HC Deb 19 January 1984 vol 52 cc436-7
9. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is now in a position to revise the Government's estimate of the likely casualties after a nuclear attack.

Mr. Hurd

We expect to be able to publish revised information about the blast and radiation effects of nuclear weapons in the course of the year. We cannot estimate the likely casualties which would depend on many unforseeable matters, including, of course, the nature of any attack.

Mr. Strang

Will the Government accept that their calculations have massively underestimated the likely casualties arising from various nuclear attack scenarios? In particular, does the Minister accept that these calculations fail to take account of the additional radiation arising from the blast destruction of buildings?

Mr. Hurd

We are updating our estimates and information and that will be published. One of the difficulties about this subject is the way in which some people persist in believing that the only possibility worth considering is a massive nuclear attack. That is simply not so. Civil defence planning and training must deal with a whole range of possibilities, including, of course, conventional attack.

Mr. Neil Thorne

Will my right hon. Friend please make it clear that a increasing number of countries are capable of joining the nuclear powers and therefore any hostilities of this sort could come from one of those, which would create a very different scale of casualties from that following action by one of the super powers? Therefore, it would be quite wrong to reject civil defence purely and merely because some people believe that a major confrontation is quite incomprehensible.

Mr. Hurd

That is a valid point, but even if one is thinking of the two main alliances, it is conceivable to imagine a period of conventional warfare.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Is it not a fact that if there were an all-out nuclear attack life on this island would cease to exist? What is the Minister's estimate of the number of people in this country who have access to nuclear shelters? If he is to look at the figures, will he read the document issued by the British Medical Association, which estimated figures much higher than those given by the Government?

Mr. Hurd

We have discussed this with the BMA, which, I am glad to say, is now co-operating with us in producing guidance on what could be done to help medical services in such circumstances. Nobody is underestimating the appalling consequences of a nuclear attack, but many people would survive, particularly from the consequences of radiation, and they could be saved. I have never understood the argument that because not every one could be saved, no attempt should he made to save anyone.

Forward to