§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Westwood, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill. As its title indicates, this Bill is introduced for suspending certain parts of the Civil Defence Act. It has already passed the other place with approbation—indeed, I might say with warm approbation, as Mr. Osbert Peake, speaking for the Opposition, said, "I can find nothing in the Bill to oppose." Therefore I imagine that it will not be necessary for me to make a very long speech in commending it to your Lordships. In addition to that, I should like to say that the representatives of the local authorities were informed and consulted, and the Bill seemed to meet with their general approval. The Bill, in fact, takes note of the present position and relieves local authorities of certain duties. The war is over; the Civil Defence Services and the Fire Guards have been disbanded, so that it is now necessary that these steps should be taken in order that there should be a certain measure of relief, about which I expect there will be no division of feeling on either side in your Lordships' House.
5 This Bill does not abolish the powers held by the Government, but it does take stock of the position without destroying the whole conception of Civil Defence. In that connexion I cannot do better than quote the words of the Home Secretary, in introducing this Bill in another place on November 5 last:So long as this country is liable to attack, the Government regard it as essential a duty to make adequate arrangements for the protection and rescue of the civil population, for the mitigation of the affects of air attack and for the restoration of industries and services after attack, as it is that the Fighting Services should be maintained for active defence of the country.I might add that, though recognizing the need for Civil Defence, it would be unrealistic to continue the organization in its present form without first examining whether, in the light of experience of attacks of raiding far more severe than this country had to suffer, there could be mitigation of existing arrangements or present policy, and for that reason the Bill temporarily suspends the obligation of local authorities to submit to what were called air-raid precautions schemes, except as regards certain things. The derequisitioning of premises used for Civil Defence and the removal of shelters may be mentioned in this connexion, and the Government would wish to pay a tribute to the way in which so many local authorities, in the midst of their pre-occupation with housing and other matters, are making time to get on with the winding-up of war-time demands.
There is little more, I imagine, that I need say in commending this Bill to your Lordships. Your Lordships will recall that Civil Defence had to be extemporixed during the war. In view of possible needs of the future, many lessons have been learnt during the war, many things have been realized, and consideration has been given to needs that might be called for in any future eventuality. The Government intend to, study the conditions of Civil Defence in all other countries in order that we may take the necessary precautions as and when, and if, such a catastrophe as war should again descend upon the world, so, that we shall be prepared with a full knowledge of all that has happened before and con take adequate and necessary steps. There is only one other word to add, and that is that your Lordships, I am sure, would wish to express thanks to 6 the many thousands of men and women who took part in Civil Defence and to affirm our approval of the public spirit and patriotism of those who gave themselves without stint in. time of great need and danger in defence of us all. In view of the reception this Bill had in the other place, and the brief explanation I have given of it, I imagine that your Lordships would not desire me to go through it clause by clause, but I would do so if requested. I beg to move.
§ Moved, This this Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Ammon.)
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, we too, searched in another place to see if there was anything to which we could take exception in this Bill, but there was nothing. But I would not like this Bill to have its Second Reading without noble Lords on this side associating themselves with the tribute -to the Civil Defence personnel which the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, paid just now. The personnel have already had the official thanks, but no thanks can be too great, and there cannot be too many occasions on which we reiterate our gratitude to these people. When in years to come they have their grandchildren on their knees, and their grandchildren ask what they did in the war, these men will say that they served in Civil Defence, and they will find as much honour in the generations to come as any soldier or sailor. I was glad to hear the noble Lord say that the local authorities were taking energetic steps for the removal of war-time constructions in the way of shelters. Only recently we had, in this House, a debate on road traffic dangers. I am quite sure that if local authorities can be put to the work of removing some of these surplus street shelters, the Government will be doing a great deal to alleviate traffic dangers and traffic difficulties, which are increasing as the number of motor cars increase. We have no wish, on this side of the House, to do anything, except to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, for the way in which he introduced this Bill, and we do not propose to press him to go through it clause by clause. We support the Second Reading.
My Lords, I can assure noble Lords that it is in no spirit of parochialism that I rise, but I would 7 like to ask whether Scottish local authorities were consulted equally with the English authorities.
§ LORD AMMON
I cannot answer that, but I would venture to say that they were. I can hardly imagine the English authorities being consulted without the Scottish authorities, or that this Bill would go through the other place without some indication that they had not been consulted, if that were in fact the case.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.