HL Deb 23 June 1948 vol 156 cc1183-218

4.21 p.m.

LORD TEYNHAM rose to call attention to the Civil Defence organisation; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the recent debate on Defence in your Lordships' House, I ventured to draw your attention to certain aspects of this most important arm of our national security—namely, Civil Defence. At that time His Majesty's Government stated that the whole matter was under close consideration, and that the Memorandum of the Home Office, which was issued, I think, in November, 1947, was in the hands of local authorities. As many of your Lordships are aware, this Home Office Memorandum proposed that the country should be organised into three main elements of Civil Defence. It is proposed, first, that there should be a highly mobile full-time force, available for service in any part of the United Kingdom and reinforced by military and mobile columns. Secondly there are to be local forces, mainly part-time, but sufficiently mobile to serve anywhere within a more restricted local area. Thirdly, there is to be a citizen force or local static force, recruited on a voluntary basis and designed to enable the general public to take such immediate steps as may be necessary after an air raid—putting out fires, first aid and rescue work, and so on. This force was to be organised and administered by the police.

I should like to ask His Majesty's Government what have been the reactions of the local authorities to this proposed organisation; whether a measure of agreement has been obtained from them; and, if this agreement has been obtained, what steps are being taken to implement the proposals in the Memorandum. I think it is clear that these new proposals would render the Civil Defence Acts of 1937 and 1939 almost inapplicable and that it would be necessary to introduce new legislation. I should like to refer to this point for a few minutes, and to look a little more closely at the present machinery for the integration of Civil Defence. I should also like to put forward certain suggestions which might be embodied in this new legislation. Some form of new legislation was, I think, foreshadowed in the Memorandum issued by the Home Office to the local authorities.

What is the real position of Civil Defence to-day? I suggest that, for all practical purposes, it is back to what it was in 1937. At present there is a Civil Defence Committee, which I understand is really an inter-Departmental Committee under the administration of the Home Office; and beneath this Committee is a Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff. The Home Secretary is not a member of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, although there can hardly be a subject relating to defence which is not in some way related to the responsibilities of the Home Secretary. I suggest that we have in the set-up as it is to-day a very unsatisfactory chain of command. The Civil Defence Committee is merely a Departmental Committee of the Home Office and without any representation in the Cabinet Defence Committee. I should like to suggest that the Home Secretary should be a member of the Defence Committee. Of course he need not attend except when Civil Defence was directly or indirectly concerned. I would like further to suggest that the Minister of Defence should be made responsible for policy in connection with Civil Defence in the same way as this Minister is now responsible for the policy of the other Service Departments, such as the Navy, the Air Force and so on. Then I feel that the whole organisation would be linked with the Chief of Staffs' Committee. The ultimate responsibility for Civil Defence would therefore be the Cabinet as a whole, through the Cabinet Defence Committee and the Minister of Defence.

Those of your Lordships who have examined the proposals for Civil Defence which have been put forward, in fact even put into effect, by the United States of America, will recall that the Civil Defence organisation has been put directly under the Secretary of Defence, who has the responsibility for recommending a national programme and for planning the structure and necessary legislation for a permanent Civil Defence organisation. In fact, a new Civil Defence department in the United States of America has been formed, with a Minister of Cabinet rank and reporting directly to the Secretary of Defence. A corresponding structure in this country would, of course, be, as I have mentioned, the creation of a Civil Defence Department headed by a Minister and responsible to the Minister of Defence in the same way as the heads of the other Services—the Admiralty, the Air Force and the War Office—are responsible to him now. I must confess that I should like to see a new Ministry established on the lines of the American organisation, but in these days of financial stringency and shortage of man-power it is, of course, quite impossible, and we must fall back on the intermediate method of reorganisation which I have outlined already. But I am convinced that the time will come when Civil Defence will require not only its own planning staff but a staff college and its own Ministry in Whitehall—in fact parity with the fighting Services. That is my personal view.

I should now like to put forward to His Majesty's Government an idea which I am sure will be well received by the Civil Defence organisation. It is that, with the consent of His Majesty, the Civil Defence organisation should be known as the Royal Civil Defence Corps. I have little doubt that such an honour would have a very great effect on recruiting for the organisation and would give it a proper status in the country commensurate with its importance. I need hardly remind your Lordships of the excellent precedent established by the title of the Royal Observer Corps, which did such excellent work during the war.

With the advent of atomic warfare I think the time has come when we must entirely re-cast our ideas about Civil Defence. I suggest that it has become such an important branch of our Defence Services that it requires much more consideration and detailed planning than it has received in the past. The whole problem of Civil Defence is, of course, a vast one, and I am sure your Lordships will be glad to have heard the announcement recently made by the Chief of the General Staff that the Army propose next year to study the whole problem of Civil Defence and its link-up with the Army. There is no doubt that in the past the whole matter has been treated in a very leisurely fashion by His Majesty's Government. This vital arm of the Defence Services should have been in the forefront of our defence plans; and this year, not next year, we should be looking for a re-organised and efficient Civil Defence Service.

I think we must ask ourselves the question whether the present concentration of population and industry can be defended against the various forms of attack from the air such as we may have from the atomic bomb, guided missiles and rockets. There is one school of thought which considers that this Island would quickly become untenable in the event of another war, and that complete dispersal of the population and industry abroad would be necessary. I do not believe that to be true. I maintain that it cannot be seriously argued that we should not endeavour to retain as long as possible our industrial potential and administration in this country, and, of course, prepare our plans accordingly. The scientific brains who designed the atom bomb and other weapons, such as guided missiles and rockets, are just as likely to perfect a system of interception and protection from these weapons. There is already some evidence to support this contention.

I need hardly point out to your Lordships that complete dispersal would, of course, be impossible to attain, but undoubtedly dispersal in a modified form is a possibility and could be accomplished. Certain large business organisations in this country have already worked out dispersal plans. I think there is little doubt that, with Government guidance, such plans could be accelerated and extended to many industrial and other activities in the country. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government what steps have been taken to consult industry on these important questions and, in addition, whether they have considered the need for providing information which would assist architects when they set out to design new factories and so on, so that they may conform with the Civil Defence plans. The London Chamber of Commerce have only recently discussed Civil Defence. They put forward the vital importance of the provision of static water tanks in London and, in fact, in all our great cities. I hope that His Majesty's Government will consider such provision, which is very important.

I do not want to worry your Lordships with a lot of scientific data. After a careful study of the official reports from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Bikini, I think it may be concluded that there are certain definite steps which can be taken to protect the population of this country from the effect of atomic warfare. I suggest that the first of these steps is the consideration of our shelter policy. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can give your Lordships any indication of that policy. It is interesting and perhaps comforting to know that several hundred people at Nagasaki who were in tunnel shelters immediately below the bomb burst survived, and in many other areas of the city surface shelters which had been properly constructed stood up very well. There is little doubt that properly designed shelters can, in fact, give protection against anything other than a direct hit from an atomic bomb. But what do we find going on all over the country today? Shelters are being ripped out of their sitings, broken up and destroyed. This applies not only to shelters for the general public but to shelters which were built in and around the great factories up and down the country. I am not suggesting that all surface and underground shelters should be retained, but when their sites do not interfere with traffic or the daily life of the country I suggest that they should be maintained and kept in order. It was announced in the Press only recently that the city of Plymouth had started a drive to dismantle their air-raid shelters. I am sure that that sort of thing would not happen if His Majesty's Government gave some guidance on the matter.

I hope that His Majesty's Government will give the question of shelter policy serious consideration and issue advice to local authorities and industry generally, so that the wholesale demolition of air raid shelters which is actually going on at the present time will cease. I think that the advice to be given to local authorities must take into account other things such as the dangers to be guarded against and how they are to be mitigated. It is necessary to give protection, not only from the blast and heat radiation from an atomic bomb burst, but also from the dangerous gamma rays which are highly penetrating and lethal. The American investigating committee found that at Hiroshima persons in concrete buildings as near as 100 yards from the zero point of the explosion showed no clinical effects from radiation. I believe, in fact, that adequate shelters can be built, and old shelters can be redesigned and strengthened, so that casualties from radiation would be substantially reduced. Our deep shelters would, no doubt, give the best protection, but the Anderson and surface brick shelters, with additional protection, would be satisfactory, except when very close to the zero point of the explosion.

There is, of course, another serious danger which arises after an atomic explosion, and that is, the radio-active effect which is retained in an area for a considerable period and which is dangerous to life. Therefore it is necessary to devise means to indicate when it is safe for people to come out of their shelters. The period may be a few hours or a few days, according to the proximity of the explosion. In America instruments have been designed to indicate whether, and to what extent, an area is radio-active. Can His Majesty's Government inform your Lordships whether such instruments are now available in this country and, if not, what steps they have taken to provide them? No doubt His Majesty's Government are carrying out extensive research into all these difficult matters, but I think we must guard against the danger of delaying too long before producing some results from those investigations. We all know how easy it is to put off a decision on these difficult matters until the whole jigsaw puzzle is complete. I hope that His Majesty's Government will not put forward the old argument that a bigger and better atom bomb, which might make any preconceived shelter policy useless, may be designed at any moment. A somewhat similar and dangerous argument was advanced just before the last war, with very nearly disastrous results for the population of this country.

It has been said in many quarters that it will be difficult to raise any enthusiasm for Civil Defence plans and organisation. I suggest that that is only partly true. When people up and down the country realise that His Majesty's Government are themselves convinced of the appalling gravity of the problem, and show by their plans and organisation that they are really tackling it, I am sure there will be a ready response from the public. I feel that we must get away from the idea that measures for Civil Defence are more immoral, more irrevocable, and perhaps more fatalistic than the maintenance of a Navy or an Air Force. We must realise that we are now confronted with a fourth arm of the Defence Services equally as important as the older and more traditional ones. I beg to move for Papers.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, one of my less agreeable duties in your Lordships' House is to try to persuade individual noble Lords to address you. Generally speaking, that is not easy to do, though i may say that it is easier than attempting the opposite, of trying to persuade noble Lords not to address your Lordships! However, on this occasion I have not been successful, and that is the reason why your Lordships now have the doubtful privilege of listening to me for a short time. I find myself in almost complete agreement with what my noble friend Lord Teynham has said. I should like the Government to tell us that they have the whole of this question under constant consideration because, of course, certain aspects of it are changing every day. I would ask whether, in addition to the Home Office representation to which the noble Lord referred, the science side is properly represented on the Committee who are considering these matters. That is a most important point.

During the late war, I was struck by the apparent conflict of authority which existed as between the various Civil Defence services, the Home Guard, the troops in this country, the A.R.P., the Fire Services, and so on, Is there to be any attempt to bring them all "under one hat"? Then there is this minor point. Is full use made of all the elements available for Civil Defence? One heard so often of old gentlemen (I am not instancing myself) who would have liked to continue to serve, and were really capable of doing so, after they had passed a particular age. I hope the age test will not be unreasonably applied, and that while a man is still physically capable of doing the sort of work that he has been doing he will be allowed to continue. I believe that the adoption of the noble Lord's suggestion that some status should be given to the Civil Defence worker would have a great effect. The ordinary Civil Defence or Home Guard volunteer is regarded very much as the old Volunteers of 50 years ago were regarded—almost with ridicule. Perhaps I am taking it a little too far, but in some parts, certainly, they are looked upon as being of no use. I am sure that more training and more care in their selection would be of benefit in the work that they have to do. There is little more that I need say, after what the noble Lord has told your Lordships. When I tried to obtain further information, everybody that I asked said the same thing: "Bridgeman knows all about it." So I feel that we are in safe hands.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great interest, and indeed with a large measure of agreement, to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, in bringing his Motion before the House. I do not propose to cover all the same ground that he did; I propose to deal only with one part of the organisation of which he gave an outline—namely, the part which he called the "local static force." In effect, that is to a large extent what in the war we used to call the Wardens' Service. To ray mind that is an extremely important part of the Civil Defence organisation, and it came rather as a surprise to me when I discovered a few months ago that that part of the organisation does not exist to-day in any form whatsoever. It was disbanded in 1945, and has not yet been revived. I understand that plans are being discussed at the Home Office with a view to reviving the Wardens' Service, but those discussions are still going on. I gather, also, that two alternatives are under discussion. The first is that a Wardens' Service on the lines of that organised in or before the last war should be revived, and the second, that a looser organisation should be set up in which every able-bodied person might be expected to take a part. I am not clear as to how this second alternative would work, and I am bound to say that it does not seem to me that it would have a chance of being very efficient. After all, the Wardens' Service and Civil Defence workers require training; and how we are to give every able-bodied person training to be able to cope with what might happen in a future war, I really do not know. So at first blush, at any rate, I would plump for going back to an organisation on the lines of that which proved successful in the last war.

There is another point—and this is way I am particularly interested in this question. I happen to be patron of a body called The National Federation of Civil Defence Associations. This is a completely voluntary body of Civil Defence workers of the last war. They have banded themselves together in a number of associations, and have fused these associations into a National Federation. They are a voluntary body, they are not organised by the Home Office, by whom, it is alleged by some of the members to whom I have spoken on the subject, they are rather "cold-shouldered." But there they are. It is a spontaneous movement, and it is rather remarkable that, after a war is over, these people should voluntarily band themselves together, without any official encouragement, to keep alive the art of Civil Defence. Most of them have some premises or accommodation where they go for lectures, for discussions and for social intercourse. But, as I say, they are not officially recognised by the Home Office and some of them—not all—allege that the Home Office do not like them very much. I am sure that that is not true, but that is what they are beginning to feel. They are not being used, although they are ready to fill this gap in the Civil Defence organisation. It is a gap which, surely, will have to be filled some day—and, as I think, at an early date. These men had experience of the last war. They realise that the next war will not be the same as the last, and they are prepared to carry out additional training in order to fit themselves for anything that a future war may bring. All this enthusiasm, I am afraid, is gradually turning to apathy, and even resentment, because they feel the members are not being used; and I think that is a great pity.

The organisation which will have to be set up will, presumably, have to make use of the experience of the past, and here is the experience of the past, all ready and anxious to be used. I am afraid that if we delay too long these men will get discouraged, and there will not be the necessary response when the new Wardens' Service is formed. I would like to see a Wardens' Service, or a local static force which includes the Wardens' Service, set up at an early date and making use of this National Federation. They feel that they could be of use and, what is more, they feel that they could organise themselves if they were given a chance. They ask to be used.

There is one small point before I sit down, and that is that they do not want to be administered by the police. They feel that they can administer themselves, and they have no particular ambition to be placed under the police. That was the situation last time, and they do not see why they should be under the police next time. How much that feeling is justified I do not know, but surely in all conscience the police have enough to do nowadays with this wave of crime that we were discussing not long ago. They have plenty to do, without having this additional burden placed on their shoulders. Therefore, I would put in a plea for these people who have voluntarily organised themselves, who want to get going but who at the present moment are feeling frustrated.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene in this most interesting debate for only a few moments, in order to make one particular point. I would make a plea for speed and action in the preparation of our civil defences. I base that plea upon the admission of His Majesty's Government that in total war Civil Defence is an integral part of our total war effort. I think that point is beyond dispute. In this House, in another place and in the country as a whole, there have been representations which have met a ready response from the Government—that our Army, our Navy and our Air Force should be brought up to concert pitch, and should be ready at all times from now onwards if we should be aggressed from without.

As your Lordships know, the international situation is grim. There are those who say that this is a critical year, and there are those who say that next year or the year after will be the critical time. Opinions vary; but there is a general admission that, at any time, not of our seeking, danger may come upon this country. If that is so, it seems to me that the Government are out of step, because while, on the one hand, they admit that the Army, the Navy and the Royal Air Force should be ready, on the other hand, they seem slow and loth to bring the Civil Defence forces up to a stage of preparation comparable with that which they admit is necessary in our strategic forces.. I base my contention upon the last paragraphs in the Memorandum of the Home Office to the local authorities, and I would like to read to your Lordships just a part of a sentence out of one of those paragraphs: …much detailed study and preparation will be required before it is possible to make a start with the actual formation of the proposed new civilian services. I do not think that we, as a country, can afford to accept the vista of almost limitless time which that Memorandum foreshadows.

I suggest that the Government should make a time-table of their plans for civil defence, and let local authorities know the dates by which the various stages should be completed. Let the time-table be published to the country, so that we all have a target to which we can work, and so that we shall know if we get behind at any stage. I am aware, as are other noble Lords who have been connected with Governments, and as are noble Lords opposite, that time-tables are not popular in Government Departments, You say to your advisers from time to time: "Are we behind-hand, or not?" Sometimes you find that you are and an extra urge has to be applied. Nevertheless, I believe that a time-table is a good form of self-discipline for any Government, just as it is for any individual. If, at the present time, there is no settled policy at the top—as, indeed, is admitted in this Memorandum—how can the local authorities be expected to prepare any detailed plans? No wonder there is confusion in the minds of men in this country as to where they stand in relation to the Territorial Force, in relation to their liability for Reserve Service, in relation to their wish to enter the Civil Defence organisation, in relation to their position in reserved occupations. If the man-power which will be required for this Civil Defence service is greater than that which was required during the last war—as is foreshadowed—then surely one of the first things the Government should do is to bring out a new list of reserved occupations, so that each man will know where he is at the present time and where he is likely to be in the future, should another war come—as, pray God, it may never do. But, in case another war does come, we have to be prepared.

In the next war, Britain may be likened to an aircraft carrier moored off the coast of Europe, from which operations are bound to take place and which is bound to be attacked, as aircraft carriers were attacked in the last war and as they will be in the next. We must protect those who have to live on that aircraft carrier. At the moment we are not ready. The needs of the hour must not be neglected because of the concentration on research for the future. The arrival of atomic war does not absolve His Majesty's Government from the responsibility for Civil Defence against aggression with existing weapons. It is all too easy to ride off the need for doing something merely by saying: "Of course, in the future, something different will eventuate." The position is too serious, I believe, for us to allow ourselves the time which is foreshadowed in this Memorandum. Therefore, my plea is that the Civil Defence forces should be brought up to date and up to a state of efficiency comparable with that of the Armed Services, without the delay foreshadowed in the document published by the Home Office.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, in relation to this matter it seems to me that an important question to be answered is whether, in point of fact, we in this country are Civil-Defence-minded. I doubt it very much. Knowing that this debate was to take place, I mentioned the fact to a number of people during the last few weeks. Invariably the answers were to this kind of effect: "What a dull subject!"; "Is it really necessary?"; "How can we be expected to be interested in a subject like that?" I appreciate that it is a point of view expressed by only a few individuals, but I am inclined to think that it may be the point of view of a great many more people in the country. We seem to forget that having regard to the possibility of total war—which, I imagine, is the only kind of war we can expect to have in the modern world—we cannot put the clock back and think that responsibility for matters of defence can be left to the Armed Services. To do that, of course, is to bury our heads entirely in the sand. In modern war every man and woman has something to do towards defeating the enemy, and that fact has this corollary: that every man and woman and their employment are suitable objectives for attack by the enemy. That is a situation which, to my mind, has come to stay, and it is a change to which we have all to accustom ourselves. It may or may not be difficult in the Armed Services to grasp that change—I do not know—but it certainly is difficult in civilian life.

I do not believe that industry as a whole has faced up to that situation. All too often, industry is inclined to think: "We have a great job of another kind to do to-day, and we will brush aside all idea of Civil Defence as being none of our business." For so long have we regarded our Island as immune from outside attack and so deep-seated has that belief become, that I doubt very much whether, even after the Battle of Britain and all the destruction in London, Coventry and elsewhere, we really have the right attitude towards the paramount need for a Civil Defence organisation in which everyone will be concerned throughout the whole country. Until we get that right attitude towards Civil Defence, I am afraid that Civil Defence will continue to be regarded in peace time as something that does not need to be taken too seriously; and, of course, we shall suffer accordingly in war. I am not for a moment suggesting that the leaders of the Armed Services do not appreciate to the full the difficult problem that confronts us. But I do think that, taking the country as a whole—and, after all, it is the country as a whole which has the final say in these matters—there is that lack of conviction.

The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has drawn attention to the discussion which the Chief of the Imperial General Staff has announced is going to take place at Camberley next year. Like Lord Teynham, I welcome that discussion, but I also would have liked to see it arranged for a somewhat earlier date. I note that, according to Press reports, there will be present, at the discussions, representatives from cities which were bombed in the last war. I do not know how far consideration of the whole matter has already gone, but I have fears that His Majesty's Government may not be approaching it on a sufficiently wide basis. I hope that the noble Viscount who is to reply will be able to give us some information on that particular point.

My noble friend, Lord Teynham, has referred to organisation. He suggested that the policy for Civil Defence should be made by the Minister of Defence. There I would entirely agree. For the co-ordinating authority on Civil Defence to be the Home Office smacks very much of a phrase we heard used all too often, and always derogatively, in the last war—"the private Army." In passing, I would say that not only Government Departments must be concerned in the early stages when matters of high policy are being considered; representatives of industry must also be called in. After all, industry will be responsible for implementing many decisions that are taken, and in many cases industry alone has the knowledge and experience to realise whether an effort decided upon is practical. Without taking too much of your Lordships' time, I would like to give two illustrations of the sort of thing I have in mind. The noble Viscount has mentioned the dispersal of population and of industry. I am a little sceptical about the possibility of being able to disperse the highly complex static organisation of industry. We may be able to disperse individual businesses and the civil population, but we cannot in a measurable numbers of years do more than a very small amount of dispersal of industry. A definite decision on this question is necessary. Are we to plan Civil Defence on the assumption that industry and its civil population will be where they are now, or on the assumption that they will be dispersed to a greater or lesser extent, in some way that we do not yet know?

Then take the question of black-out. I do not know whether, with modern methods of attack, black-out is necessary. The experts may be able to say that it is no longer necessary. I merely take that as an illustration. At the beginning of the last war we found that many industrial buildings, originally designed for efficient production with the best possible form of natural lighting, presented an enormous problem when it came to arranging black-out for them. Often it could be done only with considerable loss of productive efficiency, not only by day but also by night. This is a question which can be decided only by assessing the expert opinion, of the R.A.F., on the one hand, who know to what extent black-out may or may not be a hindrance to attacking aircraft, and, on the other hand, of industrial experts, who know the great disadvantage black-out measures would be to industry. I give these merely as illustrations and I do not want to express an opinion; but they are the type of problems which will arise. There are many other similar problems which will arise in radio-active war or bacteriological war.

It seems to me that before any detailed instructions on Civil Defence can be given to the Services which have to comply with them—the Army, the Navy, the Home Office and industry—these major questions of policy must be answered. It may be that the answers have already been given. It may be that the discussions at Camberley will be on a larger scale than indicated in the Press, and that matters of that sort will be decided. Whatever the answer, I would like to put this question to the noble Viscount who is to reply: Have the representatives of organised industry been invited to these discussions on policy? The Memorandum that has already been mentioned refers, in paragraph 12, to "a joint planning staff in conjunction with local industrial authorities." What has been done about that so far? If my information is correct, so far there has been no approach to the main industrial organisations. I should like to know the reason for that. Quite likely the answer may be that the plans are not yet sufficiently advanced to make any approaches, but that sort of answer is most unsatisfactory. In any future war, industry will have a vital part to play, particularly on the A.R.P. side of Civil Defence; and when matters affecting them are being settled, it is essential that industry should be considered—and considered not after the decisions have been made, but beforehand.

I realise that on this matter His Majesty's Government may perhaps be in some difficulty, because of the question of security. Obviously, security is as important in Civil Defence as in any other operation of war. But I do not think that is an insuperable problem. I realise also that most industrialists are already fully engaged and do not want any other tasks thrown upon them. But, for that very reason, I suggest that the main industrial organisations, such as the Federation of British Industries and others, not for getting the nationalised industries, should be represented at meetings when policy on Civil Defence is being considered, to make sure that the measures affecting industry are practical and, above all, that the case for them can be made really convincing.

Before the last war, there must have been many firms who were completely sceptical about whether their shelters, anti-gas arrangements and black-out would ever be put to use, with the result that many did no more than the minimum amount of work to satisfy the legal or moral obligations they may have had, somewhat regardless of whether, if the preparations were put to the test, they would stand up to it or not. I am quite certain that before the last war there was an immense waste of effort and material. To-day we cannot afford such a situation. We cannot afford to waste anything. I submit that industry to-day is no less patriotic than anyone, but it has by experience become even more suspicious and oven more sceptical of instructions from Government Departments. Therefore, it is all the more necessary that any steps in Civil Defence that have to be taken by industry in peace time should be agreed with the accepted and responsible representatives of industry as practical, as sound, and as capable of offering a convincing case. That is no more than reasonable to my mind, for though, presumably, work of this type will ultimately be paid for by the Government, there will be an interim period in which the firms themselves will have to finance it. At any rate, the effort of carrying out such work must fall on the firms who own the factories concerned.

There may be—I am certain there are—many types of industry where there will be unusual danger from enemy action, both to personnel and to plant, requiring particularly onerous forms of protection. My noble friend Lord Teynham asked whether any instruction had been given to architects when designing new factories. I would wholeheartedly support that suggestion. In my opinion, it should apply not only to the construction of new factories, or to the extension of old factories, but even to major repairs. It might even be that in certain cases licences for buildings could include conditions to comply with A.R.P. requirements. I do not think that is by any means too far fetched. I remember that in France, in 1940, a Royal Engineers officer drew my attention to certain road bridges. They were bridges which had been built in peace time, many years before there was any thought of war; but it was interesting to note that they had apparently included in their design certain cavities, presumably for the easy introduction of demolition charges should they have to be destroyed in the event of war. That seems to me to be a useful parallel with what might be done, and it might save a tremendous amount of effort and material later.

I would now like to say a few words about the training of personnel. Here again, I refer only to the personnel for those units described in this Memorandum as Civil Defence units at factories. We must go very carefully if we are to get the best results. Personally, in peace time, I would favour confining the obligation on firms to the provision of no more than really efficient fire brigades. I believe one would achieve much greater success in that way. One would be much more likely to maintain interest—which is an important factor—because, after all, a fire brigade is a brigade which has an obvious present practical use; and especially would interest be maintained if the members of the brigade were assured of adequate remuneration for the time spent on that work. By all means give the members of the brigade occasional opportunities for hearing something about the more interesting aspects of civil defence; but do not be too ambitious by asking firms to do this, that and all sorts of other things. If we are too ambitious in the early stages, I am sure we shall defeat our own object.

The points I have tried to make seem to me to be quite simple. Industry has a growing importance in any war, but, equally, industry will become increasingly vulnerable in any war, both from modern and future methods of attack. The part industry has to play will, therefore, inevitably become increasingly onerous. I have tried to underline what seems to my mind to be essential—namely, that the representatives of industry should have a say as equal partners with other services and authorities when matters of policy affecting Civil Defence are being framed. I say that because I believe it to be not so much in the interests of industry as in the national interest, which, after all, is the only interest that counts in war. Industrialists to-day feel themselves often to be harried and overworked, and certainly they do not want any more than is absolutely necessary thrust upon them. But they are as patriotic as anyone and, in my opinion, will do anything to assist Civil Defence, provided that they are convinced of the absolute necessity of what they are asked to do. You may call them hard-headed—I do not think they would object to that—but their training and experience make them essentially practical men. Just as a business man would pay no more for fire insurance than he is convinced is absolutely necessary, so in the matter of Civil Defence you have got to persuade him that what he is asked to do is absolutely necessary. You have to persuade him that the steps he has to take are not merely an unnecessary imposition, and not merely the whim of some official trying to keep his position. He will then help you. I maintain that the best way of ensuring that support from industry is by inviting the representatives of industry to come in at the very beginning and to help frame the policy for Civil Defence.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I should like at the outset to support the plea of my noble friend Lord Teynham to prefix the word "Royal" before "Defence Corps" and to call it the "Royal Defence Corps." As my noble friend pointed out, there is the precedent of the Royal Observer Corps during the war. One of my pleasanter duties, when I was Joint Under-Secretary of State for Air for a short time, was to present the Colours to the members of the Royal Observer Corps, who were gathered together from all over the country. I can assure your Lordships that they were very proud of the fact that they were the Royal Observer Corps, and of the fact that they had their own Colours. I am sure it would provide a great incentive to recruitment if a defence corps could be called the "Royal Defence Corps."

The vast complexity of this subject, and the lack of substantial knowledge of what is in the minds of scientists and of the Services, and of the actual form of future warfare, makes it difficult to contribute much to a debate of this nature. But, in spite of the difficulties with which we are faced in Civil Defence, I am quite certain that unless the problem is tackled with considerably more vigour than it has been in the past we shall, in any future crisis, find ourselves in an extremely vulnerable position. I say that deliberately, because the extent to which the country is prepared in Civil Defence might well be the deciding factor as to whether or not an aggressor will let loose any of these terrible weapons of destruction. If we are not prepared, no enemy will think twice about starting this form of warfare, because he will know that the country will be completely disorganised in a few days. But if we are prepared, at least he will hesitate before commencing this form of warfare. If we are to survive the opening weeks of a future war, Civil Defence must receive the full attention of the country, not when war has come, but now.

When I read the report of the debate in another place it left me with the impression that the Government were only tinkering with the problem. That was in March. I trust that we shall have more explicit details of the programme when the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, replies for the Government this afternoon. I was left with the impression which I have described because, in spite of being pressed, the Government spokesman admitted that as yet there had been no decision on shelters; no definite instructions had been issued to local authorities, and no Civil Defence training had yet started. Who can say, after two years of almost open quarrelling with Russia, that any spirit of urgency has been inspired by this Government action? Furthermore, the Government reply in another place gave me the impression that they were inclined to shelter under the Defence Research Committee, presided over by Sir Henry Tizard, for not having made a decision. This Defence Research Committee may be a brilliant body of scientists, but it would be a very grave mistake to put too much "on their plate," and to wait for them to reach decisions. Every scientist will always feel that he is on the verge of discovering some better antidote, and will postpone the decision to go into production. In fact, he is reluctant to translate theory into practice, and I see a great danger in this Committee unless rapid and decisive decisions are soon taken. It is a mistake to put too much on their shoulders, and I for one would certainly sleep far more soundly at night if I thought that more prompt and serious decisions were being taken and would be put into operation soon, without waiting for the scientists to agree finally on the measures which should be taken. It is time that we passed from academic discussions and heard what actual plans had been formulated, and I hope the noble Lord will be able to give us some this afternoon.

There are only two questions that I want to ask the noble Viscount specifically to-night. The first is with regard to naval port areas. In the Memorandum produced from the Home Office for local authorities we read mach of the mobile military columns which are to be used—I quote— to reinforce areas in which the situation is beyond the capacity of the local forces. Surely, in the naval dockyard areas, there should be some liaison and co-operation between naval authorities, and a well-trained naval force should be mobilised to combat the situation in an area with which they would be more familiar than military authorities. No doubt some ships would be lying alongside for repair, victualling, fuelling, and even in dock. Therefore, I feel that the Navy should also have its sphere of liaison with tie local authorities and should be brought into the picture of Civil Defence as a whole. I hope the noble Viscount will be able to assure us that some steps have been taken in this direction. I hope he will not say that it worked well enough in the last war. That is not the point. The next war will be far more serious, on the Civil Defence side, than the last; the liaison will have to be far closer, and the training far more forward than it was before.

Secondly, I should like to ask what steps are being taken to keep the Merchant Navy in line with modern defence measures in training and equipment. The Merchant Navy is now—I was going to say our fourth Service, but the noble Lord who opened this debate referred to the Civil Defence Corps as such, so perhaps one might say that the Merchant Navy is our fifth Service. As we know, in the last war the whole brunt of the fighting fell upon it in 1939 and 1940; and it was then the first Service. In war time, of course, the Royal Navy is responsible for keeping it up to date with modern weapons of defence. But what is the position in peace time? Who is responsible for keeping the Merchant Navy up to date in these matters? Who is responsible for ensuring that its members have their defensive training in atomic or biological warfare? Who is responsible for supplying them with any of the equipment they require? If the answer is: "The Ministry of Transport," I would ask: Are they doing anything about it? Have any committees been formulated, any instructions set out, or any liaison made?

These are matters which must be considered now, because, as I have said, in any future war, as in the past, the rapidity of the turn-round of our ships bringing us food and raw materials is the one vital factor in preventing our defeat. As your Lordships know, submarines alone in the past two wars have nearly achieved this in the early days. The combination of submarines, atomic and biological warfare might well achieve our defeat in the future unless adequate steps are taken before an outbreak, and not afterwards. So far as I know, this question of naval port areas, and of the Merchant Service, has not been mentioned in either House in any of the debates. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to give some reply this afternoon, and will be able to assure us that note has been taken of these points.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend Lord Mersey for his estimate of my knowledge upon this subject. I sincerely hope that he is wrong, however, for if what I know about this subject now is all there is to be known, then I am sure that the whole matter is in a very parlous condition indeed. None the less, I thank him for the compliment. This debate has shown a genuine anxiety, in all quarters of the House, as to the present state of affairs, and a genuine desire that the matter should be proceeded with as quickly as possible. It has also shown, at least to me, that we have to be much more Civil Defence-minded—in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale—than perhaps we are at present. This debate seems to me to show clearly the uneven performance of the different Departments. On the one hand, one finds Ministries like the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Fuel or the Ministry of Food, who spend their whole time building enormous organisations and collecting vast staffs; on the other hand, one finds what I would almost describe as the amateurishness of the Home Office—at any rate in an outward appearance—in dealing with this very important matter of Civil Defence.

Admittedly, the Home Office have been very busy during these last months with some important Bills. Their work on the Children Bill and the Criminal Justice Bill has been approved on all sides. Added to that they have had the British Nationality Bill—not perhaps approved in every quarter—and there have been their more dubious activities in the Representation of the People Bill. None the less, here is something which demands attention, and in fact has demanded attention since 1945, when plans had to be made to put our defences in order the moment that victory came to us. I have been trying for a long time to listen with my ear to the ground to see what has been happening. I have heard extremely little, and I believe that in Scotland the state of affairs is much the same. All the same, it seems quite clear to me—and more clear because we have passed the National Service Act—that there is a mandate to this Government to go ahead with Civil Defence. Moreover, unless they do go ahead with Civil Defence the Government cannot claim that they have discharged their responsibility in making the preparations which have to be made—unless they are going to wait until it is too late.

The only ray of sunshine in the whole of this rather dismal scene appears to me to be the action of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in deciding that so far as he is concerned—he, I take it, being responsible only for the Army—he is going to concentrate next year on Civil Defence matters. We shall all of us, I think, be delighted that he has taken that view. Equally, none of us will be satisfied that that is the answer to the whole Civil Defence problem. It is not. True, we have been waiting for the results of research, and for the decisions which Sir Henry Tizard has to make on these matters; and it is perfectly true that research has to go on continuously. But research is wanted in certain directions, and action in others. Research is wanted, I should judge, in matters such as equipment, and the technique of dealing with situations which arise from enemy air attack and so forth. But research is not wanted in taking the fundamental and elementary steps in organisation which have so far, I believe, not been taken and about which, with your Lordships' leave, I should like to say a few words presently. What seems to have been ignored up to the present is the time factor. My noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye referred to that very important point. In matters of this sort the ordinary Whitehall tempo is not the right one. The right tempo is what I might describe as the "operational tempo." That is something of a different order from criminal justice and prison reform.

I do not propose to go into detail at this late hour. As to the set-up, little has been achieved up to now, I think it is because the set-up has not been right. There are two directions in which. I, with the little knowledge I possess, believe we should work to get the set-up right. The first is that it is unreasonable to expect anything to be done unless His Majesty's Government decide that Civil Defence is a matter which comes under the Chiefs of Staff. I am convinced of that. In the last war there was a partial measure of integration with the Chiefs of Staff. It was obtained through a Home Defence Committee in which a very distinguished Civil Servant, Sir Findlater Stewart, took a considerable part. But the results and the lessons of the war showed plainly that you cannot decide what should be the state of defence against enemy air attack on the ground except in terms of how you ward off an enemy attacker in the air. Therefore, until the Government decide that Civil Defence should be a function of the Chiefs of Staff, and perhaps appoint a fourth principal Staff officer to deal with that matter, I am certain that nothing more can happen.

I am not suggesting for a moment that Civil Defence should lose its civil character. There should be a Civil Defence member on the Chief of Staffs Committee, in the same way as the Home Secretary—or Minister of Home Security, whichever he is to be in the next war—should be a member of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. Instructions would then go down from the Defence Com mittee to the Chiefs of Staff. Some would go to the Admiralty, some to the War Office, some in their turn to the Home Office, which would be dealing with Civil Defence, and some would go to the Departments responsible for industry and so forth. In that way I think the set-up at the top would be right, and there would be reasonable hope that executive work would be broken down, stage by stage, until finally a definite plan was sent out to local authorities (the fire service, the police, the wardens and everyone else) who had to implement it.

One major step must be to get a grip of part-time man-power. We all know well that one of the foundations of our victory in the last war was the grip which the Government had on the full-time manpower of the country; and we know how that grip was exercised by those responsible, including the present Foreign Secretary, then Minister of Labour. But if that was true then, it is true now that we need an equal grip on the part-time man-power and part-time woman-power. We had in the last war a ridiculous and nonsensical competition for their services. We also had ridiculous and nonsensical calculations made by different Departments of what they wanted. The result was that not only did we divide our part-time man-power into small watertight compartments, which were difficult to interchange when needed, but we also produced calculations which were so unrealistic that if persons had been taken for the fire-watching service up to the prescribed figure there would have been no one left to do anything else.

Here we have a perfectly clear lesson, and that is one reason why I think we should now take the steps; suggested. If necessary, we should pass a Statute, which could be brought into force by Order in Council, in order that we can control part-time man-power and woman-power; and, having done that, we should work out a plan whereby these men and women could be used and trained for the necessary purposes. For example, there is no need to have a rigid dividing line between Civil Defence and the Home Guard. In the country districts that never made sense. It is also necessary that the people should be properly trained. In the years from 1939 to 1941 we were living in a fool's paradise in believing that the people we had for this duty were trained. They were deemed to be trained, but they were not trained. Now, the situation has altered: we have military service, and the Government have the power. I hope that steps will be taken in this direction, and that a certain amount of training will be given which will be of use to those who carry out their military service, after they complete that service. They may, of course, find themselves in a reserved occupation; but even then, they will have had some training during their military service, sufficient to shorten the period necessary to make them efficient in their Civil Defence job.

One could go on at great length on this subject. It is a very serious matter, and there is much to be said. I want to say only very little more because those are the three points: the appointment of a Chief of Staff, a grip on man-power, and the determination of reserved occupations. If those are settled the plan will work. Of course, there is a fourth requisite, and that is finance. I shrewdly suspect that the allocation of money to the Home Office for this purpose has not been enough to allow even the most elementary and necessary plans to get under way. However, that is a matter more for the other place than for us. So there we are. Many of my noble friends, and in particular Lord Balfour of Inchrye, have asked for speed and action in the matter. I would add my request to theirs.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, the debate on this very important matter has been a short one but, if I may say so, a most effective one. It has been a friendly debate in which many points have been brought out in the various speeches. I wish that I were able to give a reply as effective as the points that were made during the course of the debate. In dealing with this matter, I should like to draw attention to one general question. It is rather interesting to note the continued pressure which is being brought to bear by noble Lords opposite—I am not complaining—in regard to all the Defence Services and, at the same time, the pressure which is sought to be brought, and indeed is brought, to bear in regard to building up the peace-time economy of the country. I think those matters must bear some relation to one another, because in dealing with Defence many of the difficulties really arise by reason of the pressure and the speed which are so absolutely essential to bring about a complete restoration of the economic life of the nation. It is mainly a question of manpower, but there is also the question of money.

I think it can be said that His Majesty's Government have endeavoured so far as possible to face up to their responsibilities, taking into consideration the desire for speed and urgency in relation to both those phases of our national life. I think it will be admitted, in the first instance, that priority should be given to the complete restoration of our economic power. If that is so, then we cannot expect straight away to have what might be regarded as anything like an adequate Defence organisation. I am not going to distinguish between the Fighting Services and the Civil Defence organisation because they are all of great importance. But the amount of man-power and woman-power of this country is limited. There are 20,000,000 people engaged in industry at the present time. We have demobilised from the Services and, indeed, from war industries something like 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 people, and only three years have passed since the cessation of hostilities.

I can quite understand the reply some of his friends gave to the question which was put by the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale—that Civil Defence was a dull subject. Of course it is a dull subject. We are now suffering as a result of the tremendous sacrifices in wastage of human life, material and money, which this country had to make during the long years of war—all of which wastages will have to be made good before we can have any certainty in regard to our future economic position, upon which the whole of our national life depends. That is one of the difficulties we have to encounter in dealing with the problems of Defence. I am not making these remarks in the form of an excuse, but I would ask my noble friends to realise that, good as the present Government are, they cannot deal with all these subjects at the same time.

Noble Lords have rightly asked a number of questions. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, inquired whether I could inform your Lordships as to the progress which has been made in Civil Defence since the matter was last discussed in your Lordships' House. When the Home Office Memorandum, to which the noble Lord referred, was circulated at the end of last year, His Majesty's Government announced that it would be discussed between the Home Office and the local authorities. A meeting at which all the Local Authority Associations were represented was held some ten days ago, and the tentative proposals—for, after all, the Memorandum contained only tentative proposals, proposals for discussion—were put forward and were discussed in broad outline. The form of the legislation which will need to be introduced in the near future, whatever Civil Defence plans are ultimately adopted, was also discussed, and legislation for dealing with certain points is now in course of preparation. This legislation must be passed before His Majesty's Government have the necessary powers to do many of the things sought to be done.

I was very interested in the most constructive speech which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale. I was pleased that he brought out a point which I think is most useful—that industry should be consulted in relation to proper plans for Civil Defence. I personally agree with him. It has not been possible yet to bring industry into consultation, but I will draw the attention of my right honourable friend to the points which were so effectively put by the noble Lord in relation to this matter. I am a great believer in bringing in industry. There should, in exactly the same way, be a complete liaison between industry and the local authorities in dealing with a matter which concerns everyone. It is not going to be a matter of the allocation of manpower or woman-power to deal with Civil Defence in the event of emergency in this country; it is going to mean every hand to the plough, I do not think that the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, need have any anxiety as to age limits in relation to that matter. Probably he and I will be asked to put our hands to the plough. I have no doubt that I shall be as ready as he will be to meet the demand when it comes.

There are the problems. They are of such magnitude that indeed we must harness every available part of our resources to deal with them. The reaction of the local authorities to the financial proposals, of the Memorandum—they took a very determined view in relation to this matter—was such that, further consideration will need to be given to them. Your Lordships will recall that, while major capital expenditure incurred specifically on account of Civil Defence under the Government's general plan should in principle be borne by the Exchequer, it was felt that a contribution should be made by local authorities in the case of other items of expenditure. The local authorities contend that the whole cost of Civil Defence should be borne by the Exchequer as in the case of the Armed Forces, and His Majesty's Government are now considering to what extent the proposals in the Memorandum might be modified.

As to the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, regarding the new Civil Defence forces and their future organisations, all I can say is that they still remain matters for discussion in detail. The meeting agreed that the local authorities should nominate a small panel of local representatives, preferably of those with experience of Civil Defence in the last war, whom the Home Office could invite to attend Departmental discussions on the many problems which will arise in connection with the drawing up of plans for the Civil Defence of the future. This would ensure that due expression is given to the views of local authorities and that those views will receive due weight in the formation of these recommendations. The importance of local knowledge cannot be overrated, and our experience of Civil Defence in the last war has shown how important it is that in any future plans we should recognise the part which local authorities will have to play; indeed, without them and their experience no Civil Defence scheme could ever hope to be a complete success.

Some noble Lords who have taken part in the debate have referred to the position of the Home Secretary. This point was stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, when he suggested that the Home Secretary should be a member of the Defence Committee, and that the Minister of Defence and the Defence Committee should be responsible for Civil Defence policy. I think it might help if I were to give in outline the machinery for dealing with this problem. You will then I think agree that provision is adequately made for determining policy and for ensuring ultimate responsibility by the Cabinet. The White Paper on a Central Organisation for Defence which was issued in 1946, indicated that the desirability of extending the functions of the Minister of Defence to cover the field of home security had been considered. The Government view, given in paragraph 33 of the White Paper, was expressed as follows: They"— that is His Majesty's Government— have concluded, however, that it would be wrong to do this. Home security embraces a large number of activities apart from the Air Raid Precautions and Fire Services, such as the maintenance of food supplies for the civil population, transport, hospitals and so on which fall within the province of the Civil Ministries; and to give the Minister of Defence charge of all this would be to give him functions from outside his intended scope. It will be the duty of the Defence Committee to link home security to broad Defence policy and the Home Defence Committee has already been reconstituted for that purpose. The Home Defence Committee has been succeeded by the Civil Defence Committee, and on it are represented all the Departments concerned with Civil Defence, together with representatives of the Chiefs of Staff. A Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff has been set up in the Home Office under the chairmanship of Major-General Irwin, and it has the responsibility of examining and reporting on matters of Civil Defence policy, and co-ordinating the preparation of detailed Civil Defence plans. All the civil Departments closely concerned with Civil Defence are represented also on the Joint Planning Staff as well as the War Office and the Air Ministry, while representatives of other Departments are co-opted as required. The Joint Planning Staff submits its proposals to the Civil Defence Committee of the Home Office for approval, and obtains from that Committee guidance on all matters involving major planning policy. The Civil Defence Committee carries out its duties under the general authority and direction of the Defence Committee, and in this way the responsibility for Civil Defence policy rests with the Cabinet.

Your Lordships will see that there is on this Committee a close link existing interdepartmentally and with the Service Departments, and the connection with the Defence Committee and the Cabinet is very close. There is adequate consultation with the Service Departments at all stages and at all levels on Civil Defence planning and policy. The scheme, in fact, follows very closely the lines of that which proved so successful in the last war and which indeed, not so very long ago, was spoken so well of in another place by Sir John Anderson—and he can speak with some authority on this matter. He then pointed out that the system of Civil Defence was organised not under a single centralised control, but by making use of Government Departments with peacetime functions analogous to those which would have to be discharged by the Civil Defence organisation in war. He referred to the responsibility of the Home Office for security and good order; of the Ministry of Health for emergency medical services and for first aid centres; of the Ministry of Education, with the Ministry of Health, for organising evacuation; and of the Ministry of Food for the feeding arrangements for homeless persons. The Home Office was given a general responsibility over the whole field for co-ordination. The Government are now proceeding on a similar basis, and one moreover which has stood the test of experience. It is true that the Home Secretary is not a regular member of the Defence Committee, and it was interesting to note that the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said that even if he was a member he need attend that Committee only when matters concerning Civil Defence were being raised. That is just what he is doing at the present time. Whenever there is any question concerning Civil Defence, then the Home Secretary is in attendance.

An important item in any long term proposals for Civil Defence is the question of dispersal. That point was referred to by two noble Lords. It is the policy of His Majesty's Government to secure the maximum dispersal of all vital industry. Under the Distribution of Industry Act all building schemes involving any increase of any magnitude in industrial capacity or employment have to receive governmental approval. A ministerial committee under the chairmanship of the Economic Secretary to the Treasury has the responsibility of supervising the development and the execution of the Government's policy for securing a balanced distribution of industry. This Committee are advised by an official Committee on which the Air Ministry are represented, to ensure that full consideration is given to all matters concerning the strategic location of industry. In addition, new developments in the gas, oil, electricity and aircraft industries, in particular, are covered by definite plans agreed between the Air Staff, the Home Office and the undertakings concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, dealt, in the course of his speech, with difficulties that can arise in relation to the dispersal of industry. It is certainly a process which is not so easy as it may appear on paper, especially in these days when heavy industries are centred on the coalfields, and when other industries are grouped in large industrial centres. You have only to discuss this matter with some of the industrialists to ascertain what their attitude would be. Notwithstanding that they are undoubtedly intelligent people, capable of appreciating the strategic value of dispersal, all kinds of difficulties arise in this connection. It is obvious, of course, that economic and strategic considerations must often clash, and a final decision on any particular proposal must usually be a compromise solution.

Reference has been made during the debate to the important question of shelter policy. In this matter His Majesty's Government are advised on its technical aspect by the Minister of Works. The Minister has an interdepartmental Committee which is now working on the designs of shelters required to give protection against all forms of aerial attack—including attack by atomic bomb, by guided missiles, and by all kinds of missiles. Naturally, the experience gained as the result of the dropping of atom bombs at the end of the last war has to be taken into consideration. And who will say that it is possible, in such a short time, to do more than have technicians at work to advise, to plan and to deal with every aspect of the eventualities which may arise in the next war? Noble Lords will realise that there are questions relating to equipment, material, labour and cost to be dealt with in respect of the design of each shelter. The Committee will also consider the most suitable forms of design and construction for factory buildings, office blocks, blocks of flats and other buildings. His Majesty's Government will certainly consider the recommendations of this Committee, and the steps which can be taken to implement them, having regard to the demand on labour and materials which would be involved. Once policy has been settled, local authorities and architects and engineers, through their professional institutions, will be informed of the precautions that it is desirable to take.

There is hardly any need for me to remind your Lordships of the great demands which at the present time are being made upon steel and other materials. My Department have to deal with the building of merchant shipping. We have had to reduce the delivery of steel for the building of such shipping, important as that industry is, by a considerable amount, compared with what was allocated last year. This was not done because there was any desire to do it, but simply because we had to make as fair allocations as possible to the essential industries. The use of labour and materials on shelters can be authorised only at the expense of other essential work—at the expense of housing schemes, hospitals, schools, road improvements, and other desirable peace-time schemes. The priority to be accorded to shelters is one of the matters which will need the Government's careful consideration. It would be premature for me to attempt to forecast in detail the shape which plans for a Civil Defence Organisation will eventually take. It has already been announced that military mobile columns will form an important feature of the organisation, in support of local mobile and static forces. The Joint Planning Staff, which is responsible for working out the details of a scheme based on this broad outline, will also consider how far the present scheme of regional organisation would need adaptation or modification for operational purposes in war. This organisation remains in being, though, of course, on a reduced scale and without the appointment of Regional Commissioners at its head, and it could well provide machinery for taking over some of the functions of the Home Office in matters of organisation.

Whatever detailed scheme emerges, I can assure your Lordships that His Majesty's Government recognise the need for the closest co-operation with people on the spot. Indeed, it will be the duty of all who may be appointed to act as area commanders, district commanders, or controllers in any Civil Defence scheme to ensure, as an essential feature of a successful operation, that co-operation is maintained with local people. In the final issue, of course, the success of a plan depends upon the men and women who are asked to carry it out. The Civil Defence Organisation will require recruits, and recruits will need to be trained; so we must think of our plans for training instructors before we can start a recruiting campaign. Unfortunately, the Home Office training schools have had to be used for other purposes, but one of them is to be released shortly, and we are hoping that early next year it will have reverted to its rôle of providing instructors in Civil Defence. Indeed, we are hoping that a start will be made in January.

I was much interested by the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside. I agree with him that it is absolutely essential to retain the interest of the people, particularly of those who served in any of these capacities during the last war. It is true, as the noble Lord said, that there are now no wardens but, as he knows, a good deal of interest still remains. I am sure that we have not lost the interest of large numbers of men and women who formed the Civil Defence Services of the last war. Many of them have formed themselves into clubs and associations, as the noble Lord has mentioned. They have formed these clubs and associations for the purpose of keeping alive their war-time associations and friendships, and for maintaining their interest in Civil Defence. It is interesting to note that no fewer than 700 of these clubs and associations are in existence at the present time. They are to be found in all parts of the country—in large cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle, and also in the less densely populated areas of Dorset and Hampshire. The noble Lord suggested that the Home Office give little encouragement to the members of these organisations. As far back as 1945 a circular was sent out by the Home Office to local authorities requesting them to do everything possible to assist these associations. The Home Office provide films and lectures on Civil Defence, and are doing all they possibly can to encourage these organisations. The fact that no fewer than 80,000 members are already enrolled in them is an indication of their desire to serve their country and of their interest in Civil Defence work.

I am afraid that I shall have to say again that research is proceeding in the several fields with which Civil Defence planning is concerned. I have referred to the consideration which is being given to the design of shelters and to the forms of construction of large industrial and residential buildings. In addition, investigations designed to enable suitable forms of protection to be provided against the various dangers which may ensue from future forms of attack are on foot. They cover all the aspects mentioned by the noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, including points connected with the atomic bomb, radiation of heat and contamination, gas and bacteriological warfare, and so on. I do not think we ought to speak lightly of the work being done by the scientists, led by Sir Henry Tizard, a man of outstanding ability. The addition to the Home Office staff of an eminent scientific adviser has already been announced, and it will be his function to keep the Civil Defence planning staff in touch with new developments and to ensure that the needs of Civil Defence receive full attention by those engaged in research.

The noble Earl, Lord Beatty, referred to the position of the Royal Dockyards and to the desirability of close liaison with local authorities in matters of Civil Defence. As I have said, there must be close co-operation between all local authorities, irrespective of the type of industry in the area; and that applies, of course, to the Royal Dockyards. This co-operation is absolutely essential, and the noble Earl may be assured that it will be continued. The noble Earl also raised the question of Civil Defence for the Merchant Navy in peace time. Civil Defence is not the responsibility of any one Department. Every Government Department will assume responsibility for the organisation of Civil Defence in those undertakings over which the Department have some form of general responsibility, and the requirements of merchant seamen will not be forgotten.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, is a modest man, but he has a vast knowledge of the subject of Civil Defence, and he raised some very important questions about the difficulties of man-power. In the event of an emergency it will be "all hands to the plough," and the calls which will be made for the Defence Ser- vices and for Civil Defence will be such that, whatever the work a person is doing, whether in a reserved occupation or not, he will have some additional defence work to do. I have taken too much of your Lordships' time. May I repeat, in conclusion, what has been said so many times? No defence plan can ignore the importance of Civil Defence and the need for full adequate arrangements in that field, no less than in the field of military affairs. I would like to assure your Lordships that His Majesty's Government do not under-estimate the great importance of proper preparation in this very important sphere of defence.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, I must confess that I am a little disappointed in the reply given by the noble Viscount. The whole organisation of Civil Defence seems to be very much in its infancy, and perhaps that is the justification for this debate. The noble Viscount said that the Home Secretary was not a regular member of the Defence Committee. Are we to understand from that that he is a member of that Committee


The Home Secretary is not a member of the Committee. He may be regarded as a member when summoned. When there are questions which concern Civil Defence, the Home Secretary is summoned to the Committee.


I am grateful for the explanation. I regret very much that the Minister of Defence is not to be responsible for policy. I feel that unless the Minister of Defence is responsible for policy we shall not have a proper chain of command right through the Civil Defence organisation. I was interested to hear what the noble Lord had to say about shelter policy—that the Ministry of Works are already engaged on designs and are going into the whole matter thoroughly. I was also interested to hear what he said about: research, but I would like to make this point again: we must be very careful not to carry on research too long without producing results. On the assurance given by the noble Viscount that all these matters are being looked into, I bog leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.