HC Deb 24 July 1986 vol 102 cc693-712 9.55 pm
Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West)

During my many years of service to my constituency in the House this is the first occasion on which I have had the good fortune to be drawn first in the ballot for the Consolidated Fund debate. In fact, it is the first time that I have ever won a ballot since I have been in the House. That is the result of fortune but it certainly is the result not of fortune but of a reasonable, responsible and constructive viewpoint that my deliberate choice of subject, which I commend to the House, is that of civil protection.

This is a subject which has occupied the attention of the House on several occasions recently. I take this opportunity of placing on record a warm and generous tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), who, with such skill, presented the comprehensive measure, the Civil Protection in Peacetime Act 1986. He has been ably supported by Members of all parties. However, if you will allow me, Mr. Speaker, I should like to take the opportunity to pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) for his dedication to the subject. That reflects the greatest possible credit upon him and the constituency that he serves with such distinction.

In recent years, civil protection, after a period of relative quiet, has become universally acclaimed as an issue which commands support on both sides of the House and among the electorate whom we serve.

I was particularly pleased that the Government's decision to introduce regulations in 1983 was as a result of the failure of several local authorities to take reasonable action to promote this vital service and introduce the training which was required. I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) is in his seat and he, in particular, has taken great interest in that aspect of civil protection.

It is my considered opinion that the main thrust of the proposals was to place an obligation on local authorities to do a number of things. First, they should establish and keep under review plans for the continuation of essential services in an emergency. There is a genuine need to arrange a comprehensive training schedule. Before I came to this House, I attended several courses on civil defence training. They were useful in all sorts of ways when facing crises such as one might find on a motorway or in a more local difficulty. Such training should be arranged for the staff of local authorities, because in a state of emergency the local authority staff would be the lifeblood in maintaining services.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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