HC Deb 28 February 1985 vol 74 cc452-4
5. Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the Civil Defence college, Easingwold, will issue a regular newsletter to local authorities.

Mr. Giles Shaw

We are aware of the importance of keeping local authorities and their emergency planning staff in touch with developments and are looking at how this might best be done. A newsletter is one of the possibilities under consideration.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

In his discussions, will my hon. Friend consider informing local authorities which waste ratepayers' money on frivolities such as nuclear-free zones that their first duty is to protect their inhabitants and that there are means of injuring people other than by nuclear weapons?

Mr. Shaw

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Relatively few local authorities have followed the GLC's lead in dealing slavishly with nuclear-free zones. We intend to carry through the recently issued regulations to ensure that all local authorities take their statutory duties seriously and implement them.

Mr. Pike

If information on civil defence is to be given out, will the Minister bear in mind that this morning the early warning system in my constituency and neighbouring authorities in North-East Lancashire went off and that nobody knew what it was meant to be and took no notice of it?

Mr. Shaw

I cannot think of a better reason for more active civil defence policies than obtain in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Mr. Neil Thorne

In any publication such as this, will my hon. Friend ensure that due weight is given to civil emergencies as well as to military ones, as civil defence has an important role to play? The more we can get that message over to the public, the better.

Mr. Shaw

I take my hon. Friend's point, but he will be aware that our prime purpose is to ensure that the preparations which local authorities are required to make by the 1983 regulations are made.

Mr. Kirkwood

If the Minister is intent on disseminating information from Easingwold, will he ask local authorities to go one stage further and make available by newsletter or any other means they think most appropriate their detailed plans to interested members of the public in their areas? There is everything to be gained from making it clear what civil defence arrangements there are in local authority areas.

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman is right. Local authorities are required to make preparations and councils in those authorities should be in a position to get to know them and give them wide publicity.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Would such a newsletter not provide an admirable opportunity to end the Government's dishonest and hypocritical policy of pretending that there is some defence to a nuclear attack and to point out the consequences of a nuclear winter, which make irrelevant all planning for evacuation, relocation or shelter, and, more importantly, that, if we want to remove the threat of nuclear war, participation in peace negotiations is the most important and urgent task?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman's observation reveals a complete confusion which is frequently seen in the minds of Opposition Members. The Government are talking about civil defence preparation, which is a humanitarian and essential precaution to be undertaken whatever may be the threat.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Does my hon. Friend accept that many local authorities take their civil defence responsibilities seriously and that many of them—this is true in Norfolk — feel that they are not receiving the support on training that they should from the Government? Will my hon. Friend look again at the ways in which we can give the maximum support to those local authorities which are doing, or trying to do, a good job on civil defence?

Mr. Shaw

My hon. Friend will be aware that the very existence of Easingwold and its importance is for training. That establishment is the bedrock of the training system, but I shall do my best to ensure that more training facilities are made available.