HC Deb 05 May 1983 vol 42 cc389-90
13. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the civil defence arrangements for the London borough of Hillingdon.

Mr. Mayhew

Local authorities have a statutory obligation to make plans against the effects of possible hostile attack, and we are satisfied that the London borough of Hillingdon has done all that has been required by law.

Mr. Shersby

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that many people in Hillingdon will find his reply very reassuring? Will he confirm that one part of the work of civil defence involves dealing with natural disasters as well as with the effects of hostilities? What steps are the Government taking to encourage people to participate more actively in civil defence, particularly with regard to natural disasters?

Mr. Mayhew

I am glad that my hon. Friend raised that point. The organisation and training of volunteers for civil defence is a matter of great importance. In the new regulations that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary laid on 28 April, provision is made to encourage local authorities to do that and to reimburse to the extent of 100 per cent. any expenses that they incur and are approved by the Home Office for the organisation and training of volunteers. Of course, a properly developed civil defence structure would also be available for natural disasters. The Civil Defence Act limits expenditure to preparations against hostile attack, but once one has them one can use one's volunteers in the event of a civil disaster, and that is very important.

Mr. Neil Thorne

Would my hon. and learned Friend be kind enough to see whether the Civil Defence Act needs amending to include provision for civil emergencies so that it is beyond doubt that local authorities are also required to provide for such eventualities?

Mr. Mayhew

We must wait to see how local authorities respond to the encouragement which the new regulations — if approved by Parliament — will give. However, my hon. Friend is right to point to the fact that the Civil Defence Act excludes expenditure for such civil emergencies. We shall have to see how we get on.