HC Deb 20 December 1984 vol 70 cc533-4
1. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many local authorities have started recruiting civil defence volunteers since December 1983.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)

This information is not readily available in the form requested, but I understand that 36 county councils already have volunteers enrolled and of these 28 are currently recruiting volunteers and a further eight have plans to do so next year.

Mr. Morrison

That seems to be a reasonable start. Will my hon. Friend say whether the analysis of answers to the local government civil defence questionnaire has yet been completed and whether the constitution of the successful Devon volunteers might be recommended for other local authorities.

Mr. Shaw

With regard to the latter question, the activities of the Devon volunteers and, indeed, the contribution of the west country to civil defence exercises are a model and I trust that they will be looked at.

With regard to the main point of my hon. Friend's question, the analysis is complete and a report summarising the results has been placed in the Library. I welcome the evidence of progress that the results show, but many local authorities have much more to do. I intend that all local authorities shall carry out their statutory civil defence responsibilities, and we can enable them to do so by making the resources available.

To secure the implementation of the regulations we shall provide guidance to develop a programme of planned action and monitor progress, while holding in reserve the use of formal directions and the default powers available in the 1948 Act. The replies to the questionnaire provide the base line from which to develop a programme of work and the target dates. As a first step I have arranged that local authorities should be asked to complete the plans required by 31 December 1985.

Mrs. Clwyd

As there is no intellectual reason for civil defence, would it not be more prudent for the Government to persuade local authorities not to spend their money on such a foolish and wasteful exercise when the Government are starving so many local authorities of resources?

Mr. Shaw

No, Sir.

Mrs. Clwyd

I am a woman.

Mr. Shaw

I was correct in the first instance. I shall recommence. No, Sir. It is an essential requirement that local authorities make some sensible provision for civil defence emergencies.

Mr. Jessel

Is not a very clear intellectual reason for taking such measures simply that if an explosion took place 10 miles from where a lot of people live many could be saved by those measures? Even though the catastrophe of a nuclear explosion is unlikely, it still remains possible.

Mr. Shaw

Yes, Sir. That is a correct view. We must make a humanitarian response to emergencies.