HC Deb 01 March 1973 vol 851 cc1692-3
17. Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with the use being made of voluntary effort in home defence preparations for dealing with civil emergencies.

Mr. Lane

In a matter of this kind there is always scope for improvement. But I am satisfied that the Government's policy is clear and well understood by all concerned. My right hon. Friend and I will continue to urge local authorities to make the maximum use of voluntary effort in support of their emergency plans.

Major-General d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that there is now a firm requirement for the recognition, encouragement and instruction of an entirely voluntary body, whose rôle during hostilities would be civil defence? Were such a body now in existence it would be able to offer extremely valuable help in certain hospitals.

Mr. Lane

I am not sure that there is a need to create a new body. I remind my hon. and gallant Friend of the existence of the National Voluntary Civil Aid Society. Leaders of the local operational units of that society are in contact with either civil defence officers or the new county emergency planning teams, when they are established, over the rôle of their units in various emergency situations.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the hon. Gentleman accept from the Opposition that it would be totally unacceptable to use civil defence in any way for strike breaking?

Mr. Lane

That is another matter. I am aware that many of our difficulties in maintaining a good civil defence organisation originate in the decision of the Labour Government in 1968 to run it down virtually to nothing.

Sir D. Renton

Will my hon. Friend reconsider the Government's decision that there should be no grant aid to local authorities for either the training or the administration of volunteers?

Mr. Lane

I am not prepared to reconsider that at this stage. I prefer to see how we get on with the arrangements we announced in the circular about a year ago. There is scope for Government aid for training generally, though not specifically for volunteers.