HC Deb 28 February 1980 vol 979 cc1557-8
15. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he is giving to recreating a civil defence organisation.

Mr. Brittan

The current review of home defence arrangements is examining how volunteer effort can best support the plans of local authorities.

We are not persuaded that a new national organisation is required.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that a credible national defence posture requires a strong civil defence organisation? Does he agree also that whether one is thinking of a war-time situation or of a national emergency, an organisation is required to meet such a contingency?

Mr. Brittan

I agree that the credibility of our general defence arrangements involves having adequate civil defence arrangements. That is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary initiated the review that is currently taking place. However, there is more than one view about the precise form that the arrangements should take and the precise way in which volunteer efforts should be mobilised.

Mr. Cryer

Is it not true that the reality of nuclear warfare is that stirrup pumps and whitewashed windows are no defence against the horror of mass extermination? Is it not true also that that underpins the basic strategy of NATO and of nuclear weapons? Is it not also the case that the BBC banned the film "War Game", which showed civil defence in action, because it was thought that the population would become even more fearful?.

Mr. Brittan

I do not accept any of the hon. Gentleman's assumptions or conclusions. The object of our defence posture is to avoid war. It would do no service to the community simply to say that if war came we could do nothing to mitigate the consequences. We recognise that any responsible Government must do what they can. As a result, a review of civil defence is taking place.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

I note my hon. and learned Friend's great realism. Does he agree that if American rockets are to be stationed in Britain there will be great demand for a proper civil defence organisation as part of that deterrent?

Mr. Brittan

As I have indicated, the Government accept that the existing civil defence arrangements need review. That review is taking place. As I said during the Adjournment debate last week, my right hon. Friend will announce the outcome of that review shortly.

Dr. Summerskill

As civil defence is closely related to military defence, will the Minister say what consultations the Government are having with the Nato civil defence committee in the course of drawng up the review? Britain is a member of the Nato civil defence committee.

Mr. Brittan

Naturally, the international dimension is being considered. However, it would not be right to describe in detail the nature of the consultations.

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