HC Deb 31 January 1985 vol 72 cc407-8
15. Mr. Gerald Bowden

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department which authorities will be consulted before he reaches a conclusion about the report on the standardisation of training of civil defence volunteers.

Mr. Giles Shaw

We have formally consulted the Association of County Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the Association of District Councils, the London Boroughs Association, and the Greater London council. Copies of the report have also been made available for information to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives; the County Emergency Planning Officers' Society; and the Association of Civil Defence and Emergency Planning Officers.

Mr. Bowden

Does my hon. Friend not believe that the working party on the standardisation of training for civil defence volunteers should have been given an indication of the number of volunteers who should be trained?

Mr. Shaw

I accept my hon. Friend's point. It is a question of how far local authorities might wish to alter the way in which they perceive the need for training for the volunteer movement. My hon. Friend will be aware that there are about 17,000 members in the volunteer movement and that the distribution of the movement is very different between one area and another.

Mr. Ashton

Why will the Minister not give way to the great demand on the Government Benches to bring back Dad's Army? Is he not aware that Dad's Army was popular and funny and that we would welcome it because it would show what nonsense civil defence is?

Mr. Shaw

I note the hon. Gentleman's robust defence of the position that he would wish to see, which would be that of no preparation whatsoever, so that the maximum number of people, presumably, would be put at risk.

Mr. Neil Thorne

I know how keen my hon. Friend is to ensure that civil defence is provided for the benefit of the population as a whole. Can he say what he would expect by way of training for these volunteers in numbers of hours per year?

Mr. Shaw

This is one of the matters on which we shall be consulting in the light of the working party's report. My hon. Friend will be aware that the college at Easingwold runs courses which so far have a capacity of the order of 700 per year.

Mr. Home Robertson

Is there not an overwhelming case for advice on civil defence to be reviewed radically in the light of recent scientific evidence that any nuclear conflict would probably be followed by a nuclear winter?

Mr. Shaw

Advice at any given time is taken in the light of informed opinion. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that there are differing views about some of the surveys to which he has referred obliquely.