HC Deb 18 July 1974 vol 877 cc648-9
13. Sir David Renton

asked the Secretary of State to the Home Department what financial help will be given in the current financial year to local authorities in England and Wales to enable them to discharge their responsibilities under the Civil Defence Act 1948 and the Local Government Act 1972 for dealing with emergencies in war and peace.

Dr. Summerskill

Under the Civil Defence Act 1948, the estimated expenditure in 1974–75 on grants to local authorities is £1,630,000. Expenditure under Section 138 of the Local Government Act 1972 does not qualify for Home Office grant.

Sir D. Renton

Is the hon. Lady aware that the sum of £1,630,000 is totally inadequate to enable local authorities to perform their statutory duties in these matters, particularly as some of them are already in great financial difficulties and are making great demands upon their ratepayers? Will the hon. Lady ask her colleagues in the Government—especially in the Treasury—to reconsider this allocation, as it at present means that local authorities will not be able to carry out their statutory duties?

Dr. Summerskill

In 1974–75 local authorities are likely to spend about £2 million in all—which is an increase of 11 per cent. over the 1973–74 amount—and £1.5 million of the £2 million will be reimbursed by specific grant.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Is the hon. Lady aware that we are talking about the last-ditch defences of this country, which are inadequate enough as it is? Will she reconsider this, because unless the amount is increased local authorities will not be able to provide training facilities to make use of the large number of public-spirited people who wish to make a contribution to public welfare in this way?

Dr. Summerskill

Extremely good progress is being made in the establishment of county emergency planning teams all over the country since local government reorganisation, but I shall bear in mind what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend recognise that many hon. Members on the Government side of the House regard increased expenditure on civil defence as a colossal waste of money? Does my hon. Friend not agree that in view of the cuts of £111 million announced by the previous Government last December, relating to health and social services, any money to spare should go to these services, and in particular to the nurses?

Dr. Summerskill

I appreciate that there are different views on this matter. My right hon. Friend has undertaken to consider the need for a statement on Civil Defence in the context of the promised defence White Paper.

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