HC Deb 05 March 1981 vol 1000 cc402-3
3. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the progress being made with civil defence preparations against nuclear attack.

Mr. Mayhew

My right hon. Friend looks forward to speeding up progress in the implementation of the new civil defence programme he announced on 7 August last year. The additional resources to be provided in 1981–82 will enable the pace to quicken.

Mr. Dormand

That is a very complacement reply. Is the Minister aware of the growing unease in the country about the matter? While accepting that local authorities have an important role to play in civil defence, does the Minister realise that the present concern arises from a lack of initiative on the part of the Government in providing information, expertise and, not least—I am glad he mentioned it in his reply—resources? When will the Government take the matter more seriously?

Mr. Mayhew

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no complacency about this matter. My right hon. Friend will shortly issue guidance to local authorities on the suggested ways in which they should make use of the doubling of the money provided for their use in implementing the programme announced by my right hon. Friend in August last year. This is an important matter. This afternoon my right hon. Friend is meeting representatives of local authority associations.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the greatest contribution to civil defence would be made by a change in the building regulations by which all new houses would have shelters built into them?

Mr. Mayhew

I do not think that that would be the greatest contribution that could be made to civil defence. The greatest contribution would be the recognition throughout the country that it is important to guard our people against the effects of radiation in the very unlikely event of nuclear attack.

Mr. Haynes

Why does the Minister not admit that there is no defence agaist a nuclear attack? Why does he not pressurise the Government to spend money in the right direction? Is he aware that this is the International Year of Disabled People? He should put money into that area.

Mr. Mayhew

I do not admit it because that is not true. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends evidently do not want the country to be able to protect itself militarily against attack. Now he wishes too deny our people the humanitarian help that would save millions of lives. That is not our understanding of the duty of Government.

Mr. Kilfedder

Since the public have been asked largely to fend for themselves as best they can in the event of nuclear attack, are they not entitled to be given the full and terrible facts of the consequences of nuclear warfare to enable them to make whatever arrangements they can? Is not the best way to do that to show a Government film on television?

Mr. Mayhew

The people of the country are entitled to full information about the consequences of nuclear warfare, which it is the policy of the Government through their nuclear deterrent policy in particular to avoid. The Government have made further information available in publications during the past 18 months and more information will be available in the coming months.

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