HC Deb 18 December 1980 vol 996 cc544-5
13. Mr. Sheerman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what provision has been made for nuclear shelters for (a)local government officials and (b)elected members of local authorities in the event of a nuclear war.

Mr. Brittan

Local authorities have not been advised to provide nuclear shelters as such for their members or officials. They have, however, been asked to provide a small wartime headquarters in protected accommodation.

Mr. Sheerman

Is not the Minister aware that the plans which exist include the prospect of a bureaucratic dictatorship after a nuclear attack, because there is no provision for elected officials, and that in an atmosphere in which people are more and more concerned that the Conservative Government's defence policy, with Trident and cruise, is more likely to lead us into a nuclear catastrophe there will be no provision for democratically elected people to be around after that catastrophe?

Mr. Brittan

The second part of the supplementary question, although untrue, is irrelevant to the question.

On the first part, the position must be that in the event of the sort of situation that we are envisagin—a nuclear strike on this country—the first priority for recovery must be the restoration of essential services on as wide a basis as possible. The only way in which that can be done is through the local authorities, in the way that has been planned.

Dr. Mawhinney

Is it my hon. and learned Friend's view that Members of this House are as expendable as local councillors or less expendable?

Mr. Brittan

Fortunately, that is not a matter on which I am called upon to pronounce an opinion.

Mr. loan Evans

How many nuclear shelters are there in the United Kingdom? How many people would be able to use them, in view of the fact that they would have only a three-minute warning? Is it the fact that the Home Office has calculated that there would be 30 million deaths in Britain if there were to be a nuclear war?

Mr. Brittan

It depends on what one calls a nuclear shelter. The number of deaths would also depend on the nature of the attack, and it is by no means clear that that would necessarily be of a particular kind. But what we are doing, and what is the most constructive further step, is to arrange a survey of existing public buildings which are capable of use, whether by adaptation or not, as shelters for a substantial number of people in the population as a whole.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Will my hon. and learned Friend tell the House whether the emergency plans which are in the hands of local authorities at present are secret plans or not? If they are not, should not the local authorities make them available to the public?

Mr. Brittan

The general nature of the plans that exist is not secret.

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