is about the right sort of estimate, if one excludes vegetable matter and talks in terms of human survival. Therefore, it is important that we should recognise precisely what we are discussing, and mainly we are discussing thermo-nuclear war and the possibilities of survival in that event.

Sir T. Beamish

The hon. Gentleman is misleading the House about the views of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who made it clear in reply to an intervention from the hon. Gentleman that, in his view, millions would survive a nuclear attack and need succour. He is deliberately misleading the House, and that is thoroughly dishonest.

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) must not accuse me of dishonesty. He knows that his right hon. and learned Friend wishes that he had not said what he said. I do nor blame him for it. Many of us change our minds and wish, on reflection, that we had not made certain statements in the past. However, it is in HANSARD in black and white, though I will not bore the House by reading it again. Clearly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said it.

Sir T. Beamish

Thoroughly dishonest.

Mr. Jenkins

Nonsense. The hon. and gallant Gentleman must be quiet. If he wishes to intervene, I suggest that he should stand up and do so rather than make loud interventions from a seated position.

Sir T. Beamish

In that case, what I said was that the hon. Gentleman is deliberately misleading the House by misquoting my right hon. and learned Friend, who made it clear later in his speech exactly what he meant. However, the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) chooses not to refer to the later passage in my right hon. and learned Friend's speech, because he wants to mislead the House. I hope that he will apologise.

Mr. Jenkins

Certainly I will not—

Sir T. Beamish

It is quite disgraceful.

Mr. Jenkins

That is nonsense. However, since the hon. and gallant Gentleman invites me to do so, I will read the whole passage from the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I am only sorry that he is not present to hear it. He said this: … others may survive the nuclear exchange. The Chinese may survive; masses in Asia and Africa may survive; for aught I know, the Russians and the Americans, after having suffered immeasurable damage, might after a fashion survive, too. I do not know, but one thing I know, and that is that we would not survive …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 1650.] The hon. and gallant Gentleman, in suggesting that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone did not say that, is himself being dishonest. I accuse him of total dishonesty in trying to mislead the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

Order. We cannot have these continual accusations across the Floor of the Chamber.

Sir T. Beamish

Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We cannot have these continual mutual accusations of dishonesty across the Floor.

Sir T. Beamish

As the hon. Member for Putney has invited me to interrupt—I shall not do so again—I will tell him exactly what my right hon. and learned friend said. It is a very brief extract. He said, in reply to an intervention by the hon. Gentleman: I never meant to suggest that one could say that after a nuclear attack there would not be millions of people alive, millions of people sick, millions of people hurt, and millions of people in need of the common necessities of life and the elements of civil Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1788.] Now let the House decide who is telling the truth and who is lying.

Mr. Jenkins

I am well aware that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone said that on another occasion. He also said what I say he said. One takes one's choice of quotations. I prefer the original quotation of March, 1965, to the later correction.

I repeat that I do not have to rely upon that, because I have relied upon, and have quoted, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who made a much more categorical statement than the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I went so far as to say that I thought my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State went too far. However, we do not need to rely upon information and opinions expressed in the House. We can go outside the House. We can, for example, if we wish, remind ourselves that on the subject of civil defence The Times has said this: If there were an attack, could Civil Defence do anything significant to alleviate our lot? That is, do people believe that 'some semblance of ordered existence', as the L.C.C. report puts it, could be restored after the attack for those who survived it, or do they believe that the reality would be nearer the total extinction drawn so vividly by Nevil Shute in his book ' On the Beach '? The evidence throws its weight on the side of the second belief. This is the position I put before the House. It is a rational position. It is one which has enormous support outside the House and some support inside it. I do not see why the hon. and gallant Gentleman should get so excited about it. He and I went across to County Hall, after the Government's announcement of what they intended to do today had been made, to face a group at the Institute of Civil Defence. At the time I thought that no more foolhardy enterprise had ever been undertaken since Daniel entered the lion's den. I was indeed pleasantly surprised. I was a little alarmed by some of the written questions, one of which I quote: Many of us feel that the disbandment of civil defence on economy grounds is a bogus excuse trumped up to suit the political book of those who would like to see a hammer and sickle over Westminster and a dictator installed at Buckingham Palace. Are we so very wrong? I was pleased to be able to tell them that they were wrong. The tenor of the discussion was far removed from that type of question.

I formed the impression, as I had in previous conversations with civil defence people, that they themselves basically recognise that the task they are being asked to perform is one impossible of fulfilment. They wish to discuss the question of the continuation of the Civil Defence Corps in some more rational form, one in which they would not be asked to carry out duties which most people who have studied the subject in any detail realise are impossible of fulfilment.

I have kept with this subject for a number of years. Like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, I was a member of the Royal Observer Corps before the last world war and retain interesting memories of my association with that excellent body. At the time it was just the Observer Corps: it had not got the "Royal". Subsequently I was in the Royal Air Force, and I obtained some rather closer knowledge during that period of the consequences of bombing. I was in Asia when the thermo-nuclear bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I have studied the development of this problem ever since the invention of the fission bomb, and more so since the invention of the fusion bomb.

In my view, a fundamental change took place, to which hon. Members have not yet adjusted themselves, when the change from fission to fusion took place. The possibility of human survival in some form still existed in terms of the fission bomb, in terms of what is known as the atomic bomb. When we moved from fission to fusion and when the H-bomb was developed as a result, a situation arose for the first time which hon. Members quite clearly still find so uncomfortable to face that it fills them with anger. I understand this. Anybody who tries to point out what is happening, that life itself is threatened, is treated as somebody who is doing something which ought not to be done. I think that it ought to be done.

I believe that the Government themselves, by deciding that the Civil Defence Corps should be disbanded—or put on a care and maintenance basis, as my hon. Friend would prefer me to say—have taken a step which is a better one than they are taking credit for.

Although they have taken this step they say, "No. We have not really done it. We still have all the apparatus left behind. The whole thing is still really there".

Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)

The hon. Gentleman says that it is claimed that the apparatus is there. My information is that the apparatus has been removed some distance in most cases. The apparatus of civil defence for Birmingham has been moved 90 miles away.

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman and I are using the word "apparatus" in two different senses. The hon. Gentleman is using it in terms of machinery in its technical sense.

Mr. John Horner (Oldbury and Halesowen)

I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that, in the event of an emergency, it would be no good leaving the apparatus inside Birmingham. It would be moved out, in any case.

Mr. Jenkins

I agree. I used the word "apparatus" in the non-technical sense of suggesting that the Government were still keeping in being—this is my belief—the whole set-up of the regional seats of Government which exist underground all over the country. There are, I think, 11 of them. They have a full manned strength of a very substantial number of people. They are manned by people from various Government Departments. The nearest one to London, that from which the Chief of the London Civil Defence Corps would operate, is at Reading. The reason why he would operate from Reading is that there is no possibility of survival in London. Therefore, he recognises the truth of my assertion: the possibility of human survival in the event of a nuclear attack is so remote that, to operate a civil defence apparatus for London, one goes to Reading.

This organisation will remain. Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell us whether I am correct in assuming that the whole infrastructure of civil defence is intended to remain. If so, I think that my hon. Friend will get the worst of all worlds. Under the Conservative Government the civil defence service was never very full, anyway. If they had developed the service to a full evacuation and shelter policy, to an extent such that people could have had real belief in it, and had coupled that with the retention of the nuclear weapon—the retention of the nuclear weapon, on the one hand, and a full civil defence service costing many hundreds of millions of £s on the other—there might have been a shred of reason in such a policy.

I think that the other policy, which would be very much cheaper and better, is to have no civil defence, and no Polaris, because, if we do not have an attraction for other people's nuclear weapons, we do not need civil defence. Let us face it, to sustain nuclear weapons and bases is merely to create a target. If we maintain Polaris, we maintain this country as a target for nuclear weapons from elsewhere. To maintain nuclear weapons and bases, and simultaneously to put civil defence on a care and maintenance basis, seems to me to be adopting a policy to provide the worst of both worlds.

I should like to regard the Government's policy as moving in the direction of a rational approach to the problem. I hope that the decision to put civil defence on a care and maintenance basis, or, as I see it, virtually to disband it, is a move in the direction of opting out from the nuclear arms race. I should like to see this as a recognition by the Government that this country is in a peculiarly vulnerable position. Whatever other countries may do, the Government should give a lead in opting out of the nuclear arms race. I should like to see them take the next step necessary to help our economy, which is to get rid of nuclear weapons.

Ever since knowledge of the civil defence force during my six years as a member of the London County Council—at that time it was the largest Civil Defence Corps in being, and I think it still is, even though it was always rather less than one-tenth of its theoretical strength—I have had a very soft spot for civil defence people, impossible though their task has always been.

Mr. Farr

They do not have a soft spot for the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Jenkins

That may be so, but when I went with the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) to visit some of the civil defence people, I was surprised to find that they had rather a softer spot for me than they might have had. They were very kind and courteous, and I much appreciated it.

It is natural that people who are told that their function is one which they can no longer carry out should not be happy about it. I take the view that so long as we have Polaris there is a function which ought to be performed by a corps of this sort. The Government ought to create a euthanasia corps. While we have Polaris, there is the possibility of death occurring on a huge scale. The question, therefore, is what will happen during the three days which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said was the period for which people would still be alive in this country after a nuclear attack? Supposing he is right. Supposing it is true that there will be life in this country for three days after a nuclear attack. Ought not we to make some realistic provision for that possibility? Is it not a condition of the possession of Polaris that we provide for the consequences of it? Have not the Government a straightforward duty to provide for the painless extinction of the population of this country? I suggest that the Government should create a euthanasia corps to make sure that the policy of extinction is followed to its logical conclusion, and the people of this country are provided with a reasonably dignified way out, instead of the present irresponsible policy.

I believe that for the first time—whether they admit it or not—by this decision to put the Civil Defence Corps on a care and maintenance basis the Government have begun to admit the facts of life in the nuclear age. For this reason I support these Regulations.

5.15 p.m.

Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)

I do not wish to follow in detail the arguments of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). I do not think there is an hon. Member on this side of the House who does not totally disagree with every word he said, and does not reject the whole basis of his argument. It is all very well having a highly intellectual logical mind, but a highly intellectual logical mind is usually entirely wrong in its conclusions. We can only thank God that gentlemen such as the hon. Gentlemen, with his logical mind, were not in charge of the affairs of this country in 1940, when, by all the logic of the situation, this country should have ceased to exist.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that I took my logical mind into uniform in 1940?

Sir Frank Pearson

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the post of command of his own Euthanasia corps, because nobody else will take it on.

Perhaps I might revert to the Regulations. We last debated this matter on 29th February. At that time many of us were disappointed that possibly the importance of the subject was not reflected in the space which the Press gave to our debate, but I was glad to see in this morning's papers the amount of space given to reporting the excellent debate on this subject in another place yesterday, when some extremely valuable contributions were made. I hope that after reading the reports the public will begin to realise exactly what we are doing on the Floor of the House this afternoon by tearing down the whole civil defence organisation which we have had in this country for the past 20 years.

I think that we must be clear about this. In the debate in the other place yesterday, the Minister replying for the Government talked about a reduction in our civil defence services, and the Under-Secretary of State did the same thing today. This is not a true statement of the situation. The true situation is that under these Regulations the statutory rights of local authorities to organise civil defence personnel in their areas will be removed in its entirety. This is the situation, and we shall be left with paper plans, and a so-called chain of control which will have no useful purpose in practice.

The terrible thing is that the destruction of this highly important movement in the defence services of the country—and that is what it is—is being justified purely and solely on the basis of saving about £8 million or £9 million. That is all it is. No one has come to the House to justify this extremely important decision on the grounds of defence potential.

When the Under-Secretary of State put his case to the House, he rather gave the impression that we had a vast and highly efficient civil defence network spread throughout the country. I would be the last to claim that our present Civil Defence services are as fully effective as they would need to be in an emergency. I would almost be prepared to admit that in many instances they are well below the strength at that which they ought to be even under existing circumstances. What I deny is that at their present level they were ever meant to be a wide-ranging cohesive civil defence organisation. They were meant as a series of nucleii through all the main centres of population—a relatively few civilian volunteers prepared to train as wardens, rescue service men or in any of the other departments of civil defence. It was in this rôle that I attached the greatest importance to them.

Should the terrible crisis ever come, one of the Government's prime duties will be to ensure that there is no civilian panic. Control of the civil population will matter more than anything else, and that can never be effectively achieved through a purely professional and whole-time organisation. It is essential that any civil defence system, to be effective, should have members who are part of the civil population, in day-to-day touch with the population and with full knowledge of their local area. This is the value of the civil defence service which we are now tearing down and it is this quality of local knowledge and contact which will be so difficult to regain or to achieve if the terrible moment should come when we had to try to re-alert these services.

I will try to deal with the point of the hon. Member for Putney, that if nuclear war came the whole island would be wiped out. No one in the House today can say what would happen in a nuclear attack or even that there would be such an attack in the event of hostilities. Who is to say that conventional attack would not be the order of the day and that, if a nuclear missile were fired, it would hit its target, or that the whole country would be affected? No one can say that.

Thus, it is right that the Government should take minimal measures to ensure that services are available which, in a conflict—however far away or unlikely that may seem—could form the nucleus of a wide-ranging civil defence system. It is because these Regulations tear down that service and abolish the hope of such a service that we must vote against them today.

This relates not only to the question of defence but also to the important necessity for assistance in times of civil catastrophe. I was very disappointed when the Under-Secretary gave so little hope of any organisation which could be of value for civil defence. Some months ago, when there was a terrible earthquake in Sicily, one of the first things on our television screens that evening was a picture of a civil defence unit leaving, I think, Bristol for Sicily to give immensely valuable help. This sort of thing does far more good than technical and overseas aid or overseas bases, and I condemn the Government for losing this great opportunity of turning at any rate a part of our civil defence into a voluntary aid service for times of civil disturbance. They had a great opportunity but did not have the imagination to take it. They have torn down an organisation which could have been of inestimable help to this country and others. For that, I condemn them.

I wish to turn to one or two minor details. I am very worried about the future position of civil defence personnel who have served for some time. I have been to Taymouth Castle, I have been to the Staff College, and I was at one time chief civil defence warden for the whole of Lancashire, so I know something of the magnificent service which many of these men have given in these institutions. Not all these men are permanently recruited. Many are temporarily recruited, although they have been in the service for 15 or 20 years. I hope that the Minister will tell us what he is doing to help these, technically, temporary employees and assure us that he will see that they get fair compensation or pension terms, whatever it may be. I am talking not of the ordinary civil defence workers but of the technical and office staff at these establishments. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to help.

This is a sad and tragic occasion, when this great service is being torn down and the whole voluntary spirit dissipated, not only in civil defence but in the Territorial Army and the fire services. It shows a complete lack of understanding by the Government of what makes the British people tick, what they really understand and value. That, to me, is the most tragic aspect of this debate. Tonight, we shall go into the Lobby, although I do not suppose that we have any hope of defeating the Government. If right were to be done, however, we should defeat them, because the Regulations should never be allowed to pass.

5.27 p.m.

Mr. John Horner (Oldbury and Halesowen)

I took my first civil defence course, an air raid precaution course, 34 years ago, so I hope that the House will not think me immodest if I say that I have some acquaintance, both practically and theoretically, with the problem which we are discussing. I share many of the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). I believe that the rôle of civil defence is totally irrelevant to the survival of the millions of people who would be left alive after nuclear attack.

We can waste the time of the House disputing what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) did or did not say about life being totally extinct in these islands after a major nuclear attack. What we are concerned with is the rôle of civil defence, and if people survive it will not be because of the capacity or the sort of civil defence which any Government has ever conceived or been prepared to plan and pay for.

The case for civil defence is that millions will survive and will require medical aid, food, shelter, guidance, reassurance, and some prospect of being able to go on living, but it will not be civil defence which will provide any of these things. If nuclear war comes to these islands, the total disaster, which is unimaginable now, would be neither of a scope nor of a nature which could conceivably be dealt with by the sort of civil defence organisation which we are discussing.

The Government should have had the courage not merely to put civil defence in mothballs and give it a care and maintenance rôle but to recognise that it is irrelevant. It is a grotesque farce and a dangerous one at that, as I will explain shortly. First, however, I wish to concentrate on an aspect of civil defence of which I have intimate and personal knowledge. I refer to fire fighting. I have not heard a squeak of protest about the winding up of the A.F.S. from any of the professional firemen engaged in local authority fire brigades. I have seen a number of statements from the National Association of Fire Officers and from the Fire Brigades Union, and certain chief fire officers—

Sir D. Renton

On a point of order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me interrupting his speech, but I do so to remind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I disciplined myself not to talk about the Auxiliary Fire Service because we are to have a separate debate on the Regulations covering that matter. That being so, would it not be more interesting to hear the hon. Gentleman's observations in that later debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I was wondering about that when the right hon. and learned Gentleman intervened. I should perhaps point out to the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) that the House decided that it would be better to have a separate debate on that subject on the Fire Service Regulations. The hon. Gentleman might, therefore, think it better to defer his observations until then.

Mr. Horner

I shall be obliged if I am able to catch your eye again later. In the meantime, I will defer my observations on this subject.

When we see the tattered remnants of civil defence left behind when these Regulations are approved, when the local authorities have stored away all the equipment and paid off—or found new employment in local government, as we hope will happen—the small number of whole-time local government officers, we will still be told by this Government as we have been told by former Governments, that civil defence has a rôle to play.

Having taken this step to dismantle what hon. Gentlemen opposite have called the "infrastructure of civil defence", how on earth, within the period which may be available, if it looks as though the international situation will reach such a point of tension—a position which we hope and pray will never arise—that we must mobilise the civil defence, will we be able to put back the clock? Having approved these Regulations, what mechanism will be available to local authorities to reintroduce their civil, defence organisations on anything like a workable basis?

The volunteers will have drifted away, the training schools will have run down and the equipment, however much care is exercised, will have rusted, become eroded and be out of date. If new equipment is provided, fresh training will have to be given. It is for this reason that the action of the Government in this matter should have been pursued to its logical end. We should say that the time has come when, in the sort of world in which we live, with the normal weapon in a nuclear war being a 10-megaton bomb, civil defence along the lines we have known is of no value.

A 10-megaton bomb is equal to 10 million tons of T.N.T. An unbroken railway line stretching from Paris to Constantinople and carrying trucks filled with T.N.T. gives one an impression of what 10 million tons of T.N.T. looks like. The Ministry of Health spelt out in an earlier circular the 53 major targets which might expect to sustain a nuclear attack, places like Lancashire, Birmingham and across the whole of South-East England. This being so, how can hon. Gentlemen opposite complain about moving equipment from Birmingham? The whole conception of civil defence is that one cannot fight at the point of attack because one cannot exist at that point and because one will not be able to get there for some weeks.

Sir E. Errington

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that there is such a thing as reason in sucking duck eggs? It is silly to move equipment 90 miles away. The equipment should be 20 to 30 miles away. It is ludicrous to suggest that equipment which is 90 miles away could be effective.

Mr. Horner

That intervention illustrates my point, because 30 miles away would not be far enough. If the hon. Gentleman assumes that we are talking about duck eggs, I assure him that I am not talking about bombs in the sense that the word is normally used. We are talking about tremendous instruments of destruction. If a 10-megaton nuclear bomb was dropped here at Westminster at ground level, the first signs of destruction would be seen 80 miles away and in Southampton and Peterborough windows would be smashed. In Luton and Maidstone, 30 miles away, doors and windows would be blown in and interior partitions of houses and offices would be destroyed. At St. Albans and Brentwood, 20 miles away, the roads would be cluttered with debris. At Epping and Dartford, 50 miles away, houses would be burning and people in the streets would be seriously burnt by the heat flash. At Romford, Surbiton and Chislehurst, 12 miles away, the main zone of fire would begin and there would be a fire zone of 24 miles in diameter.

That would be the result of only one bomb. [Interruption.] I gather that hon. Gentlemen opposite are aware of these facts. If so, they must be aware of what 10 such instruments of destruction, scattered over the South and the Midlands would do, with fall-out and centres of fire combining to create fire storms. It is in these circumstances that we are being asked to support the idea that we should keep some sort of civil defence organisation and that there would be survivors. Probably people will survive fall-out, the destruction and poisoned food.

There is a greater realisation today—and I am glad of it—of the facts of nuclear warfare. Not more than a year or two ago the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food issued a circular on the question of the effect of fall-out on farms. It told us: Any crops which have been subject to fall-out will call for careful handling. Peas within the pod will themselves be safe but care will be needed in shelling them, and they should be well washed before cooking. Brassicas will be the least easy but the really firm-hearted cabbage or lettuce, provided the outer leaves are discarded and the rest well washed, should be reasonably safe to eat. I am glad that the Ministry no longer issues circulars of that kind to local authorities and that there is greater realisation of what we are talking about.

The Government should have gone further and wound up the civil defence organisation altogether. Civil defence workers are sincere, devoted and keen people. We have abused their services and sought to maintain a farce. I should have been glad if the Government tonight had rung down the curtain once and for all on this. I support the Regulations, but I think that the Government could have gone a great deal further.

5.43 p.m.

Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)

Having heard the opinions of the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner), it came as no surprise to hear that he gained most of his experience of civil defence in the old A.R.P. days 30 years ago. I cannot share his all-or-nothing view in terms of military activities. The naïve assumption that the future holds either total war or total peace seems entirely untenable. Yet on that assumption he based his entire argument.

If it were possible to take that view and to believe that we would remain without incidents, occasional explosions and that kind of attack but with only the possibility of a totally destructive attack, certainly I would accept the hon. Member's general argument, but I do not accept that view and therefore I cannot accept his argument.

I shall not speak for long because we had an opportunity of airing our views on this matter at some length on 29th February, but it is necessary to make clear the reasons why my hon. and right hon. Friends and I will vote against the Government on these Regulations. It is important that we should make those reasons clear because they are not precisely the same—which will come as no surprise to the hon. Gentleman—as some of the reasons which might be advanced by others on this side of the House for opposing the Government on matters of defence. It is important that we should not be misunderstood, except by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) who appears bent on misunderstanding everyone.

Our reasons are these. First, we do not believe that the financial gain from this step, which will be small, will be adequate compensation for the loss of something which is potentially large. Secondly, we think it would be wrong to leave us without this corps. I use the word "us" in precisely the same way as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) used the term "we" in the quotation which the hon. Member for Putney persistently misunderstood and continued to misunderstand despite innumerable explanations. I mean "us" as the country or as an institution rather than as a collection of individuals. It would be wrong to leave us with nothing to replace the Civil Defence Corps in the event of a national emergency which might arise.

Thirdly, we oppose the Government because we object to the way in which this is being done. It is needlessly jettisoning a store of public-spiritedness and expertise which could have been kept continually in existence at very small expense. I make clear that neither I nor my hon. Friend regard civil defence as in any way a total answer to total war. There is a perpetual tendency to misunderstand this. Every time anyone mentions civil defence an hon. Member opposite will say that there is no defence against nuclear attack. We are not saying that the existence of elaborate or simple civil defence is a total answer to total war and that provided we have the right kind of civil defence forces we can ignore for all time the threats of attack which exist. We do not say that and I hope that it will not be understood that we are saying that.

Nor do we regard the existence of civil defence as a kind of open invitation to attack in the way sometimes expressed by hon. Members opposite, that by advocating the continuation of some kind of civil defence we are giving an invitation to attack and escalating the whole business of nuclear warfare. I cannot accept that view. We certainly would support the Government in their attempts to reconsider civil defence in the light of various developments to which hon. Members have referred and in adapting civil defence to modern and more immediate needs, but that is very different from saying that we would support what amounts to the total abolition of civil defence.

We would support its total abolition if we felt that it would be right to say that we regard it, as some hon. Members opposite do, as useless. I do not regard it as useless. I accept that its use has frequently been exaggerated and that some people derive an unwarranted degree of comfort from the existence of civil defence and believe that it can provide a complete defence against attack. But if there is a nuclear war or an incident, be it small or large, deliberate or accidental, covering an enormous field in a multiple attack or a small area in a single incident, some people will inevitably need succour and assistance of the kind which the civil defence can provide. Where they will be is arguable, because we do not know where the attack would come, but it is as certain as night follows day that if there is an attack, however large, there will be people on the fringe who need the aid, expert advice and assistance which only civil defence can provide.

Hon. Members have referred to their own experience of civil defence. As I have told the House before, I was a part-time medical officer and adviser to one of Britain's largest ordnance factories for 18 years and I was deeply involved in civil defence training over those years in that establishment. I am as much aware as anyone of the deficiencies of civil defence and of some of the things which have been quoted lightheartedly as entertaining and amusing but useless and that some of those things were far from soundly based. It was right that some of them should go and new methods should be recommended.

Nevertheless, over the years, knowledge has evolved. I say without fear of contradiction that I sincerely believe that, as a result of my training in civil defence, my chance of survival of a nuclear attack is marginally greater than that of people who have not had training. Of course, I could put myself in a situation in which the chance would be nil. I accept this, But there will be situations in which the chance will be marginal. There is no doubt that the chances of those who have had training in how to behave, how to defend themselves and how to adopt certain precautions, will be marginally, or even substantially, better than others and it is not something which we should here and now abandon without further thought. It would not have cost us a great deal to have kept a useful civil defence force in being.

I believe that we must keep some form of civil defence force to carry on training, spreading knowledge throughout the country and to be the focal point to which people can go to get training and help if they feel that they need it. I accept the argument that some people may feel that they do not wish to survive this kind of holocaust. Some people may no longer wish to live in that kind of world. But I do not take the view that that is the kind of decision I am entitled to make on behalf of other people. We have an obligation to provide the training for those who wish to take advantage of it. How do we do this? The right way to do it is by taking advantage of all the offers that have been made to establish a volunteer force. I accept that there would be some expenditure attached to this involving both the Government and local authorities. But I think I should point out that the savings which will be made by local authorities may not be as great as is thought, because some of those at present employed on civil defence matters on behalf of local authorities are, in addition, serving certain other functions which may have to continue after they have been made redundant. Therefore, it is possible, when the calculation has been done, that the saving may not be as great as is thought.

I say that we should take advantage of the offers which have been made. People who are prepared to continue training should be encouraged and assisted. We ought to do what we can to increase that number, because I believe that in the long run it will prove valuable to this country to have a greater percentage of the population trained in knowledge at least of what to expect, so that those who happen by accident to be on the fringe of the event, whatever the event may be, may be of service to themselves, to their families and to their fellow men.

I turn now to the point about which there has been so much argument regarding the moving of appartus from Birmingham. It must be understood that the need for apparatus in Birmingham is not because something will fall on Birmingham, but because Birmingham may at some stage be on the fringe of an event happening somewhere else.

Mr. Horner

I know that there will be an occasion to speak about the emergency fire service afterwards, but I must say to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) that if an emergency were to arise the fire service units would move far outside the main centres of population.

Dr. Winstanley

I must not be tempted out of order by the hon. Gentleman's observation. I repeat that it is necessary for us to see that there is a pool of the appropriate apparatus available in various places throughout these islands so that in one, two or three of those particular places use might be made of it. That is the point I make.

My party is not anxious that we should maintain a massive civil defence force to try to do jobs which are impossible, but we honestly believe it is a serious mistake for the Government to discard the offers which have been made and not to seek the advantages which could be gained.

It is not only for war purposes. There are many kinds of national disaster, as has been shown, where trained personnel can be helpful. Aberfan and the Stockport air crash, in which many of my constituents were involved, are but two of many which could be mentioned. The more people in the community trained in how to conduct themselves and guard against dangers and how to organise themselves and others, the better it will be for this country in the end.

We are against these proposals and we shall vote against them. We shall vote against them because we believe that they are makeshift proposals. The Government have not taken a clear view. They have just said, "We have to save a bit of money, so we will save it here." In this way the Government are drifting on the tide of events. It is a kind of military pragmatism. If it was a clear and coherent policy we would be more inclined to support the Government. However, we are against the proposals, because we believe that the savings will not compensate for the loss. We regret that nothing is being put in place of the civil defence forces for use in a national emergency, save the Services.

We believe that the failure to establish a volunteer force and to make use of these offers of people to continue serving and being trained will save very little but will throw away very much. For all those reasons we will oppose the Government on this Measure.

5.56 p.m.

Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

First, I must declare a vested interest in civil defence, as many thousands of my constituents have for a number of years been producing Polaris submarines. For that reason my constituents are likely to be among the first targets of any nuclear attack on this country and, therefore, they will possibly be more in need of the services of civil defence than the constituents of certain other hon. Members who will be speaking in the debate.

Any objective assessment of the relevance of any form of civil defence must depend upon an understanding of the weapons against which we are trying to defend our civil population. The conventional weapon of the nuclear age, if that is not a mixing of terms, is the megaton bomb or missile, which contains more explosive power than all the conventional explosive that has been used in warfare since gunpowder was first discovered.

The nuclear armouries of the world today are capable of ending civilisation as we know it. It is beyond reasonable doubt that the use of megaton weapons could produce a genetic burden which would be manifest in the disabilities of future generations. If the Government claim to be concerned with the well being of our people, one of their first responsibilities is to safeguard them from a genetic burden which may take away from future generations the ability sanely to decide their future. It may be that in a democratic society we have some rights to take decisions which future generations may think completely unreasonable, but we have no moral right to involve them in danger of not being able sanely to decide how they will conduct their affairs.

It is of the utmost relevance to note that in the report on the effects of the use of nuclear weapons and the security and economic implications of acquisition and development of these weapons, which was presented to the United Nations by the Secretary-General, the unanimous view of the scientific experts who signed that report was that a nuclear explosion killing only a small percentage of our population would have long-term consequences by way of genetic effects. One of the signatories to that report was Sir Solly Zuckerman, our Government's Chief Scientific Adviser. I congratulate the Government on having sent our Chief Scientific: Adviser to take part in the preparation of the report; it showed a proper appreciation of its importance to the United Nations and to the world in general.

Different forms of civil defence are considered by different Governments. I understand that the Governments of Russia and of the United States have considered anti-ballistic missile systems as a form of civil defence for their population but, although they have gone further and started to build such systems, they are convinced that they will not prevent all nuclear weapons from reaching their targets. In the light of that and of the fantastic cost involved in trying to set up that form of civil defence, our Government were justified in not going ahead with it.

I have a great respect for the people who formed our Civil Defence Corps. They worked, voluntarily in the main, from the highest possible motives. They are people whose services and expertise we should seek to organise to deal with the problems of mass accidents. But this is not to say that we should continue to abuse their willingness to serve by perpetuating the myth that, by serving in civil defence, they can render anything more than a very marginal service in the event of nuclear warfare.

When preparations were first made in this country to determine what could be done by a Civil Defence Corps, a study was made, naturally, of what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But at Hiroshima and Nagasaki the bombs used were 20-kiloton bombs. The ones most likely to be used now are megaton bombs, 50 times as big. The 20-kiloton bomb used on Hiroshima killed 78,000 and injured 84,000 more out of a population of 300,000. The heat it produced was so intense that it melted ceramic roof tiles half a kilometre from the centre of the explosion. Burns accounted for half the deaths. Fifty-three per cent. of those who received burns at 1 kilometre from the centre of the explosion died in the first week. Seventy-five per cent. died within two weeks. Here I take up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) when he spoke about death occurring within three days. This was conjecture. What is fact is that the peak mortality at Hiroshima took place on the fourth day. In many cases, people were dying on the fourth day after having lain without medical aid for four days.

I was deeply impressed by spending a short time in the company of a Mr. Shimoe of Hiroshima who came to Barrow at the time when we launched the first Polaris submarine. By a tragic irony of coincidence, this was 21 years after the year in which he lost his wife and child as a result of the Hiroshima explosion. What he told me and others bore in upon us that, in the circumstances of that relatively small explosion, normal medical and civil services do not exist in the area. It is impossible to bring them into action. The aftermath in genetic effects, the vast increase in the incidence of leukaemia and so on, would be an intolerable prospect for the British people if they fully understood it. One of the reasons why it has not been understood is that civil defence has to some extent perpetuated the myth that people can be defended from this sort of thing in the event of nuclear attack.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman says about Hiroshima and Nagasaki because I went there shortly after the bombs were dropped. The important point is that it was a relatively small area geographically, and that help could come from neighbouring cities. This is 'What we are talking about now. We want that help to be available.

Mr. Booth

I appreciate that, but I prefaced what I said regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki by saying that the bombs which were dropped there were 20 kiloton bombs and the bombs-ghost likely to be dropped or delivered by ballistic missile now are megaton bombs, 50 times as large. Therefore, as it was impossible in the small areas of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to stop people dying in enormous numbers even on the fourth day after the explosion, it would be even more difficult to render aid to the population or even to get to them if a bomb 50 times as large were dropped in an area of high population.

Military theorists today speak of attacks on cities simultaneously in advance of attacks on military targets. Therefore, we have to consider the effects of an attack on a city with the nuclear weapons of the current type if we are to judge whether a civil defence corps such as we have had could be effective. This exercise was, in fact, carried out by the body of scientific experts who reported through U Thant to the United Nations. They made a study of an actual city containing 1 million people and covering 100 square miles, and they examined what the effects of dropping a 1 megaton bomb on the city would be. It was not a densely populated city by modern standards.

They concluded that 270,000 people would be killed by fire or blast, 90,000 would be killed by radioactive fall-out, and a further 90,000 injured. Thus, that one bomb on one city would kill as many as were killed by all the air raids on Japan and Germany in the last war. This is the scale of what we are now facing. They found that every house in the city would be damaged. They considered also what would happen in areas of high population density, and for this purpose they worked out the effects of a bomb being exploded over Manhattan, where there are 8 million people. They decided that 6 million of that population would be killed outright.

The inescapable conclusion is that, in the context of modern weapons, the idea that we can render a viable defence to the civil population is just unrealistic. If we were to perpetuate the organisation which we have up to now called civil defence, we could justify it only by changing its title.

Obviously, we ought to defend our population against nuclear attack. The way to defend them is by getting an agreement to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, by getting an agreement to reduce the existing nuclear weapons arsenals, by having a comprehensive test ban treaty, by preventing any testing of nuclear weapons whatever, and by having nuclear-free zones of maximum geoprahical area.

For that reason, I shall support the Regulations before us, in the belief that they will bring about a quicker realisation on the part of the British people that they cannot defend themselves from nuclear attack through a civil defence corps, and we must defend ourselves by a much wider political approach to the problem.

6.10 p.m.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) spoke from a far more practical point of view than the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner), with whom I am in total disagreement. He at least realised that there would be a centre where a bomb might drop and and that there would be other parts of the British Isles where help and succour would be needed urgently. He brought this out, perhaps inadvertently, by saying that so many people were dying in Hiroshima and Nagasaki four days after the attack. Had Japan been prepared for a nuclear attack help might well have come in two days or even 24 hours. That is the sort of thing we want to be prepared for. Perhaps by mistake, the hon. Gentleman brought out the very point we are trying to make, that if help is ready it can be speedily moved to where it is most required.

We on this side of the House are all speaking with great feeling for this is perhaps very nearly the last day the Civil Defence Corps will be in being. We all feel very sad about this. Whenever we have had the chance in recent weeks, we have all paid tribute to the outstanding work of the volunteers and the civil defence officers and their full-time staff for the really great work that they have done over many years. They have been a wide cross-section of the community, and all the more effective because of that, because it has been possible to bring in real experts in almost every subject.

The Corps has been a very important chain of communications between the Government and the people, and would be even more so in times of emergency. It has had the radio communication, vehicles and the know-how. When a crisis occurred that could be made available very quickly. Like the great majority of people in this country, I feel that what we paid was a very small price for having that sevice available and ready for when we needed it.

Those hon. Members who, like the Government, suggest that the Civil Defence Corps can somehow be put into suspended animation and brought to life quickly are far from correct. At the end of the war, in 1945. the A.R.P., as it was then, was at a very high state of readiness. It was immediately allowed to run down, and when the Civil Defence Corps was resuscitated in 1948 it was two or three years before it was anything like the efficient force we know today. One cannot suddenly bring civil defence to life by blowing a whistle or flicking a finger and saying that we want volunteers trained in a few months. We may not have those few months to do it.

The consequences of the Government's decision are most depressing. At present the group controllers in charge of areas in Scotland are going around their areas telling the volunteers that their services are no longer required. That must be a soul-destroying job. When we lose our group controllers, our civil defence officers and their staff, we shall have lost the nucleus of the drive and initiative of the Civil Defence Corps, and it may be very hard to get it when we need it.

I should like to put to the Minister one or two points particularly concerning Scotland. In the debate in another place yesterday it was announced that the equipment would be stored in 40 or 50 Home Office stores in England. Where will the equipment be stored in Scotland? Second, I want to know in rather more detail what will happen to our training centre at Taymouth Castle. What will be the position of the staff, and what will happen to the building, which is very large?

Last week I put a Question to the Minister about the long-service medal awarded to members of the Civil Defence Corps for 15 years' service. Many volunteers will miss that much-prized decoration by months or a few years. Will he be prepared, on second thoughts, to reduce the qualifying period from 15 to perhaps 10 years, to give those volunteers of long standing a chance to have something to show for their many days and nights of work?

As I said at the beginning of my speech, this is a sad night for all hon. Members on this side of the House. We have felt that civil defence had a prized place in our national life, and I am very sorry to see it being destroyed by the Government.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I live in the constituency adjoining that of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro). If I thought that the civil defence arrangements would be any real good at saving only a fraction of the population from the effects of atomic war, I would certainly not support the disbandment or diminution of the civil defence force. I have argued throughout the years that civil defence was justified if it could save even a very small percentage of the population in the event of a nuclear war.

I have frequently quoted in the House the statement by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) when we considered the possible results of the dropping of a nuclear bomb over the Glasgow area. We were discussing at that time, six or seven years ago, the possible effects of a nuclear attack on the Polaris base at the Gareloch. The hon. Gentleman argued that it did not much matter where the base was, for if one modern bomb were dropped over Glasgow everything would be destroyed within a radius of 100 miles. Unfortunately, both our constituencies are within a radius of 100 miles of Glasgow, so bath would be wiped out if one of the bombs he described were dropped there.

Therefore, while I believe that the spirit animating our discussion is very good, there is a complete lack of realism. Since that speech was made by the hon. Gentleman, there have been enormous developments both in nuclear war and possible ways of delivering nuclear weapons. We all regret the news in today's papers of the tragic death of the first astronaut, Major Yuri Gagarin, who was very welcome in this country. That tragic accident reminds us of the great developments there have been in the stratosphere during the last seven or eight years. If a nuclear bomb were dropped on this country by rocket in a suicide war it is very difficult to see what the well-meaning people in the Civil Defence Corps would be able to do to rescue the population. Dumfries would disappear. Both the hon. Gentleman and I would disappear.

Mr. Monro

Let the hon. Gentleman see for himself. He must remember the topographical features of Scotland. Mountain ranges have a singularly, blanketing effect on nuclear war.

Mr. Hughes

I rely for my knowledge of military affairs on my neighbour, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire. When he tells me that a nuclear bomb dropped on Glasgow would destroy everything for 100 miles I put some credence on what he says. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not.

Mr. Monro

It might do for the hon. Gentleman but it does not do for me.

Mr. Hughes

I leave the matter to be decided between the hon. Member and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire.

Bombs are more easily delivered now. Both sides can send missiles to the moon and, indeed, to other planets. If they can hit the moon they can surely hit Dumfries and Glasgow. There has been a change in war which is a great deal greater than the comparison between the First and Second World Wars. If hon. Members ignore the developments in warfare since the Second World War, they are deluding, though perhaps not consciously, both themselves and the people in suggesting that there can possibly be any credible rôle for civil defence.

We are entitled to have our municipal fire brigades and ambulance services for dealing with catastrophes like the recent storms, but I see no reason to imagine that conditions in 1968 are like those of 1948. That is the crux of the argument. When the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) was responsible for civil defence, there was a scheme to evacuate 4,600,000 people. Where are the evacuation plans now? No one talks about them. They were unrealistic. If those plans still exist, they would entail evacuating the civil population into Argyllshire, where the Polaris base is located.

The Navy gives a different picture in telling us of the destructive power of our own Polaris submarines. A pamphlet issued by the Admiralty says: When 'Resolution' and 'Renown' are at sea in 1968 "— and "Resolution" has already rehearsed its missile firing with success— their combined fire power will be greater than the total of all explosives detonated in the history of war. The hon. Member for Dumfries has just left. He rather tended to minimise the forecast by the hon. and gallant Member for Bate and North Ayrshire. But here is the Admiralty itself saying that these two submarines will have a combined fire power greater than the total of all the explosives detonated throughout the history of war. We must face the fact that everything has changed. The pamphlet goes on: Even one submarine's fire power will be greater than all the bombs dropped by both sides during the Second World War, including both Hiroshima and Nagasaki". I have visited both cities. Both were reduced to ruin in a flash. If hon. Members want to read the story of the aftermath, they will find it in a gruesome and detailed account by the American author, John Hersey, in a "Penguin". An atomic bomb could knock out one city then. In the next war, a hydrogen bomb would destroy not a city but a country. If we ever get into a series of events leading to panic and fear and someone on either side of the Atlantic touches a button, this country will be destroyed. That is the background to the debate.

I support the Government. They are being realistic. At the same time, if they said that they were going to increase the destructive power of Polaris submarines then, inevitably, the other side would improve the destructive power of theirs.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must not go into that in this debate.

Mr. Hughes

I do not intend to, Mr. Speaker, because I have done it in previous debates. But I am showing that, with the enormous destructive power of nuclear weapons, there is no real defence to justify the Government spending a considerable amount of money on it at a time of financial crisis. We cannot do what the United States does, for example. The Americans spend large sums of money on civil defence. In most of their large cities there are underground shelters and they are preparing an anti-ballistic missile system. We cannot do that, so we must be sensible and realise that warfare has changed. The world must adapt its political and economic thinking to that fundamental fact.

In previous debates, we have been told that Russia has over 300 submarines. Both sides are piling up destructive power. The situation can only be solved by a change in foreign policy and a policy of disarmament. I support the Government. I wish they would continue on this course. They have become realists as far as civil defence is concerned and I wish there were a similar note of realism towards the rest of the defence programme, on which we are spending over £2,060 million.

6.30 p.m.

Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)

I can quite faithfully paraphrase the four speeches that we have heard from the back benches opposite in this way: war is horrible and ghastly and almost unthinkable. There is no complete defence against nuclear attack, therefore we should have no defences at all. That is fair, and anyone who has heard those speeches would agree that this is the "all or nothing" argument that has been put to the House.

This argument and the Government's attitude to civil defence is based on a number of seriously false assumptions. It is based on the assumption that if war comes—and heaven forfend—it would be a nuclear war. Who knows for certain that that is the case? We all remember running around with gas masks in 1939—and what a nuisance they were. There was the conviction among everyone that gas would be used, but it was not. Another false assumption on which the Government base the virtual disbanding of civil defence is on their view that we would have at least six months' warning if a real emergency arose. We have not been told where this assumption comes from.

This attitude is based also on the assumption that war is less likely if we expose ourselves fully to attack. What could be more absurd than that? I found all the arguments from the back benches opposite unconvincing. The arguments of the Under-Secretary are included in this. He made what I thought was a very disappointing speech containing some quite ridiculous arguments. The Government's decision to disband the Civil Defence Corps raises extremely important questions which ought to be clearly answered, but which have not been answered. This is what is really worrying many of us on this side of the House. These questions have been asked in the recent debates and again today.

I want to make five very short points. I hope to make them in five minutes. First of all, the Government have, without the slightest doubt, had a sudden and total reversal of views about the importance of civil defence. No one can deny that. Some may possibly like it, like the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), who welcomes what he calls the Government's realism, but he would be the first to agree that the Government have changed their views and have come far closer to his views than they were before.

It is only a year since the Government spokesman on these matters in another place, Lord Stonham, said that if we suffered the horrors of a nuclear attack only civil defence could ensure the survival of the nation. In December, 1966, the Government announced the reduction in the Civil Defence Corps from 122,000 to 75,000 or 80,000. We were given details by the then Home Secretary in justification when he said: … if there were a nuclear attack on this country … the civil defence preparations … would enable many millions of lives to be saved. He went on: … it would also be wrong to abolish completely an organisation which gives us some re-insurance if an improbable but horrible event were to occur."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1966; Vol. 738, c. 459–61.] It would be wrong to abolish it, but that is what is now being done by these Regulations. With these, and many other official assurances, no wonder members of the Corps felt that they were undergoing valuable training and preparing to do a useful job. Nor is it any wonder that the country believed that civil defence precautions were necessary, even vital, and that the Government were wisely and properly ensuring that they could be met. I want to reinforce this point by quoting two sentences from the 1967 Defence White Paper. On page 74, under the heading "Home Defence", it says: The new rôle of the Corps will be of great importance, and there will be a continuing need to attract people of high calibre, with qualities of leadership. I am sorry that the Under-Secretary is not here, presumably he is still in charge of the debate. Later on that same page it said: Under the new scheme, which will be adaptable to local cicumstances, local authority employees and the voluntary organisations will play a bigger part. That was in February 1967—the considered view of the Government after being in power for nearly two and a half years.

My second point is this. It was only last December that the N.A.T.O. Ministerial Conference approved a communique including these words: Ministers … approved a report on civil emergency planning."— that is what civil defence is called at N.A.T.O.— Stressing the vital importance of such planning they noted the progress which had been achieved and the tasks which remained to be accomplished. No doubt the Secretary of State for Defence subscribed to that view last December. He voted for the communique—at least I raised this question with the Prime Minister ten days ago, and he did not deny that the Government had supported that communique stressing the importance of civil defence in N.A.T.O. There is not the slightest doubt therefore not only that the Government have completely changed their own views, but that they are completely and utterly out of step with N.A.T.O. Generally the British Government are the only Government in step.

My third point has been very well dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), when he said that the suggestion that the Civil Defence Corps was only being put in a state of suspended animation did not make sense to anyone. We know perfectly well that it would take maybe six months, maybe a lot longer, if an emergency arose, before the Corps would make sense, and could be put together again. It is no good pretending that, by the wave of some magic wand, the whole thing can be recreated. It would be extremely difficult and perhaps impossible in an emergency to mobilise our civil defence.

My fourth point is that the Government's real argument, and they have virtually admitted this, is that even if civil defence precautions are desirable and important, the nation's economy is in such a parlous state that we simply cannot afford it. This is what it boils down to. Everything else is subsidiary. We cannot afford civil defence, although it was regarded as vital only last December. In January it suddenly became of no importance at all.

We can afford vast sums of money running into several hundred millions of £s in order that the party opposite can carry out their old-fashioned Marxist dogma of more nationalisation, but we cannot afford 2d. a week per head of the population to maintain civil defence. Only 2d. a week—that is on the 1969–70 estimates of saving £20 million a year. I simply do not believe it. This argument is a thoroughly dishonest one. It is impossible to find any rational argument for the Government's decision compatible with their earlier policy pronouncements about the need for adequate civil defence.

My fifth and last point is this, and I think it is a very important one. I apologise to the Under-Secretary because, for unavoidable reasons, I came in five minutes after he started his speech and I may have missed something he said about the Territorial Army. As the House knows, the TAVR III has in the Government's view one rôle only which matters—its duties in aid of the civil power to work with the Civil Defence Corps. If, in fact, the Territorials are to be kept on some basis or other, all the arguments we have been using today will be changed because there will then be a body of volunteers trained in civil defence duties and able to carry out the rôle which the Civil Defence Corps had in the past. It is the Home Office which is responsible for the payment of the bulk of the cost of the Territorial Army and we have been anxiously waiting several days now for an announcement about its future. It is unfair to the House to expect us to debate this question without full knowledge of what decision has been taken about the Territorial Army.

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate the Territorial Army on these Regulations.

Sir T. Beamish

I bow immediately to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I felt it was relevant to the debate today, but if I am out of order I will not pursue that further.

Mr. Speaker

What is relevant is not always in order.

Sir T. Beamish

One lives and learns, and I am most grateful to you for your excellent guidance, as usual.

I conclude by saying that I genuinely regard the Government's decision to dismantle practically the whole of the Civil Defence Corps as shocking and unjustifiable, and I deeply deplore it.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)

At this stage of the debate, I do not intend to go over the general arguments that have been deployed so well from this side of the House, but I should like to make two general comments.

One is in relation to the speeches we have heard from the other side of the House. I could not help feeling as I sat through all the speeches and heard what has been said on that side of the House regarding the serious and horrible consequences of a nuclear attack—and I agree that they would be serious and horrible—that the more serious and horrible those consequences are the more need there is for us to be prepared and the more detailed the preparations have got to be. I draw the opposite conclusion from that of the hon. Gentleman opposite, that because of the present world situation there is greater need for us to be ready for anything that might happen.

I could not help feeling also, in listening to this debate, that it is very sad to see the passing of the Civil Defence Corps, and that this is a very sorry comment on how low the Government rate home security in the list of priorities for this country. I feel that this is an extremely serious matter. It is not only the civil defence rôle that I am concerned about. I should like also to pay tribute, as indeed the Under-Secretary did in opening this debate, to the part civil defence has played at times of disaster. I would mention in passing the very important part they played during the clearing-up of the gale damage in Scotland on 15th January.

One thing that was mentioned—and which was also mentioned by the Home Secretary in the debate on 29th February—was the part that could be played by other voluntary services in taking over to some extent the rôle which the Civil Defence Corps has played up to now—that is, the ambulance service, the Red Cross and W.R.V.S.

I would like to ask a question which I hope the Joint Under-Secretary for the Scottish Office will answer. As far as the civil defence rôle is concerned, who is to co-ordinate these voluntary services in their civil defence rôle and in helping to cover situations which used to be covered by civil defence? At the moment, these organisations do not have a formal part to play and there will be much more need for liaison and co-ordination if they are to play a part in the general field of civil defence.

One thing which the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) mentioned in his speech and which is terribly important is the part the Civil Defence Corps and its members have played in the general education of the public as to how they should react and the precautions they should take in the event of a nuclear attack. Who is going to take over this rôle of educating the British people in the kind of preparations they can make as individuals even though they are not members of the civil defence service itself?

I now come to the main point I wish to make, which I think is most important. What is the basic Government thinking underlying civil defence in the future? For example, do the Government still hold their plans for dispersal of the population in the event of nuclear attack, because in those circumstances it will not be the conurbations, the industrial areas, such as Birmingham, which we were talking about earlier in the debate that matter. It will be the country and the rural areas that matter, because those are the areas which must receive the population from the industrial areas in the event of a nuclear attack.

I see the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) nodding his head, and I am glad that he agrees with me, because I think this is a particular problem which we must face in Scotland. It is in the scattered areas that there is more likely to be human activity and life continuing, and these people must be more prepared than people elsewhere. I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if this basic thinking underlying civil defence still holds and if there are still plans for the dispersal of the population as there were before this Regulation came to be discussed. This presents particular problems for local authorities in rural areas. It has been said, for example, that the staffs of the local authorities are still to carry out what functions remain for civil defence, and I ask him to bear in mind that the staffs of local authorities in rural areas are not so numerous as those in urban areas and it is not going to be so easy to detail the duties in such rural areas as perhaps it is in urban areas.

I will just cite the example of my own area in the North-East of Scotland, the county of Angus, which under present plans is responsible for the dispersal in the event of the city of Dundee being attacked. In the city of Dundee there are about 2,000 local government employees of one sort or another, but in the county there are not nearly so many, although it is on the county of Angus that the responsibility for taking care of the results of an attack on Dundee will fall. It is the responsibility of the county area to look after this.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I would emphasise the point which the hon. Gentleman has made. If the population of the Gorbals division of Glasgow arrives at Angus he will wish the Russians had come instead.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman deals with this in his usual amusing and entertaining style. The trouble is that his counsel and that of other hon. Members opposite is one of despair—that nothing should be done because the problem is so great. But the greater the problem, the greater the preparations that must be made, therefore I certainly do not agree with his conclusions.

So far as local authorities in the rural areas are concerned, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said when he opened this debate that the local authorities would still have the responsibility for co-ordinating civil defence matters. This may be all very well in some areas, but in a rural area such as that which I represent, where one county may have 13 different local authorities with certain responsibilities, who is to co-ordinate the work? I put it to the Under-Secretary that we must still have a certain number of full-time civil defence officers to co-ordinate the work of the different local authorities, because if we do not we are going to be left with nothing more than a sham in the way of civil defence organisation and it will be performing no proper function at all because the appropriate co-ordination will simply not be there.

Finally, I should like to take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) about redundancies among those at present employed full-time in civil defence. There is concern about what the future holds for them in retraining. Is there any prospect of their being re-employed in local government service? I hope that we shall have an assurance on this point.

6.50 p.m.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

This has been a sad debate about a very grave situation. We on this side of the House approached the debate with great concern, and our concern deepened as we listened to the Minister's speech.

We have all become accustomed to the double-talk with which the Government try to confuse the nation. However, I doubt whether the two voices of the Government have ever been in such conflict as during the last debates about civil defence. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) showed how the Government have reversed their policy and now contradict what they said only a few moments ago. We have also experienced simultaneous contradictions. During the debate on 29th February the Home Secretary tried—[Interruption.] I will give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wishes to interrupt. I should give way with more alacrity if he had been here to listen to the debate.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

If I had wanted to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, I should have done so. I was talking to my hon. Friend.

Mr. MacArthur

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will talk a little more quietly and not disturb those of us who are very worried about this serious problem.

On 29th February, the Home Secretary tried to create an illusion of continuing security for the nation. He said: We have decided to reduce civil defence, but not to abandon it. But in almost the next breath he declared: The Civil Defence Corps, with about 59,000 members and a further 10,000 to 11,000 on active reserve; making about 70,000 in all … will have to be disbanded …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1798–9.] Therefore, the Government are dismissing the 70,000 people who make the civil defence system work. Without them, civil defence is a sham. It is quite wrong for the Government to pretend that we shall be as well protected in future as we were in the past. That is dangerously misleading. We shall lose the people who do the job. With their loss, the credibility of our total defence system is weakened.

I could produce a long catalogue of contradictions, but I will content myself with two quotations from the debate in another place yesterday. The noble Lord the Minister of State said about the Civil Defence Corps and its members: It is a special kind of service you need, a special kind of people in civil defence, because they are continuously prepared to meet the need which all of us hope will never arise, and you need a special kind of people for that". The noble Lord was speaking very much with the voice of my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson), who called attention to the quality of people, their continuous training, and so on. That is what the Minister of State said in another place only yesterday. Yet the people who have this continuous preparation are the people whom the Government are to disband this weekend.

The noble Lord showed the irresponsibility of the Government's argument. In considering the risk of nuclear war, he said: … we cannot … completely exclude the danger of accident or miscalculation."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 27th March, 1968; Vol. 290, cc. 1023–4.] Today, the Under-Secretary of State said that, in the absence of the civil defence organisation, we were less ready to face a nuclear attack than we have been. He went on to say that it would be foolish to pretend that the situation would not deteriorate. In the face of those admissions, how the Government can proceed with their intention to disband an essential arm of our national defence passes all comprehension.

The hon. Gentleman, in reply to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), tried to suggest that there was some sort of defence reason for this change. There is no defence reason for it. Indeed, the change is being made in defiance of defence reasons. The only reason is that which the Government have advanced—economy. The fact that this critical defence service is being stripped away from the nation is a tragic consequence of the Government's incompetence in managing the economy.

In the last debate on civil defence, the Home Secretary reminded us about the long list of responsibilities which would still rest on the local authorities. The list of responsibilities set out in the Regulations which we debated last year still stands. It is interesting to remind ourselves of what the Government told us yet again the other day. On 29th February, the Home Secretary said that the local authorities would have to continue with a certain amount of planning activity of an administrative character and continue to be responsible for instructing and and advising the public, making provision for housing and feeding the homeless and for the first-aid care of casualties … preserve the operational control buildings and their communications …". These add up to a formidable list of responsibilities. It is quite wrong to pretend that the local authority organisation now will be adequate to fulfil the duties laid on it. First, we are losing completely the voluntary Civil Defence Corps. Secondly, it follows that the weight of responsibility on the local authorities will weigh even more heavily, because there will be no volunteer arm to help them take the load.

But, in the face of that, the Government made it clear that they will cut the number of people in local authorities handling civil defence responsibilities. That was made frighteningly plain by the Home Secretary on 29th February. He said that there would be drastic cuts in the numbers of staff employed by the local authorities on civil defence duties."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1968; Vol. 759, cc. 1804–5.] The few who remain to carry out these duties will be starved of funds, as many hon. Members have shown. The organisation which remains is totally inadequate to carry through the duties which Parliament has laid on local authorities or to provide anything with meaning for the defence of our people.

These comments apply equally to Scotland as to England and Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) called attention to the special problems which will face rural areas in Scotland, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will deal with them. Perhaps he will also tell us something about the way in which local authority officials in Scotland will be trained in future. We are to have no training centre. I understand that Taymouth Castle is to be closed. I ask the hon. Gentleman for an assurance about the future and that what he says today will still hold good in six or nine months. I ask that because I remember very well requesting information in July last year about training centres in Scotland during a debate on civil defence. Another Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said: I was asked about the future of Taymouth Castle. It will continue as one of the three Civil Defence training schools in the United Kingdom. The right hon. Lady the Minister of State for the Home Office at that time, the right hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon), said even more categorically about the training establishments: We have no plans to abolish them. There might be an increased demand for places on courses for members of local authority staffs at the Home Office training establishments as a result of the specific requirement in Regulation 1 that the staff be trained."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1967; Vol. 750, c. 2633, 2655.] That emphasises my point. That Regulation still survives. That requirement remains on local authorities. The Government at last recognise the extra pressure which there might be for places at training centres. Now the whole lot is to be wiped out, leaving only 60 places at one establishment in England. What sort of provision for training is that? Would the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland tell us how many local authority officers in Scotland will be accommodated at this English establishment? How many local authority officers altogether can be trained there in a full year?

The House will realise from all the speeches that have been made from this side of the House that we all oppose the principle of what the Government propose to do. We also oppose the manner in which they are doing it. I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) call attention to this. The Minister quite rightly thanked the Civil Defence Corps, and we on this side join him in expressing our gratitude to those splendid volunteers for all they have done, but, at the same time as he thanked them, he hit them fairly and squarely and firmly on the head. My right hon. and learned Friend has stressed the need to allow members to continue on a voluntary and informal basis, and I hope the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary will say more about this at the end of the debate. The Under-Secretary, in opening the debate today, suggested that these voluntary members could continue to band together for what he described as "social purposes". I presume he meant that by talking together they could keep alive their interest in civil defence, but what he suggests, in fact, is some kind of old comrades reunion, drinking beer together and talking over the old times when at least the Government had a sense of responsibility towards the people they governed.

Mr. Ennals

I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not want to mislead the House. It is unfortunate that he has quoted only part of the sentence. I spoke of social purposes and—although I have not the exact words—about lectures and training as may be appropriate. The hon. Gentleman is quite unfair.

Mr. MacArthur

The hon. Gentleman is very clearly modifying what he said. He made clear that this would be for social purposes and that they could thus keep their hand in. Certainly, that was the clear impression he gave. I am glad that he has now modified his statement, and I hope the other Under-Secretary will comment on it; because I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that members of the Civil Defence Corps who continued to band themselves voluntarily in this way would receive no training, no practice and no equipment. This was what the Minister told us. If that is not so, I hope the Under-Secretary will say what facilities will be provided—and this is a very important point—so that these volunteers can continue to serve the nation as they are so anxious to do. It is important that we should have a clear statement on this because tonight is the last chance to keep the services of the thousands of civil defence workers who are anxious to continue their training and their work. Failing a statement by the Government tonight, the Corps will cease to exist by the weekend.

Even the manner of its extinction shows the Government's careless and hurtful treatment of these volunteers. There is to be a Gracious Message, but I presume that that cannot be dispatched until the Regulations are approved—perhaps the Minister can say something on that—and therefore it cannot be received by individual members of the Corps until next week, by which time the Corps will have ceased to exist. It will have been extinguished brusquely, in haste, and with hardly any opportunity even for there to be disbandment ceremonies which so many men and women in the Corps would like to hold. These members of the Corps will retain their uni-form—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the proposition I made that Scotland cannot be defended against any nuclear attack, and will he deny that?

Mr. MacArthur

I intend to speak on that aspect not only in respect of Scotland but England and Wales as well. These volunteers will retain their uniform stripped of badges of rank, a gesture of generosity more fitted to an Uncle Ebenezer than a Government. Their equipment will go into cold store. The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) rightly pointed out that the problems of getting it into service again would be very great. I did not accept the hon. Gentleman's conclusions from that statement; nor did I at all accept the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barrow in Furness (Mr. Booth), or those of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins). The latter hon. Gentleman came into the open in the last part of his speech when he spoke of the opportunity of opting out of the nuclear arms race. That is what he is after; and when he said that, he reminded me of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in the old days.

As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes pointed out, all hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken so far have assumed that any disaster in the future would be a total nuclear war. Indeed, it might be, but even if it were, there would be a perimeter at which millions of people would be crying out for aid. It might not be a total nuclear war. We might suffer instead from fallout from a Continental country. Has the hon. Gentleman considered that sufficiently? Has he considered that a new war—and heaven forbid that we should ever experience one—could be a war of a more conventional character? My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) vividly illustrated to the House the need in any of those circumstances to have help available quickly to save life. It is that help which the Government are removing from us.

The Government have tried to soften the blow to the Civil Defence Corps by saying that the planning will continue, although there will be no one to carry out the plans. They claim that the equipment could be quickly brought into use again although there will be practically no one to use it. They state, as the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary stated on 29th February: It is reasonable … to believe that there will be an opportunity to build up these services again. It is on that expectation that the Government are basing themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1968; Vol. 750, c. 1801.] But how long would it take to build up these services again? The Under-Secretary confessed today that the international situation might deteriorate but said that he did not expect it to do so overnight or in a few days' time. I believe those were fairly precisely his actual. words. Does he believe that the Civil Defence Corps could be built up again even in a few days' time? Of course not. I am glad he agrees. To rebuild the service would require a year at least, and possibly from our past experience, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries reminded the House, it could take up to three years. One could ask whether it would be possible for the service to be rebuilt at all. I would have thought the prospect of rebuilding a voluntary service of this kind had been substantially diminished by the brusque, unfeeling way in which the Government have treated civil defence members over these last years.

We face a tragic situation. The Government are writing off that part of the civil defence organisation which makes civil defence credible; and with it they are writing off the chance of survival for those on the perimeter of a nuclear disaster, and at the same time removing a voluntary force which has done so much to aid the public at times of civilian disaster. The defence structure that will remain is an ineffective sham and one which we on this side cannot accept.

7.9 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

We have had an interesting debate today on these Regulations, and I do not personally complain that a number of hon. Members should have expressed themselves very strongly about the disbandment of the Civil Defence Corps. In the speech which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made in the House on 29th February, when there was a whole day's debate on this subject, he made it clear that this was a very difficult decision for the Government to take; and he recognised then that inevitably it had caused a great deal of distress and dismay among a large number of people.

Perhaps I might start tonight, therefore, by stressing again that the Government's decision implies no reflection on either the quality of service or the devotion to duty of members of the Corps in the past. We are extremely grateful for their service and for the spirit which Corps volunteers have shown in peacetime emergencies over the years. It is because we recognise the contribution that has been made by the Corps that we found this a very difficult decision to take. At the same time, it would have been irresponsible of us, in the strict sense of the word, if we had not looked at this section of Government expenditure when, in the last few months, we were looking at other sections. As the Prime Minister said, no sector of Government expenditure was excluded from the review which we have just carried out.

The matter has been dealt with at great length already in the debate on 29th February, and many of the general considerations and strategic arguments affecting the Government's decision were deployed then. In view of that, it was a little disingenuous of the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) to pretend that the Government had taken their decision exclusively for economic reasons and had not explained the general strategic, political and military background against which it had been taken. That was explained by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary at considerable length on 29th February.

Sir D. Renton

The answer to that is that it was such a flabby explanation.

Mr. Millan

I do not accept that. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman was pretending today that no kind of explanation had been given and that none of these considerations had been taken into account. He is now admitting that they were taken into account, though perhaps he disagrees about the conclusions. I shall say something about that in a moment.

The economic arguments are by no means negligible. The ultimate saving on the decision will be £20 million a year. That is not a negligible figure and neither is it negligible from the point of view of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. After all, they are telling us continually to cut public expenditure. Equally continually, they are reacting vigorously and criticising any decisions that we take, whether in the defence budget or, as in this case, in the disbandment of the Civil Defence Corps.

Again, it seems completely disingenuous for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to pretend that the economic arguments are not important. In fact, there is not a great deal of difference in principle between the kinds of speeches made by most hon. Gentlemen opposite and the decision that the Government have taken. For example, the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) put it in a way with which I would not disagree, though I disagreed with practically everything else that he said. He said that the Government had an obligation to see that the minimal requirements for adequate civil defence were carried out. That is a way of expressing the situation with which I would agree. So what we are discussing now is whether the Government's prescription of those minimal requirements is the same as that of the hon. Gentleman, for example.

Sir Frank Pearson

When I used the word "minimal", I visualised that there should be, at any rate, some regular trained personnel on the ground. We shall not have them after these Regulations go through. Without them, civil defence will become a farce and completely useless.

Mr. Millan

I understand that argument, but the basis from which the hon. Gentleman started was that we should make the minimal requirements for civil defence. That is not necessarily the attitude adopted by every hon. Member who has spoken.

Again I agree with the hon. Member for Clitheroe, although not exactly with the way that he expressed it, when he said that there was no logical or intellectual answer to the problem. Some of my hon. Friends suggested that either we should have a huge expenditure on civil defence which would provide us with a guarantee of safety, or there should be no civil defence expenditure at all. In any case, the first is completely impracticable, and even a much wealthier country than ours like the United States has found it so. But, as the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) said, it does not necessarily follow that the case has been made out for no civil defence expenditure at all. Certainly I do not accept that conclusion, and nor do the Government.

Equally, I do not accept that we must never change the present arrangements. I am not terribly impressed by the comparison of quotations from speeches made at one time with quotations from speeches made at some different time. This is a balance of judgment, and there is a developing political and military situation which the Government have had to take into account. It is in the light of that situation and the general assessment that there is no imminent possibility of nuclear attack, in which, incidentally, we have the agreement of the vast majority of people in the country, that we took the decision which was announced on 16th January.

Sir D. Renton

This is very important. The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the position in January was different from what it had been in December. We accept that it was different financially, because devaluation had occurred, but in what way did it become different strategically? Did the world become a safer place, or was it just as dangerous a place?

Mr. Millan

With respect, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has mistaken the point of this. I do not suggest that the situation changed overnight. I have suggested that there has been a developing situation in Europe. We are all extremely glad that it should have been so, and I would have thought that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would consider that the contribution which N.A.T.O. has made to the situation is invaluable.

There has been a developing situation in which the danger of imminent nuclear war has receded. We are all -very glad that that has happened. It having happened, it is right that we should reassess periodically the arrangements in the defence budget as a whole, and the arrangements for civil defence should also be examined from time to time. It is on that basis that the decision was made in January. It was not a simple matter of economic factors being at work.

Despite what right hon. and hon. Gentlement have said, it does not follow that the Government's decision means the complete abandonment of civil defence. Rather interestingly, right hoot and hon. Gentlemen opposite have suggested that the decision means that there is no structure of civil defence in the country at all, whereas some of my hon. Friends were complaining that, because the Government's decision had left a structure of civil defence, we ought to get rid of that as well.

There is a structure of civil defence left in the country after the disbandment of the Civil Defence Corps, and the continuing responsibilities and duties of local authorities, for example, were described at some length by my right hon. Friend 'the Home Secretary in the debate on 29th February, and by my noble Friend the Minister of State for the Home Department in the other place only yesterday. I shall say something about those continuing responsibilities in answer to some of the points raised during the debate.

I was asked by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon what was to happen to the communications for the control system.

The existing communications will not be affected by the changes which are being made. These physical assets, which have considerable operational value, are being preserved. They consist partly of land lines and partly of point-to-point radios. At the terminals there are teleprinters, switchboards, etc. All that is being maintained, and it was part of the Government's decision that it should be maintained. Similarly, this applies in very large measure to local authority planning. I was asked a number of questions about that—for example, whether information to the public about civil defence remained a responsibility of the local authority. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary again made this point clear in his speech on 29th February. I draw attention in this respect to column 1805.

I was asked whether dispersal arrangements were being preserved. These arrangements are being preserved. I was asked about the training of local authority personnel. The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire seemed to imply—I do not know whether he meant to imply it—that the Taymouth Castle Training Centre was somehow a Scottish training centre for civil defence. That is not so. It was a Home Office centre and nothing to do with the Scottish Office. The fact that Taymouth Castle is being closed is irrelevant to the training facilities which will be available to local authority key personnel. These training facilities are being provided at Easingwold on a United Kingdom basis, so local authority staffs in Scotland as well as in England and Wales will have available to them the facilities there.

Mr. MacArthur

The Under-Secretary will not overlook the fact that Taymouth Castle is in Scotland. That was the point I made.

Mr. Millan

I had noticed that Tay-mouth Castle was in Scotland. I have had the pleasure of visiting it. I very much hope that it will be put to good use when it is no longer being used for civil defence purposes. My point remains that the necessary training facilities will be available.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke a good deal about local authority planning and, in particular, about the financial allocations to local authorities. I am not clear yet where he got his figure of 480,000 from. It is an inaccurate figure compared with the figure of £1 million which has already been announced. The figure of £1 million, which includes a number of things as well as staff, which is, I think, what concerns the right hon. and learned Gentleman most, did not include, for example, local authority expenditure on control system staff and communication, anything that has been spent by the fire service, by the police, on warning and monitoring arrangements, water supplies, and so on.

I want to take up the right hon. and learned Gentleman's main point. I think that perhaps he did not sufficiently understand—at least, he did not sufficiently acknowledge; I would not like to attribute a lack of understanding to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who has obviously studied this subject with considerable care—that what the Government will be expecting of local authorities will be planning arrangements as distinct from physical preparations. This in terms of expenditure, though not necessarily in terms of human effort, is a good deal cheaper.

Moreover, planning of this kind is in any case largely a matter for heads of departments and other individuals in local authorities rather than exclusively for specialist civil defence staff. We are now discussing the level of staff that will be required for planning purposes with local authorities. We shall consider in the light of these discussions any particular points of difficulty such as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested might arise in certain areas. There is nothing absolutely fixed about this, but we believe at the moment that the kind of figures we have in mind will be sufficient to allow an adequate job to be done. The right hon. and learned Gentleman obviously disagrees. This is the kind of thing which we shall be discussing with the local authorities.

Sir Frank Pearson

With the abolition of the Staff College and the dispersal of all the technical staff, who will advise the local authorities in the drawing-up of their plans from the broad strategic point of view?

Mr. Millan

It is not a question of the complete dispersal of all training staff. I have already mentioned the retention of Easingwold. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that there is a good deal of expertise available, as there has been, in the Home Department itself, and in the Scottish Office on matters of this sort. The general point raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a matter which we are still discussing with local authorities and we shall certainly take account of any points such as that which he raised.

I was asked about the storage of equipment and whether the arrangements which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department described for England would apply to Scotland. In Scotland they will not be Home Office depots, but I can give the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) the assurance that there will be similar arrangements for the storage of equipment in six Scottish Home and Health Department stores in Scotland.

One of the main points made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman concerned training facilities. This point was taken up by a number of other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Cheadle. There was a suggestion that former members of the Corps might be encouraged to keep together on some kind of informal and voluntary basis and be given training facilities on that basis. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said that we do not wish to discourage informal arrangements of this sort, but I must be realistic here and point out that any really worthwhile training involves staff, equipment and premises, which are matters of considerable expense. I should be misleading the House if I were to suggest that it will be possible to make the kind of informal arrangements which some hon. Members had in mind and produce really worthwhile training in that way without the expenditure of considerable sums.

Therefore, the Government having taken the decision that this Corps should be disbanded and these savings made, it is certainly not our intention that Exchequer money should be made available for the support of informal arrangements of this sort. Similar arrangements apply to premises. It would certainly be our intention that, with the disbandment of the Corps, premises, training grounds, and so on, should be disposed of, otherwise there would be very little point in making the change, because the savings would not accrue. I thought that I ought to say that frankly to the House so that there is no misunderstanding.

. The situation of the existing staff was one of the most important of the other points raised. This matter was raised particularly by the hon. Member for Clitheroe. The legislative provision for taking care of staffing arrangements in the event of redundancy, paying compensation, and so on, was taken in Section 4 of the Public Expenditure and Receipts Act, which we passed only a couple of months ago. The details of the proposed compensation arrangements and regulations will be discussed with the local authority associations and the staff associations concerned. It certainly would be the Government's intention that the arrangements that we make will be on lines similar to those applying to redundancies arising from local government reorganisation. What is more, we certainly intend that any redundancies that have arisen since the Prime Minister's announcement should be subject to any compensation arrangements, even though the final details are not agreed till later, provided that these were genuine redundancies arising out of the announcement which was made by my right hon. Friend then.

There are particular questions, such as the position of temporary staff. I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that we shall ensure that all these matters are taken care of. It is certainly not our intention that this reorganisation should be carried through without ensuring that the staff interests are adequately protected.

One or two hon. Members mentioned the possibility of maintaining the Civil Defence Corps for use in civil emergencies. This is an attractive proposition, and I do not mean merely superficially, but when one considers what has happened during emergencies in peacetime in recent years, one realises that although the Civil Defence Corps has been able to play a significant part in them, it has not been an essential service, or anything like an essential one. Our basic dependence—for example, as happened in Glasgow during the hurricane damage recently—must be on the permanent services such as the police force, the fire service, and the ambulance service. The idea of using the Civil Defence Corps for peacetime emergencies, though attractive, is not by itself a conclusive reason for maintaining what is, after all, costing us £20 million a year. This is the sum which we will save by the arrangements set out in the Regulations, and by the other steps that we are taking.

Hon. Members may have noticed that recently the Ministry of Defence has been very much more active in investigating how the regular forces stationed in this country can help, not only during emergencies, but by providing useful services for peacetime civilian purposes, both in this country and overseas. There are a number of interesting possibilities, but they merely add to what I am saying, that for these purposes there is no need to maintain a Civil Defence Corps.

Dr. Winstanley

The need is not so much for a corps to act as a unit, but to maintain a high proportion of trained people throughout the country.

Mr. Millan

I do not dispute that that is an important advantage, but in a peacetime emergency I think that there is something to be said for having organised people, and we have a large number of organised people with the

appropriate skills in our permanent services. I do not dispute the attractiveness of this scheme, but it does not seem to me to be anywhere near conclusive when one considers the general decision that has to be made.

A number of detailed points have been raised, for example, about the Long Service Medal, badges, publications, and so on. Many of these points will be dealt with in the circular which will be sent to local authorities and others if, and when, as I expect they will be, these Regulations are approved by the House. The question of the Long Service Medal is still under consideration, and I promise that the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) will receive an answer to his question.

I think that I have dealt with most of the points raised during the debate.

Sir T. Beamish

I raised an important point about N.A.T.O. Only last December the Secretary of State for Defence subscribed to N.A.T.O.'s view that civil defence was of the greatest importance. What happened between December and January when the Government decided to disband the Civil Defence Corps?

Mr. Millan

I dealt with that on a similar intervention earlier in my speech. I say again, and here I echo the sentiment which was expressed earlier, that this is a sad day for the Civil Defence Corps. I recognise the considerable work done by Civil Defence people, and the loyalty and service which they have rendered. Despite that, the Government felt that this decision had to be taken, and nothing that has been said today has convinced me that it is not the right decision for Civil Defence and for the country, and on that basis I commend the Regulations to the House.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 147, Noes 119.

Division No. 102.] AYES [7.35 p.m.
Abse, Leo Boston, Terence Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Albu, Austen Boyden, James Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard
Anderson, Donald Bray, Dr. Jeremy Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Brooks, Edwin Dell, Edmund
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Dewar, Donald
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Dobson, Ray
Binns, John Carmichael, Neil Eadie, Alex
Bishop, E. S. Chapman, Donald Edwards, William (Merioneth)
Blackburn, F. Coleman, Donald Ellis, John
Booth, Albert Concannon, J. D. Ennals, David
Faulds, Andrew Kelley, Richard Parker, John (Dagenham)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Lawson, George Peart, Rt. Hn, Fred
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Pentland, Norman
Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Lee, John (Reading) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lestor, Miss Joan Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Freeson, Reginald Lipton, Marcus Probert, Arthur
Gardner, Tony Lomas, Kenneth Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Luard, Evan Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Gourlay, Harry Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Gregory, Arnold McBride, Neil Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Grey, Charles (Durham) Macdonald, A. H. Sheldon, Robert
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mackie, John Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Hamling, William McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Hannan, William McNamara, J. Kevin Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Harper, Joseph MacPherson, Malcolm Slater, Joseph
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Small, William
Haseldirre, Norman Marsh, Rt. Hn, Richard Swain, Thomas
Hazell, Bert Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Swingler, Stephen
Heffer, Eric S. Mendleson, J. J. Taverne, Dick
Hilton, W. S. Mikardo, Ian Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Horner, John Millan, Bruce Tinn, James
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Miller, Dr. M. S. Urwin, T. W.
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Molloy, William Varley, Eric G.
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Moonman, Eric Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hoy, James Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Wallace, George
Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Morris, John (Aberavon) Weitzman, David
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Moyle, Roland Wellbeloved, James
Hunter, Adam O'Malley, Brian Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hynd, John Oram, Albert E. Whitlock, William
Janner, Sir Barnett Orbach, Maurice Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H 'b' n & St. P 'cras, S.) Oswald, Thomas Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Owen, Will (Morpeth) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Padley, Walter Yates, Victor
Johnson, James (K' ston-on-Hull, W.) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Palmer, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Judd, Frank Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Mr. Ioan L. Evans and
Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Goodhew, Victor Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Astor, John Grant, Anthony Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Gresham Cooke, R. Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Batsford, Brian Grieve, Percy Percival, Ian
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Peyton, John
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hall, John (Wycombe) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Biffen, John Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Pym, Francis
Biggs-Davison, John Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Black, Sir Cyril Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Ridsdale, Julian
Braine, Bernard Hawkins, Paul Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Royle, Anthony
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter Hiley, Joseph Russell, Sir Ronald
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Scott, Nicholas
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Holland, Philip Silvester, Frederick
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Hordern, Peter Smith, John
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hunt, John Stainton, Keith
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hutchison, Michael Clark Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Cordle, John Iremonger, T. L. Stodart, Anthony
Costain, A. P. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Tapsell, Peter
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Dance, James Jopling, Michael Tilney, John
d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kaberry, Sir Donald van Straubenzee, W. R.
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Kershaw, Anthony Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kirk, Peter Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Doughty, Charles Knight, Mrs. Jilt Walters, Dennis
Drayson, C. B. Lane, David Ward, Dame Irene
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Webster, David
Eden, Sir John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Elliot, Capt. Waiter (Carshalton) Lubbock, Eric Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Elliott, R. W. (N' c' tle-upon-Tyne, N.) McAdden, Sir Stephen Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Emery, Peter MacArthur, Ian Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Errington, Sir Eric Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Farr, John McMaster, Stanley Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Fisher, Nigel Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Worsley, Marcus
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles More, Jasper Younger, Hn. George
Forteseue, Tim Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gibson-Watt, David Neave, Airey Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Goodhart, Philip Onslow, Cranley Mr. Hector Monro.

Resolved, That the Civil Defence Corps (Revocation) Regulations, 1968, a draft of which was laid before this House on 29th February, be approved.

Civil Defence Corps (Scotland) Revocation Regulations, 1968 [draft laid before the House, 29th February] approved.—[Mr. Ennals.]

Forward to