HL Deb 24 January 1951 vol 169 cc1102-59

2.40 p.m.

LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY rose to call attention to the organisation of the Home Guard and Civil Defence Services with special regard to the need for co-ordinating these services; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper to-day. For the purpose of my argument I shall assume that there is general agreement that this country, in common with its Western Allies, has to meet the great problem of how, in the face of continual aggressive pressure by the powerfully armed group of nations led by Soviet Russia, general war is to be prevented. Of course, there are some in this country (I hope not in this House), who on ideological grounds wish to see the triumph of those forces; and there are others, it stems to me, who are under what appears to be the illusion that you can cure a tiger of its carnivorous tastes by stroking it under the chin, on the theory that they have a special insight into the habits of the whole genus cat, based on their love of the domestic tabby. Some of those people are inclined to avert their gaze from the habits of cats with mice and small birds.

To those whose supreme desire is to see such preparations made as will prevent a world war—and it is idle to pretend that the Western nations, or some of them, are not now at war in Korea, in Malaya and in Indo-China— home defence in Great Britain is a vital part of the whole defence problem. Modern air attack, whether by bombing aeroplanes or by guided missiles, can now be developed with such intensity that in our crowded and highly industrialised Island the whole of our production, our military effort and, indeed, our very national life, must be in the gravest peril. It is not only a very important problem; it is an extremely urgent one. It is no secret that the scale and pace of Russian preparations for military and industrial mobilisation, the size of her army and her air force and its general development, have rendered necessary an entirely new appreciation of her state of readiness for war It was said in this House not long ago—and I should like to endorse it—that "it is later than we thought." Besides this, it has become known that Russian developments in the field of nuclear fission have made some progress: how much it is difficult for the outsider to know, but the fact that that progress has been made does increase our peril enormously.

I should have thought that in circles where these problems of defence are considered, studied and pondered, these menacing developments—menacing alike in their scale and pace—would have had this one message: that we, like other Western nations who have lagged behind, must now strain every nerve and sinew to catch up by developing as rapidly as possible our share of that vast potential which is available to the West, particularly through the material support afforded from the other side of the Atlantic. I should have thought that informed persons—indeed, all people of common sense—would have regarded it as a truism that aggressors always have the great advantage of surprise. There-fore, it seems to me strange that the Secretary of State for War should apparently know when war will break out, for he tells us that it "would have been foolish to build up armaments until now." Does he envisage an international situation like a kind of super field-day, in which the battle begins only when both sides have got into position, and the directing staff has a pretty good idea who is going to win? I must confess that I read observations of that kind with feelings akin to despair. How can we make this nation of ours realise its deadly peril; how can we furnish an example to the rest of Western Europe, if Ministers, and above all Service Ministers, speak in terms which seem to be so complacent?

Therefore, I begin by stressing the urgency of pressing forward with this part, as with all other parts, of our defence preparations. At best, we have a bare minimum of time in which to develop our defences. Our Islands have not only to be defended in their own right, but have to be defended as a place of arms in the general strategic scheme for the Western Nations. Home Defence is therefore a part of. and must be fitted into, the overall strategic concept. This base must be defended, and defended by the most economical use possible of the resources available in men and material. These. as we know, are limited, and particularly limited in the realm of man-power: therefore, uneconomical use of our resources, especially man-power, will mean that Home Defence, production, supply or our Field Forces will suffer. I am far from believing that these Islands can by any means be rendered immune or even relatively safe from the consequences of air attack. A policy of attempting this would absorb all our resources, and our safety would not be thereby increased but, in my estimation, would be even more at risk. In order to prevent war and to encourage the nations of Western Europe to combine to resist aggression, it is our national duty to prepare to put into the common pool very considerable air and land forces. We cannot play the snail and retire for safety beneath a shell. We must have a carapace but we need very large claws as well.

So far, I have, without, I hope, straining the rules of order too far, referred not specifically to the Home Guard and to Civil Defence but, generally, to Home Defence. I have done this because I am persuaded that it is into the mould of a well-planned scheme of Home Defence arrangements that we must pour our available resources of part-time man-power and, I must add, woman-power, from which very large Home Guard and Civil Defence Services must be recruited. Home Defence is. of course, part of the larger problem, and must include the use of full-time military formations. It seems to me that we must prepare ourselves to meet attack on a scale very much heavier than any-thing that was directed against these Islands during the last war. Further, we must face the possibility that at some stage—possibly not at the start—we shall be exposed to the considerable risk of large-scale airborne invasion. So, to me, it seems that we should not allow our minds to fall back into the ruts of last-war organisation, but should prepare our-selves instead for the next. It is a matter of great regret that my noble friend Viscount Bridgeman, who has great know-ledge of these matters, based upon practical experience, cannot be here to-day. He is on his way to Australia, flying, I understand, in one of the aircraft belonging to the Corporations coming under the charge of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, I have not yet heard if Lord Bridgemar has arrived. On previous occasions, he has expressed with emphasis and clarity his view, based, as I say, on practical experience, that in war the allocation of part-time man-power, as well as of full-time man-power, should become the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour. Both are faced with the same problems. May I quote from a speech made by my noble friend, Lord Bridgeman, in December, 1948, in which he said: … it appears to me that this Bill will have the effect of perpetuating departmental divisions and, therefore, of perpetuating private armies.

The noble Viscount went on to mention three or four services—the police, the wardens' service, the fire service and the fire watchers; and to these I would add, although the list may still not be exhaustive, the rescue service and the Royal Observer Corps.

I am afraid that in the event of actual war we shall not be able to rely on volunteers to supply the numbers necessary to fill these services. Disagreeable though it is, we shall have to face the fact that there must be some direction. Surely then, with all the means of regional and local advice and knowledge enlisted, the final responsibility for allocating man-power must rest with the Ministry of Labour if waste is to be reduced to a minimum. Of course the cadres for all those necessary services must be formed now. I should have thought that those who volunteer now ought to receive guidance about where they are expected to be most needed in an actual emergency, and should have some assurance that, having volunteered early, they will be regarded as being in "on the ground floor." A great many specialists and instructors will be required, and I suggest that those who have the keenness and patriotism—to which I should here like to pay tribute—to come forward now, will provide a large number of those fitted for these key posts.

If I am right, as I believe I am, it will be a most difficult job to fit the right people into the right part-time service, and I urge that officials of the Ministry of Labour should be appointed now to plan this natter well in advance, in co- operation, of course, with the local authorities. I hope that all Home Defence will be founded on a common doctrine, and that such a common doctrine will be formed at the highest level, on a Chiefs of Staff appreciation, and, what is more, that it will be kept up to date by constant contact at this level. I am sure that the institution of the Civil Defence Staff College was an admirable move, and I am equally certain that the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff, which includes representatives from all Departments, including the Service Departments, is an essential piece of machinery. I find it difficult to believe that it is possible to integrate all aspects of defence, and in particular to keep Home Defence properly in line with the overall military problem, unless there is responsible for this side of National Security someone in close and constant contact with the Chiefs of Staff—possibly a very high-level representative of the Home Department. I should have thought, and here I am speaking in the presence of those who have far greater experience than I have, that contact through the Cabinet Defence Committee is apt to be rather too remote and too cumbrous.

I make these two points: that Home Defence, which ought to depend to a very high degree on part-time man-power, must be as closely as possible integrated with the general scheme of military defence, and that the Government should plan on the basis that this part of our National Defence, like the Armed Forces, should rely on the Ministry of Labour to sort out the man-power problem. And certainly this man-power problem does need some sorting out: it must be done in detail, and the job must be started now. There is the Regular Reserve of the Forces; there is the Class Z Reserve, which is enormous; and there are the reserved occupations, which should be defined. On top of these there are a large number of people who come into none of these categories. The Home Guard and the Civil Defence Services may be able to rely for a time on the large section of what I may call (I hope without too much violation of the English language) the uncategorised, but they cannot go on for long. I doubt the wisdom of the Home Secretary in keeping his head so firmly in the sand as to refuse, as he has said in another place, to understand the idea that people should be reluctant to come forward because after they have been trained they might not be required.

That view assumes that people have all the time in the world, and that they are looking for some way to spend their evenings and week-ends. We are also told by the Minister of Defence (to quote his own words) that the Home Guard is not to be enrolled until "the actual emergency arises." I think this statement is an automatic brake on recruitment. People who are keen to join the Home Guard do not believe in the feasibility of the Minister's further statement, that when the time arises those who wish will be able to transfer from the Civil Defence back into the Home Guard. Neither, I must confess, do I.

I believe that the scale of modern air attack, and the need for the greatest economy in the use of man-power, may blur what in the last war was regarded as the clear-cut distinction between the rôles of the Home Guard and the Civil Defence services. I think there may have to be a very considerable overlapping. I believe that the Home Guard will also have to be called on duty in air attack. Furthermore, under the threat of, and certainly in the event of, airborne invasion, and even of very heavy air attack, it may well be impossible to have a distinction between active and passive defence. Therefore, for the reasons given. I urge that arrangements should be made to start the enrolment of the Home Guard as early as possible.

There is another practical reason why enrolment should start as soon as possible, and should start before the actual emergency. In replying to a supplementary question in your Lordships' House, the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said that "anti-aircraft duties would certainly be included" in the rôle of at least some of the Home Guard, and this was confirmed yesterday, I notice, by the Secretary of State for War, in his reply to a Question in another place. I ask: Is it contemplated that in a state of emergency such Forces as may be provided by the Territorial Army or the Regular Army will be sufficient to provide anti-aircraft protection at all key-points and factories? Or is the decision to put off enrolment of the Home Guard due not so much to deli-berate policy as to delay caused by-administrative problems? If the latter, then it seems to me that the remedy is a greater sense of urgency in the whole field of defence. But in the meanwhile, surely the Home Guard can start training for the rôle which they will certainly be required to play—that is, certain Civil Defence duties in the event of an air attack. I feel certain that, if this matter were explained to them, the people who are keen on the Home Guard would join even before adequate equipment and instructors were available for a primary, active military rôle, and would willingly undertake Civil Defence training, with the knowledge that they were the cadre of the Home Guard on which a later expansion would be founded. Of one thing I am sure: that to wait for "the actual emergency" once again (to quote the Minister's words) would lead to the maxi-mum of confusion and the minimum of defence.

So far I have tried to speak about the Home Guard and Civil Defence in the wider context of the whole defence problem. There are, however, one or two more detailed points, but still very important ones, which I should like to raise in this debate. I understand—and here I am open to correction on fact—that the Territorial associations have so far received from above no instructions, or no very clear instructions, on Home Guard policy. From my information, I believe that this is worrying a good deal of those responsible in the Territorial associations. The Territorial associations have experienced and have overcome a great many difficulties. Do not leave them in the dark, hampered by the fear that their organisation may be over-loaded and perhaps almost disrupted by sudden demands made upon them at the last moment.

A second question is how far local Civil Defence plans have been co-ordinated, and how far responsibilities have been defined and standardised? Under the Civil Defence Act, 1948, Designation Orders have so far been made by the Ministers of Health and Food, and according to a Parliamentary Reply further Orders from the Ministers of Works, Transport and Fuel and Power may be expected "soon." Those are the words of the Minister responsible. It is also understood that later further Orders may be required. As I understand it, the structure of Civil Defence depends on the regulations made by the Ministers under these Designation Orders. I ask whether delay in issuing regulations under those Orders may not hamper a great deal of planning at lower levels. The speed with which the Orders and the regulations under them are produced will clearly depend on the priority given to this task by the Ministers concerned. I ask that they should give them very high priority, and that in this context the expenditure of necessary money should be given equally high priority.

My next question is also a Civil De-fence point: What progress has been made with the formation of mobile columns which are to be the second echelon of the Civil Defence Corps? I ask this because military planning demands that the commitments of the Armed Forces in Civil Defence should be reduced to a minimum. I think that must be perfectly clear. It is a dangerous pretence to count your Armed Forces twice, once in their primary military rôle and again as supporters of the Civil De-fence services. Therefore, the formation of mobile columns, or at least the cadres of the mobile columns, is important, not only in the rôle of Civil Defence but in the wider rôle of National Defence. So I ask at what date it can be expected that mobile and trained Civil Defence columns will be ready in each region. Then, as always in all these problems, there is the question of finance. I do not intend to go into this in detail, as I am sure noble Lords will be relieved to hear. The general rule is that the local authorities are reimbursed 75 per cent. of their expenditure. I do not question the propriety of that rule, but is their planning and equipment being held up by lack of definition in detail and delays in classification? Questions of that kind sometimes lead to long and perhaps unnecessary de-lays and obstructions. I ask the Minister, in no critical spirit, whether he can give us some assurance on that point.

Another important matter is that of the chain of command. The region where the civil and military powers meet is also particularly difficult and inherently difficult country, but in the sort of emergency which we may well have to face in this country the chain of command must be adaptable and it must not be hampered by a framework or body of law which was drawn up in times which were easier and less exacting. I have tried to insist upon the need for a high degree of planning and, possibly, in certain eventualities, of direction. No one has a greater distaste than I have for compulsion and the interference with private lives and liberties which is implied by any such nation-wide direction and preparation. But we must, if we have to give account of our-selves, give the best account we can. Once more we must look at things as they are. We must not be guilty of averting our gaze if the prospect is grim and road rough and uphill. We must hope that well-considered plans made now for the effective mobilisation of all our resources in the event of war, and the instruction now, if not necessarily the use, of an effective machine, will go a long way to prevent their ever having to be used.

I emphasise once again that our first task is to strain all our energies to deter aggression by our strength and prepared-ness. So may I once again call for a greater spirit of urgency in this, as in all matters of national defence. Do not let the Government disguise from the people that possibly they must once again be ready to stand upon the ramparts. The greatest safeguard against surprise is alertness, and the greatest protection against an unprovoked attack is the knowledge by the aggressor of your strength. At this hour, as I see it, our greatest need is not for more determination on the part of the people, but for far greater leadership from those charged with the government of this country. I beg to move for Papers.

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that it will be the wish of the House that I should speak immediately, and that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, should wind up the debate on this side. If I fail to reply to some of the points made by the noble Lord who has initiated this debate, I am sure that he will allow the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, to deal with them. The noble Lord, Lord De L'IsIe and Dudley, has impressed the House, as he always does, if I may say so. We cannot, of course, agree with everything that he has said, but we agree with a good deal that has fallen from him, and we sympathise entirely with the spirit of his remarks. The Government share entirely his sense of urgency, and his insistence that this sense of urgency should be far more widely disseminated throughout the country. We in this House to-day are all concerned with one thing only: the right steps to take, and to take now, for the defence of our country, in view of the very serious and threatening international situation. The Government agree further with the great emphasis placed by the noble Lord on the importance of Civil Defence and the Home Guard, and we certainly welcome this debate with all our hearts. We agree with his stress on the importance of Civil Defence and the Home Guard in the event of war, and, may I add?—and the noble Lord himself made this point very strongly—as a deterrent to the aggressor and, therefore, as a bulwark of peace. The Civil Defence Forces and the Home Guard did great work last time. In the considered view of the Government, their task would be still more vital on another occasion.

The Motion calls attention to the organisation of Civil Defence and the Home Guard, and in particular to the need for coordinating these Services. The organ-isation of Civil Defence in peace and war is fairly well known and. therefore, was not laboured by the noble Lord. It has been explained on various occasions and most recently in this House, by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on October 25, when the whole matter was fully debated. No doubt we shall return to it on many occasions, and I hope that I shall be complying with your Lordships' wishes, and not be failing in respect to an essential service, if I do no more to-day than recapitulate in a few words the main features of its organisation. Before doing so, I should like to echo most cordially the tribute paid by the noble Lord to those who set up the Civil Defence Staff College, and to the Staff College itself. I recently paid a visit to the College, and I found it a most inspiring place in which to spend a day. I venture to suggest to noble Lords that they and I could spend many days there with great profit to ourselves.

As your Lordships know, when we are talking about Civil Defence there are four Services—namely, the Civil Defence Corps, the Auxiliary Fire Service, the National Hospital Service Reserve, and the Special Constabulary. Your Lord-ships will be aware that these four Ser-vices are not only all essentially civil in character, but that, except in the case of the National Hospital Service Reserve, they are normally organised and administered by and through the existing local government machinery of the country. It may none the less be useful to consider for one moment how far it has been thought necessary to modify the general organisation of the Civil Defence Services in the light of changed circumstances— that is, circumstances which have changed since the war—and also of the experience of the war itself. Let me stress particularly that although, broadly speaking, the structure is the same as during the war, there have been many changes in detail, and one or two changes of real significance. For example, the Civil Defence Corps now includes a welfare section (which was not one of the Civil Defence general services in the last war), but it does not include any first aid ser-vice. In the Second World War the first aid service was maintained by local authorities quite separately from the hospitals, whereas in future responsibility for first aid posts and units will be placed on the regional hospital boards. A further change, and one of a more fundamental character, would have to be introduced in time of war—and here I return to what the noble Lord touched on with consider-able emphasis. In addition to the local divisions of the Civil Defence Corps, it is proposed to make the arrangements referred to for the mobilisation in war of Civil Defence mobile reserves available to reinforce areas subjected to widespread attack. These mobile reserves, which would be organised by the Central Government and controlled through Civil Defence regions, would operate over areas larger than that of any single corps authority.

The noble Lord asked me some detailed questions, including one about dates. I am not in a position to answer all those points this afternoon. I would mention, however, that the column establishment has now been worked out, but it will have to be put to severe practical tests. With this end in view, arrangements are now proceeding for the actual formation of an experimental column. At the moment a headquarters is being sought, and as soon as this has been found steps will be taken to appoint a permanent instructional staff around which the column will be formed. If the House so desires it, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will be able to supply further details. I mention these facts only to join the noble Lord in emphasising the importance of these columns.

I agree with the noble Lord that it is all-important to fit the plans for Civil Defence (I believe this was his own expression) into the overall strategic-concept. The Government have the benefit of detailed advice from the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff, under the chairmanship of Major-General S. F. Irwin. I know how difficult it is to follow these details of interlocking committees. but I feel sure that the noble Viscount. Lord Swinton, who is to speak later, will be particularly interested in these points. The Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff contains representatives of all Government Departments concerned in the formu-lation and execution of Civil Defence plans, and is able, through a system of composite Working Parties, to obtain the assistance of experts in the world of local government and other spheres of special knowledge. A further point—and this is one I should like to stress strongly to your Lordships—is that the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff not only has representatives from all three Service Departments, but is in the closest and most continuous contact with those Departments, and has at its disposal the guidance of the Chiefs of Staff as to the overall strategic situation in relation to Civil Defence. Therefore, the advice of the Chiefs of Staff in one way or another isreadily avail-able to the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff. That is one aspect of the matter. In addition to all this, the Chairman of the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff personally attends meetings of the Chiefs of Staff which involve the discussion of matters bearing on the development of Civil Defence policy; and the Home Office is also represented on various inter-Service committees whose duty it is to advise the Chiefs of Staff. I never claim for any machinery that it is perfect, be-cause one can always find ways to im-prove it, but I feel that the House will agree that great pains have been taken to realise the objectives which the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isie and Dudley, so clearly has in mind.

I will now pass to the Home Guard and its relationship with Civil Defence. All these subjects are interrelated, but for purposes of exposition one must divide them up, and I will take first the Home Guard in war or emergency, and then the Home Guard in peace. Under the first heading we have obviously to consider first its organisation and then its rôle. I should hope that on both these subjects —leaving out for the moment their relationships with Civil Defence—what I have to say, which is already fairly well known, will be generally accepted and welcomed. The organisation proposed for a future Home Guard closely resembles that adopted in the last war. Broadly speaking, it will be administered by the War Office and will be raised and run on a territorial basis, through the local Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. I know that when this was expounded to the House on a previous occasion the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, expressed his pleasure concerning that last arrangement. It will be under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, United Kingdom Land Forces, in war for operations and training, control being exercised through normal channels of command—namely, command, district and sub-district headquarters, down to battalions. So much for organisation. which I do not think is a matter of controversy between us.

Now for the rôle. The primary rôle of the Home Guard is to relieve Army units of some of their military tasks, thereby releasing such units for their primary rôle; in performing such a rôle the Home Guard will be carrying out tasks of the first importance. The particular functions which can, if required, be performed by Horns Guard units will include defence against invasion, defence against parachutists, defence against small-scale raids on particular points, and the provision of guards on particular points. The primary rôle of the Home Guard in support of Civil Defence would be that of relieving Regular Army units of Civil Defence duties. Clearly, one can-not limit oneself in defence, but the tasks in which the Home Guard are likely to be most useful to Civil Defence are at present thought to be as follows: assistance in the care and control of the homeless, first aid (particularly stretcher bearing), and also assistance with communications. I would add that it is hoped that, in order to improve their usefulness in discharging their Civil Defence duties, it will be possible to give the Home Guard the normal training in Civil Defence that is now given to Army units. There is every recognition of the importance of seeing that this objective is realised.

If the Home Guard is to succeed in war, a great deal must clearly be done in peace. I am sure there is no dispute between us on that. We must get on with the job now. It seems to me that here we must take recruitment first and then the question of planning. This issue of recruitment brings me to what is, in my own view at least, the most difficult issue in this field. When should the Home Guard be formed? Should it, when it is formed, be called upon for part-time ser-vice, or should it merely be enrolled in the first instance, as I think the noble Lord envisaged? On what scale should this be done in the first place? On these and related questions I submit that it would be very dangerous to dogmatise; so much depends, both in a material and a psychological sense, on unforeseeable elements in a very fluid situation. Up to the present, as has been stated more than once, the Government have not in-tended to raise or train any Home Guard, even in cadre form, before an actual emergency arises. I am sure that the House will accept it from me that this view has not been formed on political, but solely on practical grounds.


Neither raised nor trained?


That is the view held up to the present time. The truth is that the raising of any substantial part of the Home Guard now would create military problems greater than those it would solve. The Home Guard is essentially a military force which can be raised, accommodated, trained and equipped only by the Army. Also, a step such as that suggested would make considerable demands on Army resources, on training staffs, accommodation, equipment and so on, which would represent a diversion from the present urgent rearmament needs. The House will, of course, wish to form its own view on all this, but I shall perhaps be forgiven for repeating what I have just said in a slightly different way. The tasks which face the Army can be graded according to priorities. The first priority is the building up of the Regular units; the second priority is the building up of the Territorial Army, and the third priority is the Home Guard. The building up of the Home Guard at this juncture —I stress the words "at this juncture"— would place on the Army a task which it would wish to avoid if that is at all possible.

It may be urged—indeed, the noble Lord has urged it in his speech—that even if one accepts what I have just said, it would still be sound policy to enrol the Home Guard now, and, even if they could not be equipped or trained (and this, I think, is the argument of the noble Lord) in a military sense in the first in-stance, they could be given at any rate Civil Defence training, and in any case they would be ready and waiting when military facilities became available. I think I am representing the view of the noble Lord correctly. It may well be felt that such a step would be additionally valuable as helping to rouse the country to the true facts of the position. The last thing I wish to do is to underestimate such an argument, or to attempt to brush it aside lightly. But we are dealing here with imponderable factors, upon which honest and well-informed people may hold two, or more than two, opinions. In my view any such proposal would have to be considered in the light of two things: first, the military facilities that would in fact be available, and, secondly, the psychology of the newly-formed force-in the light of the situation at the moment. Obviously, neither element is stable, and the second is bound to be conjectural. But in the light of their assessment of those factors the Government must make up their mind.

Briefly, it has hitherto been felt that such a scheme would start off the Home Guard on the wrong foot; that it would damp enthusiasm just when it was hoped to create it. The whole thing, it is felt, would go off at half-cock. I must add, in candour, that once the Home Guard had been formed—even if the avowed intention were simply to enrol it without training or other activity—there would surely be incessant pressure on the Army to accommodate, train and equip it for its Home Guard duties. One is bound to feel that a virtually unarmed Home Guard, and a virtually untrained Home Guard, would not long remain a possibility. If that is so, it would mean either finishing up with wide-spread discontentment or placing on the Army in the immediate future a strain which at the moment, as I explained earlier, it would be against our military interests to impose. I repeat —and I say this in a considered fashion— that I do not wish the House to suppose that the Government have slammed the door. The material situation in respect of facilities may alter and, indeed, in some degree is bound to alter. Psychological conditions may be transformed. The whole issue remains under review and consideration. I assure the House that no prejudice or fixity of posture will be allowed to interfere with the most careful weighing and measuring of all that has been said, and may yet be said in the future.

Whatever may be the view taken about the timing of the scale of recruitment, there will surely be no difference of opinion at all about the necessity for planning in advance. Here the attitude of the Government is perfectly unambiguous and perfectly firm. We intend that planning and preparation in peace should be such as will enable the Home Guard to be legally and effectively raised, organised and armed very rapidly when the order is given during an emergency or on the outbreak of war. That planning, of course, as I indicated earlier, has to be fitted not only into the rest of our military plans but into the whole of the defence picture. That is now being done.

Perhaps I might break off here to deal with one particular point which the noble Lord raised concerning the designation of Ministers. Possibly he would like me to answer that now.


Yes, I should.


The fact is that Designation Orders are not made until planning has been carried to a point where designation is needed to facilitate some action—for instance, where a Minister has to make regulations. So far, for example, the Minister of Health has been designated as the Minister responsible for a wide range of functions. The Minister of Food has been designated, while the question of designating several others, including the Minister of Works, the Minister of Trans-port and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, is under consideration.


Could the noble Lord deal with the further point? I understand that, after these Designation Orders have been made, regulations are to be issued defining the responsibility. Perhaps that point will be answered at the end of the debate.


I will leave my noble friend Lord Shepherd to pursue that subject, if I may.

Present plans are being worked out to ensure that a substantial force—I stress those words, because it does not necessarily mean the whole. Home Guard at its maximum potential—can be enrolled, organised and armed within a few weeks of the order to proceed—that is, in an emergency or during the first month of war. This force has been divided as between the Army Commands, and fore-cast strengths for enrolment are being forwarded to Army Commanders. Commands will prepare their Orders of Battle based on their allocation within the overall figure. Thereafter, although planning will be put in hand for further expansion, the expansion will, in practice, turn on how the war develops—for example, how the relative priorities of Civil Defence and she Home Guard reveal themselves.

The planning of the Home Guard in peace will therefore rest primarily on the Regular Army. In addition, however, there will be a Home Guard adviser attached to the Staff of each Army Command Headquarters, to assist in peace-time planning. These advisers will be nominated by the General Officers Commanding-in-Chief, in consultation (I stress this point) with the Chairmen of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces associations, and many will have had experience of the Home Guard in the last war. I have been specially warned—and I am sure rightly warned—not to suggest that these Home Guard advisers will necessarily have had experience of the Home Guard in war; they may be very fine soldiers, or ideal men for a hundred reasons, but they may in some instances have been on active service overseas. At present, the intention is that battalion commanders, suitable and willing to take up appointments at the time battalions are raised, will be nominated in peace time as soon as plans have been prepared. The next category, of course, is company Commanders, with whom I have a great deal of personal sympathy, having been one of them; but whether they will be enrolled or merely earmarked by battalion Commanders is something that I cannot say this afternoon. I break off, in somewhat lighter vein, to say that I hope they will not share my fate when I was a company commander, because I was shot in the foot by one of the men I had trained in musketry.


At which part of the noble Lord was he aiming?


I hasten to add that this musketeer laid low three university dons with one bullet.


Oxford, of course!


Oxford, of course! He could have accounted for twice that number from the other place.

I now turn to the crucial problem which is in the minds of noble Lords, that of co-ordination between Civil Defence and the Home Guard, both in war and peace. The simplest division here seems to be between war-time operational control, on the one hand, and the planning of establishments, which begins in peace and which would have to continue, if the worst occurred, through an emergency into war. As regards operational co-ordination, the greatest trouble will be taken—if possible even greater trouble than last time, when a good deal of trouble was taken—to harmonise the activities of a military force, the Home Guard, trained in Civil Defence duties, and no doubt called upon to perform them, with the Civil Defence bodies who will ultimately be under civil control. That at once raises a problem, as the noble Lord was the first to point out, but the greatest trouble will be taken to deal with it. The assistance given by the Home Guard to Civil Defence would be on the same lines as that given by the Regular Forces to civil authorities, but, owing to the local nature of the rôle of the Home Guard, their liaison with the local authorities would be particularly intimate.

The Government, however, are quite clear—I do not wish here in any way to misrepresent the noble Lord, but I wish to deal with a possible implication that could be drawn from his remarks—that it would be the greatest possible mistake to think in terms of amalgamating the two Forces. The Home Guard clearly cannot be civilianised, so that amalgamation could be achieved only by militarising Civil Defence. In our view, that would be equally disastrous, alike from the civil and the military points of view. Even supposing that the police, fire and health services were excluded from this amalgamation, as they would certainly have to be, the proposal would mean that the military machinery of administration, command and control, would have to be imposed in some way on the civil local authority structure within which the Civil Defence Corps is at present organised. To take only one illustration, all the local committees—the war emergency Committees, for example—the town clerks and all the other senior officials, would either have to take their orders from a military source or disappear from the scene. The whole proposition would surely be violently repugnant to the local authorities and, with the greatest respect to any noble Lords who are turning it over in their minds, I question whether many of us would seriously consider it once its implications have been pointed out.

What I have just said applies to any circumstances we can foresee but, even in a certain kind of extreme case, it would be a much more natural course to transfer Civil Defence members to the Home Guard than to attempt to militarise a civilian force. I would stress, however, that the military view is equally opposed to such an amalgamation. From the military point of view the primary duty is to fight, and not to act on the defensive in aid of the Civil Defence services. The more planning proceeds on the basis of the military being committed to assist the Civil Defence services at every turn, the more impossible it will be for the Army to carry out its proper rôle. It is recognised, of course, that when the situation demands it, the Army, including the Home Guard, must be prepared to go to the aid of the Civil Defence services. That is what is in the mind of the noble Lord. Such aid, however, will be for the mini-mum period necessary, and certainly there can be no idea of the military taking over control, except in the most exceptional circumstances and for the minimum of time. Any development which resulted in an amalgamation under the Army between the Home Guard and the Civil Defence services would be to the detriment of the proper function of the Army.

Now I come to the co-ordination of plans, especially plans for the establishments of the Home Guard and Civil Defence. The noble Lord, Lord De L'IsIe and Dudley, following remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, on an earlier occasion, spoke at some length —and clearly it is an important subject— on the need for coordinating man-power and making the best use possible of our man-power resources in the event of war. It would obviously save a great deal of trouble and be a very attractive solution from the planners' end if we could decide here and now what every one of us should do in the form of part-time service in the event of a war, or even if we could reach some broad conclusions of that kind. I am afraid there can be no question of such an easy solution. To take only one very big point, in this particular field that we are discussing to-day the respective man-power needs in war of the Home Guard and Civil Defence would inevitably depend upon the way in which hostilities developed. In the light of such developments there would have to be a periodical review of the man-power to be allotted to the Home Guard and the Civil Defence services.

But that does not mean that a great deal cannot be done—indeed it is beginning to be done—to reconcile in advance the respective drains on man-power of the respective services. The Civil Defence Departments and the War Office are in full agreement that there must be the closest co-ordination between the military and civil authorities in the planning of establishments, and that establishments, whether peace time or war time, will be finally fixed in the case of these forces only as the result of mutual agreements. The need for co-ordination has already been notified to local authorities, to whom the statement by the Minister of Defence in another place on November 15 has been circulated, together with a Home Office circular which lays this down, among other things: The instructions to be issued to the Home Guard Advisers in Army Commands will pro-vide, among other things, for the closest contact at regional level with the Home Office in planning Home Guard units, their strength, sources of recruitment, et cetera. Generally speaking, the object will be to secure that recruiting for Civil Defence is given priority in the big industrial areas and centres of population while in rural areas priority will be given to the potential needs of the Hone Guard. I should add that the War Office will be issuing a similar directive.

Machinery for consultation is not perhaps very easy to follow on paper, and still less easy in a speech, if my own experience is any guide. May I put the programme as shortly and concretely as I can? In the first place, local authorities have already been given a provisional peace-time establishment for Civil Defence which they are now seeking to fill, together with a rough indication of what their war-time requirements are likely to be. Secondly, as between Civil Defence and the Home Guard, the initial task of co-ordination will be assumed between military districts and Civil Defence regions which have an approximate geographical correspondence. Of course, there will be reference upwards if necessary in case of dispute. When the initial discussions take place between Civil Defence regions and Army districts, the representatives of the two sides will have before them a break-down of the Home Guard substantial force—that is, the force to be raised at once in an emergency, They will also have a preliminary estimate of the war-time requirements of the Civil Defence Corps. These estimates would be compared end adjusted if they were likely to place too great a strain on the part-time man-power of the area.


May I ask the noble Lord whether that comprehends all the available man-power?


It would not necessarily comprehend all the available man-power, because on the one side you will have the Home Guard you wish to raise immediately, and on the other the Home Guard formations and Civil Defence, and probably other people, who will be dealt with as the requirements reveal themselves.


I mean would the arrangements involved in the Civil Defence regions have in the pool all the available man-power and woman-power, and would they together be comprehensive?


NO. It could not be said that anybody of any age would be covered. In the first place, a target would be fixed according to the number of Civil Defence people required and the number of Home Guard people of whom effective use could be made. There would obviously be a further pool of people who would be dealt with in what seemed to be the best fashion. I know this is rather complicated, but in each area, by reason of this method, we shall possess in peace time adjusted and harmonised figures of the numbers of Civil Defence workers and Home Guards required immediately in the event of an emergency. That will be worked out and adjusted as to the number you will require and the number who are to be made use of at once. That is really the second stage. Thirdly, in the event of an emergency developing, and a fortiori if and when a war actually breaks out, there will have to be further consultations and, it may be, further adjustments. Of course all these strengths will have to be constantly reviewed during the progress of a war; there can be no question of either the Civil Defence or the Home Guard maintaining a prescriptive right to given strengths for the duration of hostilities.

Before leaving that subject, in case I have not quite covered one part of the noble Lord's argument, may I turn to the question of making the fullest use of man-power in the event of a war in fact breaking out, as we all of course hope it will not? In the last war standing arrangements existed at headquarters, regional and local levels, for coordinating demands for part-time man-power by consultation between the Government Departments and the Services concerned. It is intended that similar arrangements should be made in any future war. These arrangements would probably come under a Committee of Ministers who would decide relative priorities, although I can-not give any guarantee of that in advance. If I followed the noble Lord aright, I do not think that what he suggested in this regard is practicable. I am not quite sure whether he laid down his view without qualification, but certainly an individual Minister—whether the Minister of Labour or anybody else—could not be made entirely responsible for deciding relative priorities in this field. I say that on advice after careful discussion. But I would say also that, subject to what I have just said, to the effect that no indi-vidual Minister can be given an over-riding power of decision where so many other Ministers are concerned, any general co-ordination of man-power would be a function, as the noble Lord would hope, of the Minister of Labour. I should add, too, that that Minister has under review continuously at the present time the whole problem of making the fullest use of labour. I am not saying that these arrangements, any more than any other human arrangements, are so perfect that they cannot be improved in any respect at any stage, but I would submit with confidence that they would strike most people as sensible and well-designed at this stage to preserve a proper balance between the global requirements of Civil Defence and the Home Guard.

It is not these plans for co-ordination that I have just described, perfect or imperfect, but it is the decision to push ahead now with recruiting for Civil Defence and not to push ahead for the moment with recruiting for the Home Guard that creates one special problem which is very much in your Lordships' minds, although I do not think that the noble Lord dwelt upon it. It has given rise to a good deal of discussion and some confusion in the country—I refer to the position of the man who means to join the Home Guard when it is formed but is otherwise available for work in the Civil Defence Services or the Special Constabulary. That, I believe, is a problem which is giving rise to some uncertainty in various parts of the country, and it comes into existence because one is recruiting for one force and not, at the moment, for the other. There are pros and cons in this matter, as in most others, but the Government are unhesitatingly of the opinion expressed by the Minister of Defence on November 15, an opinion which I think so far has won general acceptance among those of all Parties who are most concerned. He said: The Government desire to make it plain that no one should refrain from volunteering now for part-time work in the Civil Defence services or in the Special Constabulary on the ground that he might more suitably serve later on in the Home Guard. The training which potential Home Guard members would receive by joining Civil Defence ser-vices or the Special Constabulary would be of considerable value if they should later wish to join, and can be accepted for, the Home Guard on its formation. In short, my Lords—and I hope these words will carry fairly widely—while no guarantee can be given that there will be room for any particular man in his local Home Guard (one cannot guarantee that to anybody, because it depends upon establishments and when he offers him-self), no obstacle whatever will be placed in the way of his joining by virtue of his having been a member of the Civil Defence services. May I add that, in the view of the Government—and here I repeat even more strongly what the Minister said on November 15-his utility to the Home Guard would have been very much increased by his training and experience in the Civil Defence. I believe that at the moment a good many people are in fact hanging back and not joining Civil Defence because they feel that if they did they would be precluded from joining the Home Guard later, or would be at some disadvantage in doing so. I hope that what I have said to-day will free them from any such anxiety and that they will join forthwith.

My Lords, I have spoken for some time and there are one or two points that the noble Lord put to me that I have not answered. Unless Lord De L'Isle and Dudley wishes, me to deal with them now, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, may cover them when he comes to his speech. As I conclude, I say, in a very solemn and certainly in no conventional sense, that the Government arc grateful to the noble Lord for initiating this discussion and for helping to bring these issues in all their stark urgency before our countrymen. I have been at special pains to-day to concentrate on our ideas in relation to the Home Guard, but since recruitment for that Force is not yet open let me end by reiterating, with the utmost emphasis, the appeal already made by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary for recruits for Civil Defence. At the end of 1950 the number of volunteers enrolled in Great Britain was as follows: Civil Defence Corps, 105,000; Auxiliary Fire Service, 8,000; National Hospital Service Reserve, 12,000—


Are these all men?


No; these num-bers include women.


Could the figures be separated, or not?


It may or may not be possible before the end of the debate. I am not equipped with separate figures at the moment. Before the end of the debate we will see what can be done. Then for the Special Constabulary the figure is 74,000. The House may re-member that in your Lordships' last de-bate on Civil Defence on October 25, Lord Shepherd gave a total of 71,000, related to England and Wales, for the first three services I have just mentioned. Leaving out the Special Constabulary, the figure to-day for those three services is 125,000, including 8,000 in Scotland. If the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, would permit me to leave out Scotland for the moment, I would point out that that brings us down to 117,000 for the first three categories —Civil Defence Corps, Auxiliary Fire Service and National Hospital Service Reserve—at the end of 1950, as against 71,000 when the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, spoke towards the end of October.

Apart from the Auxiliary Fire Service, where progress has hitherto been dis-appointing—and I say that quite candidly —it could conceivably be argued that the rate of increase has not been too bad. That may be so, my Lords: but surely we are at one in insisting that it must be very much better in the future, and in the immediate future, at that. Surely we arc also at one in scrutinising our own consciences as to whether we ourselves have done enough to spread the message. Surely we are at one, also, in our determination to go forth to-day resolved to redouble our exertions in the cause of our national survival and, we must all hope, with the result of sustaining peace. May we not feel that this debate should contribute markedly to the achievement of these national and, I venture to add, international and Christian purposes? I should like to think so. I do think so. On behalf of the Government, I have much pleasure in accepting the Motion of the noble Lord.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, although I have attended your Lordships' House for some time, this is the first occasion on which I have risen to speak. I therefore crave your indulgence for the few words which I have to say on this important subject of Civil Defence. In particular, I should like to speak about the Fire Service. No service played a more vital part in the last war, and by their efforts they were able to minimise the damage to our cities. It is a significant fact that 80 per cent. of the bomb damage was caused by fire, rather than by blast. Far more terrible weapons are being developed now than were known then, and every precaution must be taken to diminish the effect of fire should such weapons ever be used against us.

There are several ways in which we can prepare for an emergency. Water is the fireman's ammunition. In fact, during the raids on London, the London Fire Brigade used three days' supply of water in one night. Water can be stored by the building of artificial ponds which would have such peace-time uses as swimming pools, boating lakes and paddling pools, and it would be possible, in many instances, to recover the cost of their construction by charging a small fee for their use. These reservoirs should be placed near potential industrial targets, such as large factories, as well as in the middle of towns. In many cases it was found that piped water supplies, which in any case are very expensive to lay, were made useless during the blitz by the large number of broken service connections. The average width of roads in our big cities is only about forty feet. That is not sufficient to prevent the rapid spreading of fire. Wider roads, where-ever they are possible, lessen the risk of fire spreading, and help to prevent bottlenecks and traffic congestion, both in war time and in peace time.

I had hoped that sub-surface shelters could be incorporated in all new buildings. So far as large blocks of buildings are concerned, these could be sub-divided by means of fire walls; these in themselves would prevent fire spreading within the particular block. If shelters can be built with inter-connecting passages, then of course these provide the maximum number of exits. Many of the existing fire brigade buildings and workshops are very old, and are too small for the expansion that would be necessary in an emergency. I would urge that suitable premises should be selected now for use by the Auxiliary Fire Service in an emergency, and that these premises should, if possible, be on the fringe of built-up areas, so that the base from which the firemen operate has a better chance of escaping damage.

Owing to difficult circumstances, the modernisation of equipment is proceeding very slowly. As an example of this I should mention the two-way very high frequency radio; it has proved invaluable, and is a very great aid to mobility, but deliveries of these sets are very slow. With regard to the fire-fighting appliances themselves, the position is not good. Before the war the average life of an appliance was taken to be fifteen years, but many in use to-day are over twenty years' old. and the majority are war-time appliances which were never built to last as long as their peace time counterparts. No fewer than 3,000 appliances were used in one night in London during the blitz, but there are under 2,000 in use throughout the country to-day. Manufacturers of fire-fighting equipment are having the greatest difficulty in obtaining raw materials, and I would urge that these manufacturers may be given priority, so that brigades can be brought up to their required strength and standard of efficiency. I hope, also, that it will soon be possible to provide protective clothing for Civil Defence workers against possible radio-activity, and to give the public general information on the subject of radio-activity.

Under the Civil Defence Act of 1948. the Auxiliary Fire Service was re-formed to augment the existing fire brigades. Both men and women are required, but I am afraid that the result of the extensive recruiting campaign has been disappointing. I am sure that large numbers would volunteer if the international situation were to deteriorate, but at the moment recruiting has been handicapped because the position of the reserved occupations has not been clarified. Men and women cannot be expected to give up their spare time for work that they may never be called upon to perform. While on the subject of volunteers. I should like to mention the very fine work done by members of the volunteer retained service. These men are part-time firemen who turn out with the regular brigades day or night throughout the year. They receive only £15 a year—which, I am told, is subject to income-tax—and ten shillings for each fire they attend, but these men do a magnificent job. Finally I would again stress the importance of providing the Fire Service with the latest equipment, and of providing the manufacturers of such equipment with the raw materials which are necessary. I should like an assurance from the Government that the fire services will be given the appliances and the equipment to tackle efficiently whatever tasks they may be called upon to undertake.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, the pleasant duty falls to me of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, on his maiden speech in this House, and to say genuinely and sincerely how much I appreciated his careful concentration on the question of fire prevention. In an air attack there is no greater danger than that of fire, as any of us who was in London during the last war had occasion to see. I hope that we shall have the pleasure of hearing the noble Lord on many future occasions.

With regard to the general debate, I shall not attempt to follow in detail the extensive surveys made by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, or by my noble friend Lord Pakenham in his reply from this side of the House. I would concentrate on one or two points with regard to the preparation for the possibility of large-scale air attack on this country and the necessity for Civil Defence. I agree with the Government decision in not raising a Home Guard at the present time. No doubt the experience of other noble Lords during the last war was much the same as my own. I was in Essex at the time of Dunkirk, following a visit to General Headquarters at Arras at the time when the Germans had started bombing it. Within one month after the Home Guard was formed, following the speech by Mr. Anthony Eden, a large Home Guard was raised in Essex, with, incidentally, a complete medical service. In that emergency, men and women entered the organisation without hesitation. I have no doubt whatever that in a grave national emergency the Home Guard would have no reason to fear not getting the necessary number of recruits. But there is one thing we can-not secure in an emergency, or by being willing to do our job and, if necessary, expose ourselves to danger: we cannot get knowledge of the needs of Civil Defence. And without that knowledge the Home Guard, the members of the Armed Forces and the civil population will in any future war be much handicapped.

May I remind your Lordships that in any future war, if by grave misfortune we should become involved in one, this country may be attacked not only by what is called conventional weapons— that is to say, by all the weapons used in the last war—but also by the so-called "improved" weapons—rocket-firing and other weapons which I will not try to specify in detail. There may also be attacks by chemical warfare, including gas, atomic warfare and biological warfare. Although it is probable that some of these will never be used (for instance, there are good military reasons why atomic weapons are not likely to be used, because there is too much "come-back" on those who use them), there must be an extensive know-ledge of all these methods of attack on a civil population if we are to be able to feel secure about defending ourselves. Before the time for defence actually arises there should be an extensive teaching of Civil Defence methods. I think the Government's intention of starting instruction in Civil Defence on a large scale is the best method of approaching this problem. The knowledge of the methods of Civil Defence against all weapons which may be used is one of the most valuable means of protecting the country.

It may be necessary, in an emergency, to raise a Home Guard, but a Home Guard which does not know the basic necessities of Civil Defence would be very much handicapped in carrying out its work. In my view it is a primary necessity that everyone in the Home Guard, and in the military, naval and air forces, should be fully equipped with a know-ledge of the methods of protection necessary to stave off the effects of the forms of attack which I have mentioned. I believe that the best way to do this would be by adopting something on the lines of what was done at he beginning of the last war. The country was divided into twelve Civil Defence regions, and a medical officer was appointed in every-one. I was one of these officers, and I gave lectures on all forms of Civil Defence to doctors and nurses, and to police and others in London and the surrounding counties. In that way a large number of people gained accurate know- ledge of what we had to guard against. I am not suggesting that exactly the same procedure should be followed now, but something on these lines should be done.

It is desirable that all those who wish to join the Home Guard, and who are physically suitable for Home Guard duties, that is to say, who are physically fit, with good eyesight, and are fully mobile, should be noted as possible recruits who can be called up when it is necessary for a Home Guard to be called into existence. A Home Guard called up from people already fully in-formed in Civil Defence duties would be immediately and immensely valuable. People who did not know the rudiments of Civil Defence would face us with a tremendous task in case of an emergency. It is not only that instruction in Civil Defence should be widespread, but it should be possible for a list of people, who could be called up for Home Guard duties if necessary, to be compiled.

We must remember that an emergency may come rapidly upon us, and we should not delay too long in making our preparations. In any future war, conditions would by no means be the same as they were on the last occasion. I doubt whether we should escape from attack without more civilian casualties than we had last time, and in that event we should have forced upon us the need for a much bigger organisation. It may be necessary not only to have a Home Guard and Civil Defence Force but to have a widespread dissemination of information on Civil Defence among the general population, because in certain places we may need something like a mass movement of the population to deal with a local emergency. I repeat that it is necessary for us to get the maximum amount of instruction into the largest number of people, especially doctors and nurses, and all those concerned with engineering and the large industries. We must "tab" the people among those instructed who might be called upon to serve in the Home Guard when it is decided to call it into existence, and we should leave the question of recruiting the Home Guard itself to a later date, when a real and urgent emergency makes it necessary to call it into being.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will all be grateful to my noble friend for raising this most important subject, and to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for his thoughtful reply in which he fully accepted the need for a sense of urgency in relation to matters of defence, those particularly under discussion to-day being the Home Guard and Civil Defence. But I confess that up-to-date the situation is not very reassuring; this sense of urgency would seem to be lacking.

Your Lordships will recollect that on November 16 last the Minister of Defence made a statement which was repeated in this House by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall. I would first of all remind your Lordships of the text of that announcement. The noble Viscount said: The Home Guard will not be enrolled before an actual emergency arises, but planning measures arc being put in hand at once, including the appointment of a Home Guard Adviser in each Army Command at home, which will ensure that a substantial force can be enrolled, organised and armed within a few weeks of the order to proceed. That was two months ago and yet I, along with many other chairmen of Territorial Associations, have been expecting to hear of the appointment of the Command Adviser. So far as I know, no steps have yet been taken to appoint these Advisers; at any rate none has been notified to the Territorial Associations, who will be charged with the administration of this force. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, spoke of planning, but that planning does not seem to have taken place at lower levels than the Command, and I would suggest to your Lordships that there is a great deal of preliminary work to be done at lower levels which ought to be started as soon as possible.

I accept what the noble Lord said, that there must be priority for the Regular Army and for the Territorial Army, and that the Home Guard must be the third in that list of priorities. I think your Lordships will all accept that. But the fixing of these priorities must not be allowed to be a reason for nothing being done for those in the third category. There are administrative difficulties which have been faced in this debate. For example, the Government may be concerned about the amount of work which the raising of the Home Guard will undoubtedly entail for the Territorial Army and Air Force Associations. These Associations are very busy just now, especially with the building programme, which it is vital should be completed as soon as possible. In the initial stages of the planning of the Home Guard, however, I do not think a heavy burden need be cast upon them before the force is raised, because much preliminary work has to be done in regard to such points as the selection of battalion Commanders, delimitation of the zones of units, coordinating arrangements for the future issue of arms, a preliminary survey of accommodation that might be required, and so on. I shall speak later of whether or not the force should be enrolled now, but short of enrolment there is still a great deal of planning to be done, at the level of the county, which has not so far been commenced. Your Lordships will recollect that in the last war the Home Guard was organised mainly on a county basis, and it seems to me that an organiser or some such officer will be necessary in each county to assist the Command Adviser in the early stages.

As regards finance, I do not suppose that that will be a serious point. Probably the Government are more worried about other matters, but they will inevitably have to face some payment to these officers, at least for out-of-pocket expenses, if such work is to proceed. The Government cannot expect to get work done all over the country without some outlay, but I do not imagine that is the issue which is causing delay. I think it is clear that it is a question of man-power and equipment rather than one of finance. There is a very proper fear that instructors, who are now instructing the Regular Army and the Territorial Army, and who may have to deal with Class Z reservists, will be called on for additional work instructing the Home Guard, thereby taking them away from their essential duties. Whilst agreeing wholeheartedly with the priorities I have already named, it seems to me that in the first stages of the raising of a Home Guard a good deal could be done by giving refresher courses to a limited num-ber of selected Home Guard volunteers, both officers and men. They would be men with recent war service, and they could soon be fitted to train a larger cadre of instructors who would be ready to instruct the Home Guard proper when it came up. So I would put out the sugges- tion that, even at this stage, a limited number of volunteers could be taken for short refresher courses to enable them to train others without calling on more than a very limited number of the Regular instructors.

Then there is the question of accommodation. The headquarters of Home Guard battalions in the last war were mainly in Territorial drill halls, rendered vacant because the Territorial units were on active service. This, of course, will not be possible, so long as the Territorial Army is not mobilised. It is true to say that accommodation is a serious problem just now for the Territorial Army because of their more expanded condition, with many vehicles and so on. So I recognise that accommodation must be a real difficulty. But I feel that at this stage a survey should be mace of the accommodation that would be required for Home Guard units if they were suddenly called into being and that we should not have to face the difficulties of the last occasion. Much preliminary work like that is needed, and I see no evidence of its being done at the present time. There is also the question of the issue of arms. At the end of the last war there must have been a very large number of rifles and light automatics available. The Home Guard alone had a strength of between one and two million, and by the time the Home Guard stood down all ranks were armed in one way or another. So presumably, unless there is some reason which the Government cannot disclose, there is a considerable stock of weapons available in this country. I hope that plans are being made now for the ready issue of such arms when required and that we shall not experience the trouble which we had in the early stages of the Home Guard during the last war regarding weapons.

My Lords, I say a word or two now on Civil Defence. What I am saying now relates particularly to Scotland. When Civil Defence was under discussion in the autumn, I venture to express a view. I understand that in the scheme—I am speaking of the higher organisation of the Civil Defence scheme—it is not proposed to appoint a Commissioner for Civil Defence in Scotland similar to those to be appointed in England, but that the work will rest with the Secretary of State himself. I ventured last autumn to ex-press some concern over that matter, for the Secretary of State is an extremely busy Minister, with four main departments to handle, as well as many other duties. There is also this fact, that in the event of war he is compelled to be much at Westminster, in the early stages at any rate, for the passage of emergency legislation. I recollect—I speak from memory here—that I was not able to get to Scotland for several months after the beginning of the last war, except on hurried visits, which would have been insufficient to handle the question of Civil Defence. I do not think I could possibly have dealt with the Civil Defence organisation as well as with the duties of the Scottish Office. As your Lordships will remember, they were most ably handled by Mr. Tom Johnston.

If the Secretary of State is to be responsible, he will have to delegate the work to somebody else—possibly to the head of one of his main departments. But there, again, it seems to me that the heads of the main Scottish departments are also very busy men, and they will have difficulty in devoting the necessary time, either in peace or in war, to these duties. I feel that the lessons learned from the last occasion point to the selection by the Secretary of State now, in peace time, of a shadow Commissioner—someone who would spend his whole time on the job if the emergency arose, and that he should now work in the closest relationship with the Secretary of State and the departments concerned. I still think that in the event of mobilisation an almost impossible burden will be laid on the Secretary of State, unless he can effectively devolve it. What I have said in this respect, however, does not mean that I do not know of the useful work being done at the moment in Scotland for Civil Defence. I know that the Secretary of State has been most active, and in his contact with local authorities has made a considerable measure of progress, and that an important Civil Defence College has been opened. I do not wish to detract in any way from what has been done, but I am concerned about the organisation in the event of mobilisation.

Coming back to the question of the Home Guard and Civil Defence in the country as a whole, I am inclined to think that the best form of ensuring that the Home Guard would be able to assist the Civil Defence authorities would be that the men of the Home Guard should, as soon as practicable, receive instruction from the Civil Defence authorities, because there is no lack of instructors—in fact, I understand that there are enough at present to train many more people than are now being enrolled in Civil Defence. There are many people in this country who would willingly join the Home Guard, and who again want to put on their old khaki uniforms. If it is thought right—and I believe, on balance, that it is right—that they should enrol at an early date, they could receive instruction in Civil Defence duties from Civil Defence instructors. That part of their training would, of course, avoid the necessity of calling Army instructors and taking them away from other duties. I well recognise the administrative difficulties which the Government face in regard to this problem. I repeat that I think that the priorities—Regular Army, Territorials and Home Guard—are right and inevitable but I am concerned in that two months have elapsed and there is no sign of movement in the planning of the Home Guard. No doubt planning has gone on in the War Office, but at the level of counties nothing seems to have taken place. I hope that this debate will serve a useful purpose in stimulating action in the matter.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, it fell to my lot in 1940 to organise the Central London Home Guard and subsequently to command them throughout the rest of the war. Therefore I put my name down to speak in this debate in case it should prove possible for me to say a useful word or two in the light of that experience. I well remember the first meeting at which I addressed the Local Defence Volunteers, as they were then called. I thought that their duties in Central London would be almost confined to assisting the Civil Defence. I addressed the meeting from that point of view, and wry unpopular I found it: they were quite determined that they were there to be soldiers and not to be assistants of the civil power. I thought then, and still think, that they were wrong in their conception, but one had to bow to that conception and I quickly had to cry down and assure them that they were going to be real soldiers. As it turned out, of course, they were called upon on countless occasions throughout the bombing to assist the civil power—and very useful indeed they were. But such training in Civil Defence as we were able to give them was very much subordinate to the military duties upon which they were so keen.

I thought that I detected in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and also in that of the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, a sort of axiomatic conception that Home Guards would naturally be trained in Civil Defence. I feel it is highly desirable that they should be so trained, but that is an idea which will have to be imbued in them, as distinct from what happened in the previous war. There seem to me to be two definite rôles for Home Guards in great cities, and particularly in such a huge metropolis as London. The actual opportunity or necessity for any military duty on the part of the Home Guard in the centre of a metropolis like this is extremely limited. I should say that it would be confined to the guarding of specific buildings, such as this one, vital Government offices or vital tunnels, and things of that sort, which might be subject to sabotage attack, or-to guarding one or two places where it is just conceivable that parachutists might land—in Regents Park there is a space where possibly parachutists might land. If that is so, then a Home Guard unit should, in my submission, be allocated specifically to deal with that danger and nothing else, and should be recruited from men who live in the area. I am strongly in favour of Home Guards being recruited from the district in which they live and not from the district in which they work.

I submit that whereas it is not necessary to have Home Guards, as such, in the centre of great cities, they are most valuable en the outskirts. I have never been able to visualise the enemy appearing in the centre of London, and have never taken seriously pillboxes designed to cover Blackfriars and Westminster Bridges, because I do not believe that an enemy would be so tactically foolish as to commit himself to the endless intricacies of the streets of the metropolis. Surely, his strategy must be the destruction of our field armies, after which it will be easy to reduce any cities which may still need reduction. In any event, such a metropolis as this can be rendered uninhabitable in about a week by seizing the various water supplies which lie on its outskirts. Therefore I feel that those who live towards the centre of cities should be recruited solely for Civil Defence. If it becomes necessary as the war develops for places to be specifically guarded, then they can be turned into Home Guards for that purpose. I can well visualise active and important fighting taking place on the outskirts of great cities, where the Home Guard (in their capacity as soldiers) would be much more important than Civil Defence services, and accordingly emphasis should be laid on their importance in that rôle in such areas.

The only other point I want to make is to follow my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir in deploring that there seems to be still a lack of urgency on this question in the minds of the Government. It seems to me that service for Civil Defence should be made conpulsory on both sexes. We should all understand what rôle we will be expected to fulfil in the event of war. It may be that no rôle would fall upon many of us, but the people of the nation should at any rate understand what each would be expected to do in the event of war. What we always suffer from when we start our wars is that nobody knows what he is going to do. Everybody rushes and volunteers—or, at least, many people rush and volunteer; all the best do and the worst do not. People are rather apt to volunteer for the things to which they are inclined, and the consequence is that there are too many volunteers for some services and too few for others which people have no mind to. Therefore, there is a lack of co-ordination, and there is some confusion and overlapping which ought to be avoided. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, who said that whereas in our former wars we have had time to prepare for the worst, in the next war we must expect that the worst will occur rather sooner than we thought. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare beforehand. I was sorry to hear from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, not much emphasis upon preparation beforehand. He says straight away that he is not going to do anything about the Home Guard beforehand.


With great respect, I must say that I feel that perhaps the noble Lord is summarising my re-marks so concisely that their main point is lost. I do not think that anything in my speech would suggest that nothing ought to be done about the Home Guard beforehand. I said precisely the opposite in terms.


What fell from the noble Lord was that he could not start organising the Home Guard until hostilities broke out. He was definite on that point. I think I am quite right in saying that he said he was going ahead with Civil Defence, but he rather pushed the Home Guard into the background. I do not object to that, so long as he does get on with Civil Defence.


I do not want to keep on interrupting, but I cannot accept that as even a crude parody of my remarks.


Well, we must await Hansard in the morning, as usual. I do not wish to detain the House any longer. The main point that I want to make in conclusion is that I think Civil Defence service of some sort should be compulsory. No question of conscientious objection enters into that. We can all be useful in some way in mitigating the effect of enemy attack, and so far as possible, we should all be made to under-stand, before the outbreak of hostilities, what rôle we shall be expected to play, and we should have some instruction and preparation to enable us to play it.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I owe to the House and to my noble friend, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, a personal apology, because I could not be present when he raised the subject of to-day's debate in your Lord-ships' House. Secondly, I crave indulgence because, for the very reason that I could not be here at the start, certain points will have been made of which I cannot be fully aware, though one or two noble Lords have been good enough to pass me the main lines of thought of the discussion.

There are a few general points I wish to make, and I will eschew all detail. May I start by taking up the point about the sense of urgency mentioned by my noble friend Lord Blackford? He and I were both concerned rather closely during the war with a somewhat similar chain of events in London, and he and I are concerned—as is my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir—currently with doing what we can to promote the civil organisational side of the Auxiliary Forces of the Crown. We therefore have no bias in favour of this or that method of supporting all those measures which are thought desirable and necessary for the country's welfare in defence, whether military or civil. I feel, and those with whom I am in constant touch feel, that the sense of urgency is lacking. The sense of logically explained causation of events, without which the sense of urgency merely as an exhortation is extremely hollow, is still rather lacking. There is always an enormous field of good will in this nation; but merely to adopt an exhortation, in somewhat schoolboy terms, to "Come along, and let's all get together, boys," is no good.

In these last years the idea has been prevalent that butter is very nice, and that it can be and should be and will be forthcoming; but there has been very little emphasis on guns. That has led many of our people falsely to assume that at all periods of history guns and butter can be provided at the same time. We feel that there resides in this nation a large untapped source of energy which, if directed from the top aright, can result in enormously increased civil and military production. Therefore, for myself, I would never accept the view that it is beyond our powers, either materially or personally, to make a vast improvement in our present form of production for defence and in the doing of those things which are possible (as distinct from those which are merely desirable) for the maintenance of our standard of living. That point takes us a little wide and would, if I pursued it, become contentious; therefore I will drop it at that stage.

The prayer of the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, I believe, was primarily for co-ordination. May I add my small support most earnestly to that prayer? If, however, as may have been the case, a rider was added in favour of proceeding now with the enrolment of the Home Guard, then my own prayer to the almighty Government would be rather in the sense of praying that first things should come first. We are limited in men, money and material. Many of us are greatly disturbed, not only that, according to published facts, our Regular Forces, on whom all other things depend for defence, fall far short of what had been hoped and planned, but that the Auxiliary Forces, for which alone I am competent to express a view, are even more greatly behind, not only in any schedule but in any reality which we can accept with the slightest degree of confidence. I speak of the Territorial Army and of the Auxiliary Air Force.

Therefore, I would view with grave concern any dispersal of effort on behalf of a present enrolment of the Home Guard. Having said that, I would add, of course, that on the other hand I would learn with the greatest pleasure that full planning for the future was taking place, and that full co-ordination of plans with all the other civil services which go to the safeguarding of a nation's life in time of war was taking place. But, again, may I utter a prayer? I would pray this time that the call for a limited advance, with any such planning, should not form an additional strain on those very hard-worked officers who are at present doing their utmost to bring to fruition the existing plans to make a success of the Auxiliary Forces. In that body, of course, I mean specifically those working directly for the Government; I do not mean the Territorial Forces associations which, as other noble Lords have said, would be naturally invited to undertake the organisation. We have had experience of that: we can do it and we would do it again.

To me there is something repugnant in the present form of thought which surrounds this business of service to the nation, because it is so highly specialised. I happen to detest the National Service Act, though I am doing my best to make it work, because equality of sacrifice is not inherent in its terms. I should very much prefer, if it were possible, that something more general in the spread of sacrifice and effort among all young men of the nation could be thought out and put into practice. That may be an ideal but, behind it all and before it all, I have a hope that, before the Government publicise their wishes and intentions on this matter, they will be quite clear about and publish the latest informed opinions which, if I were working in a private capacity, I should certainly require. I refer to the opinions, for instance, of our leading scientists—one of whom, if I may say so, is sitting not far from where I stand—and, of course, from our warriors. By that means we should be able to ensure that in the future the situation which we had to meet was clearly denned in the light of the best and latest know-ledge. We know that history is written backwards. I would ask that the results of a new survey should be published, so that those of us who may be concerned with the future of any protective service, by whatever name, should understand more clearly than we do now what is likely to be the world in which we shall operate. I think that covers the specific points that I feel justified in making. If I have traversed old ground touched upon by previous noble Lords, then I ask your Lordships' forgiveness.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, it was not my intention to enter into this debate this afternoon, but while I associate my-self wholly with a desire to impress upon the general public the need for a greater interest in Civil Defence, I felt that under-lying a good deal of what has been said this afternoon by noble Lords opposite there was an unwarranted note of criticism. My only reason for speaking this evening is that, as a member of a civil defence committee which has been in continuous session since 1937, I can say that in Glasgow at least constant attention has been paid to the needs of Civil Defence and that, so far as I am aware, there is no suggestion of neglect in our minds where Civil Defence requirements are concerned.

It will also be known to noble Lords that in Glasgow we have bad exhibitions devised for the purpose of arousing interest in the minds of the general public and of attracting volunteers into the Civil Defence services. It will also be known to many noble Lords that fairly recently there was a rehearsal of a very large Civil Defence exercise, in which the heads of department; in the Glasgow Corporation showed that they were well alive to the requirements of Civil Defence needs in the event of anything arising. I think, too, that I am in a position to say, from my personal knowledge, that during the whole of the time from 1945 onwards the Scottish Office have been concerned with the planning of Civil Defence requirements so far as Scotland is concerned. I know of consultations that have taken place between local authorities and the Scottish Office, but what I should like 10 emphasise is a point touched upon by my noble friend Lord Haden-Guest. It is this. It is true that, for understand-able reasons, there has not been the response on the part of the general public to come into the Civil Defence services that we should have liked to see. What I think is necessary and obvious is not that every man and woman has a duty to perform in the event of an emergency arising, but that he or she cannot possibly be an effective unit in the assistance that is necessary unless he or she undergoes a period of training in those branches of Civil Defence in which a good deal of knowledge has been gained.

We can speculate here as to whether attack will come, in the form of atomic bombs, in the form of bacteriological war-fare, or whatever it may be. Those are mere speculations, it is true, but, nevertheless, they demand a certain amount of attention and preparation, in case any or all of those methods should be used. Therefore, I should like to associate my-self with my noble friends who say that, while a great deal of work is at the moment being done in anticipation of any-thing happening, yet there is still a great need that the general public should take an even greater part in the Civil Defence services than they are taking at the moment, so that they may be effective units should their services be required.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, certainly this has been a most valuable debate. Every noble Lord who has taken part has spoken with deep knowledge of the organisation of government, or governmental administration, of the Fighting Services or of the active or passive Defence Services, or with a specialised knowledge of details such as we saw so agreeably displayed by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, in his maiden speech to the House. I am sure I carry your Lordships with me when I say that we shall always hear him with pleasure, both for his father's sake and for his own.

In winding up the debate, I will certainly try to eschew any polemical issues. I come to this subject with a very open mind, and though looking (we have to face it) at the war of the future and not at the wars of the past, I base myself en- tirely on what has been my experience in administration in these subjects in two wars. I think there is agreement on certain matters. There is general agreement that there will not be enough man-power to go round. Nobody denies that there will not be enough man-power to go round at the start, and there certainly will not be enough to go round if the terrible thing does start. Therefore it must be axiomatic that we need—and need in our plans and in our actions from the start—the most economical and effective use of man-power. The Home Guard, the Civil Defence services, the constabulary, the hospital services, the fire services and fire-watching are some but not all of the auxiliary services which are necessary to us in time of war.

We shall certainly need a number of highly-trained specialists, but I hope we shall not become too specialist-minded. While highly trained specialists will be needed, I am sure we shall also want a great many of what I might call general-purpose recruits. The general purpose animal is really the most valuable creature when it comes to civil or active defence. Many of us who might not make too bad Ministers or too bad soldiers could do our fire-watching and our other duties as well. We are really quite adaptable creatures. The ideal, as it seems to me. would be that recruiting should be under one statutory authority, with obligations to serve as required. I know that that is not practicable, although we need to get as near as possible to the results which would be achieved if that sort of totalitarianism were possible. Above all, we want to avoid the delay and overlapping which, to be quite frank, did occur in and through the last war—it is no good burking it for it is true— because of the separate authorities, the separate orders and the separate conditions. I am going to say a word about the authority Ministers in a moment, but I am sure we want conditions to be such that the priority authority, who I presume would be the Minister of Labour, can allocate men and women where they are needed. I am sure that that is not going to block recruiting.

I entirely agree with the noble Lords who have spoken and who said that they felt the sentiment to-day was that people wanted to be told what to do and how they could best serve. I hope we shall plan and recruit now on that assumption, that people will he only too ready to play their part in whatever way they can best play it. Having said that, I should like to add that I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for having spoken early in the debate, and with characteristic clarity and with great frankness about the plans of the Government and the way in which they are approaching these matters. I would assure him that I came here to-day with an entirely unbiased mind, but, having studied the matter as far as I can and having listened to all he had to say to us, I do not think that what he has told us is really right or adequate, either in the field or general planning and organisation or on the equally necessary but human side of how we are to get the ordinary men and women best to do what they want to do. In fact, I do not believe that it is organisationally satisfactory or humanly satisfactory. I know the importance of not overloading the machine, a matter to which Lord Limerick referred, and I will come to it in a little more detail later, but I think that the load which would be placed upon the Army and the Territorial Force Association in the enrolment of the Home Guard now would be much less than we have been led to suppose in the course of this debate. These things are always a balance of risks.

I do not think—although this would not be true of Lord Pakenham's speech —that the sense of urgency has been adequately appreciated, or at any rate has not been adequately transmitted to the country. I think that the plans as I have heard them adumbrated to-day completely misconceive what a war is going to be like if it breaks out. We have heard of all the things that are going to be done when the emergency arises, such as the transfer of people from Civil Defence into the Home Guard and the enrolment of the Home Guard. But, my Lords, there is not going to be an interval for all that. There is not going to be an "emergency period"—at least, I very much doubt it. If a modern war comes, its impact is going to be immediate and devastating, and it seems to me that all your planning should be conditioned on that assumption, and that if you have to choose between the risk of overloading the machine now, while we are at peace, or overloading it in the emergency when war breaks out, then every time you must proceed to overload the machine now. I just do not believe that in the chaotic conditions which will prevail on the outbreak of war, you will have a chance to do the things you plan to do. What is more. I am sure that the more ready you are now, the greater will be the deterrent to an aggressor. There-fore I say, for heaven's sake leave as little as possible to be done when war breaks out!

I must say that I come down entirely on the side of enrolling the Home Guard now. First of all, I believe that what is said about the call the Home Guard is going to make upon the technical assistance of the War Office, the military formations in the country or the machine of government, is greatly exaggerated. After all, the men who will be enrolled will very largely be trained men, men who were in the Home Guard and who were, perhaps, active commanding officers of battalions and possibly of brigades in the last war. They are people who do not want much training and who know the job. Indeed, probably they know the job a great deal better than some of the people who will be sent to train them. I should like to ask where all the equipment has gone. I know the difficulty we had last time, when we had no rifles, and how welcome they were when they came. How many rifles had we when the war ended? There were the rifles of the whole of the Regular Forces and the whole of the Home Guard. Everybody in the Home Guard had a rifle. There must have been millions of rifles at the end of the war and an enormous quantity of machine guns and sub-machine guns. Those are the things the Home Guard wants and knows how to use. He does not want any training with them. We can all fire those things.

I go further than that: I think that the rifles and the sub-machine guns would be much better looked after if they were put into the hands of the Home Guard. The Home Guard cares for his weapon and cleans it and has it ready for use. I would much rather have it kept like that than have it kept somewhere in some odd store or other of the Ministry of Supply, situated very likely in some place which will be un-get-at-able when the time comes. I believe that the Government greatly exaggerate the problem of the equipping and training that would be required for the Home Guard. I am sure a tremendous lot of help will be forthcoming from the people in the Home Guard themselves. We used to run the Home Guard ourselves. These are competent people who are capable of running their own battalions, quite apart from such ordinary matters as caring for the equipment. The paper work, I am sure, can be reduced.

And may I say this? Need everything be completely uniform and sealed pattern? I do not see why it should. Circumstances in country and town are entirely different. In the country, the immediate need, I imagine, is for the Home Guard. They will be wanted to guard places, and they may be needed to take action against fifth column activities —I will say a word about that latter point in a minute. But these men would be primarily Home Guard, who would also do some Civil Defence work. Why do the Government not enlist these people in the Home Guard now—at any rate, in the country districts? In the large towns, the emphasis and the great need, no doubt, is much more on Civil Defence, but it would be possible to have enrolment of the Home Guard in the rural or semi-rural areas now. If the Government think it right to do so, let them post-pone the enrolment of the Home Guard in the very large cities. But do not for-get this. There is a great deal of sentiment about the Home Guard. I do not think I am wrong about this; I feel in my bones that large numbers of men who have not enrolled for Civil Defence would join the Home Guard; and in the Home Guard they would train for Civil Defence and. generally speaking, do whatever job they were told to do, whether civil or military, always provided that they can go into their old regiment, don their uniforms and put on their medals once more. That is one reason why I say that I do not think the Government are tack-ling this problem properly on the human side, apart from the organisation being at fault.

The way this has been tackled is very odd. As I understand it, what the Government are saying is: "We will not enrol the Home Guard now; we urge everyone to enlist for Civil Defence. On the other hand, if you enlist for Civil Defence to-day you shall have the absolute right to go away and join the Home Guard as soon as the Home Guard is enrolled." Is that not a duplicate way of doing things? Surely it will mean that many people will enlist for Civil Defence and, when the Home Guard is started, will leave Civil Defence and go into the Home Guard. I think that is making the worst of both worlds, from the point of view of Civil Defence and the Home Guard alike. I would urge the Government to reconsider this matter, and to allow the Home Guard to go forward, on the understanding that they are not given more help from the War Office and the military formations than can conveniently be given having regard to existing circumstances. I am sure they will do whatever is necessary when war comes. As the noble Lord has said, one of the great functions of the Home Guard is to relieve the Army—the Regular Army or the Territorial Army—o of military duties which the Home Guard are able to undertake. The time when the Army most needs relieving is on the outbreak of war. But it will not be possible to relieve the Army if the Home Guard has not been enrolled beforehand. Moreover, a good part of your military machine will be cumbered up with the enrolment of the Home Guard, which is a pretty big operation, at a time when it will be most urgently needed for other purposes. For all these reasons it seems to me that the Government will be well advised to go ahead with the enrolment of the Home Guard now.

I would add this. Part of the Home Guard is to be used for anti-aircraft defence on airfields and, I suppose, at other vulnerable points. Surely one of the things we are most anxious about to-day, when we are waiting to know how the Government are going to deal with the Class Z Reservists, is the defence of these aerodromes and vulnerable points of which I have spoken. If it is necessary to call up Z Reservists—as it may be—on some scale or another, surely, if the Home Guard are to be an integral part of the defence of these airfields and these vulnerable points, the Government should now enrol and train, so far as possible, the men who are to do that job. As I have intimated—and I say it quite impartially—I think the Government have taken the wrong decision, and I beg them to reconsider it.

Turning to quite a different point, I do not disagree at all with what the Minister said about the need for co-ordination and agreement, both in the framing and in the execution of policy. But I am anxious that agreement should be at a high level, and should be in the formative stage of policy, when policy is being decided and before policy issues in action. I think the Minister was very mealy-mouthed about the functions and powers of a coordinating Minister. He said—and I do not think I am misrepresenting him: "Of course, this thing has got to be done by agreement. You will have your committees of Ministers, and your committees of officials; but you could not give a co-ordinating Minister power to order other Ministers about." With great respect, that statement is absolute nonsense. That is what a co-ordinating Minister is there for. It is his job to secure the agreement of his colleagues, if he can, and, if not, to impose agreement upon them. That is what a co-ordinating Minister has to do. I myself have had to do it and, believe me, I know what it means. I have been both a co-ordinator and one of the co-ordinated on a number of occasions. Of course a Minister has the right of appeal to the War Cabinet if he feels that something vital is going wrong and that he cannot accept a decision. But if he goes to the War Cabinet unnecessarily, and makes himself a nuisance, he will not go there very often; in fact, it may well be that he will cease to hold his Ministerial job. He will be co-ordinated in that way.




Yes, that is it —en disponibilité. Ministers should not be so polite to one another. Really, I do not know how things go on in these Socialist Ministries. Apparently, there is plenty of disagreement, but no one can co-ordinate. Give someone that power, and let him use it, and in that way you will get agreement. If there is a Committee, everybody comes briefed by his Department. All the Generals get at the War Minister; the Marshals get at the Air Minister; the doctors get at the Health Minister, and the Treasury get at the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Every private army is mobilised behind its leader; everybody fights for his own corner; and nothing is done. That is not the spirit. If, on the other hand, we start by saying that "If we do not agree we are going to have this imposed upon us," I am certain that we shall get action and probably the right action.

I have said that the impact of war, if it came, would be devastating. I believe that there would be this other effect: that in the time of emergency the fifth column would become active. I did not think very much of the German fifth column or of the Russian one (it was there) in the last war. I do not think either was very effective, though they were more effective elsewhere. Perhaps they will try to be much more effective this time, particularly in the actual time of emergency. I do not ask for details, but I ask for an assurance that in case the emergence into activity—not only the enrolment, but the embodiment and action—of a fifth column takes place, it will be met with measures, both active and passive, made in advance; because certainly we shall not be able to plan for that after the emergency has taken place. I have only one other thing to say. I am sure it is vital that we should have this whole conception and plan right at the start; and the more right it is, and the more ready we are, the less likely, please God! will it be that we shall ever have to use it. All we can do, however, is only the second or third line of defence. The first line of defence lies far outside this country. It does not even lie alone with our defence of frontiers far beyond our boundaries. It lies superlatively in the counter-offensive which would be launched the second that the disaster came. And so that, which is at once the defence and the deterrent, all other things must be subordinated. Nothing must detract from the effort we make in that direction.

5.14 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, that we have had an extremely useful debate. I think it ha; been useful, not only to ourselves but to the country as a whole. If we carry on our discussions in good temper, and do one another the justice of believing that we are all imbued with the right spirit, I believe that we can give to the people of our country a leadership that will be valuable in days to come. If we try to rouse passions, however, there is the danger that we shall finish by creating panic. We must do what we car to be sober in our language, though on all occasions we have to be truthful. One of the greatest dangers we have to avoid is giving the impression to the people of the Continent of Europe that we are infinitely more concerned about our own protection than we are about the job that may have to be done at some time in the near future. Therefore, it would not do for either the Government or the Opposition to be boastful or panicky, and to give that impression to people who certainly need all the encouragement we can give them at this stage.

I agree with the noble Viscount about the sort of men who ought to enrol in our Defence Forces, civil and otherwise. I have an admiration for the expert, but I think the expert is the sort of person at whose proposals we should look more keenly than those of the ordinary man. If we can get the general purpose recruit, so eloquently described by the noble Viscount, we shall be doing a really good thing. I should like to ask the noble Viscount a question, and I am sure he will be willing to give me a reply to it. As I understand him, he is anxious that there should be a single Minister appointed to look after recruitment, and he mentioned the Minister of Labour. I gathered—the noble Viscount will put me right if I am wrong—that the Minister of Labour was to have authority to direct people into the channels where their services would be most valuable to the community. The question I should like to put to the noble Viscount is this: Does that mean that the Minister of Labour would have compulsory powers?


No; there are two phases. In war, obviously, everybody will be directed wherever he is wanted. I said that I should make an appeal for general purpose recruits in Civil Defence and Home Guard in that spirit. I think that in war everybody would accept the idea that he should do what he can best do. But my suggestion deals with the powers of the Minister of Labour over other Ministers. The Government will find it necessary in war time to have a Minister who, in matters of man-power, will sit as chairman of a committee of Ministers and give them direction. I would give him real power in that committee, so that where Ministers failed to reach agreement he would be able to impose agreement upon them which they would accept, subject, of course, to the right of appeal to the Cabinet which every Cabinet Minister has if dissatisfied.


I understand then that the Minister of Labour is to be arbitrator, the person to give a decision where differences of opinion may have arisen between Ministers, or where there is overlapping and there are debates about that among the Ministers.


He would be a co-ordinating Minister, and I assume that the Minister for the job would be the Minister of Labour.


Under the Civil Defence Act of 1948 the Minister of co-ordination is the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. In addition to the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, there are a number of designated Ministers, such as the Minister of Health, the Minister of Food, the Minister of Transport and the like.


Not for the whole field of man-power: these deal with specific matters under the Civil Defence Act. My thesis is that man-power is going to be lamentably short, and that therefore we must make the most economical use of it. A co-ordinating Minister is a Cabinet arrangement. We do not need an Act of Parliament for that. The Prime Minister can impose it on the Cabinet by agreement. We need one Minister as a co-ordinating, directing Minister over all other Ministers who are concerned with the employment of man-power.


As I was saying, the power is at present vested in the Secretary of State for Home Affairs; it is his business to see that there is proper co-ordination between the Ministers in all issues, including that of man-power. Under the 1948 Act, and under the various Regulations approved by Parliament, the local authorities now have the duty of get-ting recruitment in so far as Civil Defence is concerned. I understand that the noble-Viscount is suggesting that there should be an alteration to that. Obviously I cannot discuss that proposal to-night.


With great respect, if the noble Lord will read it in Hansard to-morrow—and I am in the recollection of the House—he will find that what I said about the supreme co- ordination and direction of Ministers concerned with man-power was perfectly clear. It really has nothing to do with altering that Act of Parliament.


As I say, I do not want to take the point further than that. I will certainly read the noble Viscount's speech to-morrow, and I will make sure that the Ministers concerned are seized with the suggestion he has made.

I do not want to debate the speech of the noble Viscount further, nor do I wish to debate the various questions that have been raised to-night, because we are so much in agreement and we on these Benches have agreed to accept the resolution. I therefore propose to confine my remarks to giving information, as already mentioned by my noble friend Lord Pakenham, arising out of the speeches that we have heard. I ought perhaps to proceed by saying how pleased we were with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, the first he has made in this House. A good deal of what he said during that speech is true, and we can be quite candid about it. I would assure him that what he has had to say will not be missed, and that we shall be delighted to hear him on many future occasions.

The first information I should like to give arises out of the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, When my noble friend, Lord Pakenham, was making his speech he gave some figures about recruitment in the Civil Defence services, and the noble Lord wanted to know whether figures were available indicating which were men and which were women. I have the figures for England and Wales only in that sense, and they are as follows. The Civil Defence Corps has 60,700 men and 38,000 women; a total of 98,000. Scotland makes up the difference between that and the original total mentioned. The Auxiliary Fire Service has 5,300 men and 2,400 women, a total of 7,800. In the National Hos-pital Service Reserve, one in ten of the new recruits are men.


Can the noble Lord tell me how many there were altogether? I am only interested because I want to help.


There were 10,400 members enrolled, and one in ten of those are men.

I come now to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir. There are one or two points to which I should reply in connection with the questions he has raised. First, there is that of training. He suggested that we should make an endeavour to train people who themselves can be instructors, and thus spread their knowledge rapidly through the whole country. As your Lordships know, we have three training colleges for technical workers, and those cslleges have turned out 1.165 trainees. We have a college for the training of officers in the Civil Defence services and that institution has turned out 332 officers. In addition to those results, we have set in motion a. scheme of training by the local authorities. When the trainees go through their examinations, such examinations are treated as being of a preliminary character and trainees who pass are given a green certificate. The number already turned out by the local movements is 5,353. We are hoping to develop those services, in order to increase the momentum, and we shall be very glad if those who read the reports of this debate and see the sense of urgency that has pervaded it to-night will make sure that the work is speeded up in the localities.

The noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, also asked a question about the directions which are to go to the Army Commands respecting the appointment of Home Guard Advisers. These latter have not been appointed because the policy for the Home Guard is not yet complete. The War Office have been examining what instructions should be given to General Officers-in-Command about the Home Guard, and the advisers cannot usefully be appointed until this matter has been settled. It is hoped, however, that this will be completed and the necessary steps taken at no distant date. In reply to the noble Lord's question about the appointment of a Civil Commissioner in Scot-land, I should like to say this. The appointment of Commissioners has been adopted for the purpose of bringing distant places within touch of authority, and moreover, in cases of danger or of breakdown, to place within the regions men who can act on behalf either of the Secretary of State or of any other person to whom he may be answerable.

In Scotland the situation is somewhat different, because already in Scotland, before the appointment of the Commissioner, there exists a great Ministry, with three Ministers attached to it, and there is a large establishment of civil servants. So the question had to be decided whether, in addition to all this responsible machinery, there should be the appointment of a Civil Commissioner. The decision not to appoint a Civil Commissioner for Scotland did not arise in any British institution governing the whole country. It certainly has not figured in the imagination of any English Minister. It is a proposal that has emanated from the Scottish Office itself, and it is put forward, through the Minister, by men who had very great experience in the last war. They are of opinion that, instead of appointing a Commissioner for Scot-land, a Minister (not necessarily the Secretary of State) should always be on duty at St. Andrew's House, or whatever the place may be, to take responsibility for Civil Defence machinery and organisation north of the Border.


Does that mean the appointment of a new Minister, of a rank higher than Under-Secretary; because at present there is one Secretary of State, and the rest are Under-Secretaries?


Obviously, if a Junior Minister is appointed, he will be responsible to the Minister. So finally the Minister will be responsible, but the actual day-to-day detailed work will not be carried out by that very busy man, but by somebody owing responsibility to him.

The noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, asked a question during his speech about the necessary regulations and Orders, and wondered if there would be, or whether there is, some delay about their issue. As the noble Lord will re-member, the Civil Defence Act was placed upon the Statute Book in December, 1948. In the year 1949 the following regulations went through: The General Regulations, the Defence Corps Regulations, the Public Protection Regulations, the Regulations which apply to London, the Fire Service Regulations, and the Ambulance, Burial, Evacuation, Sewerage, Water Supplies, Hospital Services and Demolition Regulations. The only set of regulations that had to be passed through during the year 1950 was that which related to police training. At the present moment, so far as I am personally aware, we are awaiting regulations for food and the protection of food, and regulations concerning finance, which will relate to business premises and to local authorities. If that be an accurate description of the activities of the Ministries concerned and of Parliament, there has been no delay in providing the necessary authority and guidance for local authorities throughout the country.

My noble friend Lord Pakenham, during his eloquent speech, made some reference to the figures which had been achieved in recruiting for the various ser-vices, and perhaps your Lordships will permit me to quote one or two other figures which may be considered of importance. The Civil Defence Corps has a strength of approximately 124,000 at this moment. If noble Lords measured that by the total strength of the Corps during war time, which was 1,200,000, it would seem that we had not got very far on the road; but the Ministry are of opinion that under purely voluntary conditions no near approach will be made to that figure of 1,200,000 men. How-ever, a target has been set for the authorities to aim at and with which they can be fairly satisfied in peace conditions— namely, one-third of that number. Therefore, the target at which the local authorities are aiming at this moment is 400,000 men and women, and the recruitment already achieved amounts to 124,000. The Auxiliary Fire Service in England and Wales amounts to 60,000 men, and in Scotland to 7,000, giving a total of 67,000. The recruitment for the special members of the fire brigades for war ser-vice is only 8,000, so we have a great distance to travel in that direction. No limit has been set for the hospital ser-vices, but in the case of the special police a target has been set. The present strength of the constabulary of the country is 70,000, and the target to be aimed at is that for every regular police-man in county districts there should be three times that number and in the boroughs that there should be twice the number. We are hoping that we may make progress on that line, but I have not been given the figures to show how far we have proceeded.

I would have said a word about direction and command, but I feel that that subject has been sufficiently debated. However, perhaps your Lordships will permit me to read an extract from a circular that has been sent out to the local authorities because it has a bearing on the relationship of the Home Guard with the Civil Defence work. It is as follows: … the closest contact at regional level with the Home Office in planning Home Guard units, their strength, sources of recruitment, etc. Generally speaking, the object will be to secure that recruiting for Civil Defence is . given priority in the big industrial areas … while in rural areas priority will be given to the potential needs of the Home Guard. That bears out something that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Blackford. It is, I think, true that the number of Home Guard people who will be required will be larger in the country than in the towns. But it is also true that, taking Civil De-fence work in general, certain categories will be required more in the country districts than in the towns. Directives have been given to that effect, and they are being followed. I have some figures respecting the allocations that ought to be made, but perhaps they will keep for another time.

The noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, asked a question about the de-fence of industrial establishments in this country, and I am happy to say that the matters in relation thereto are proceeding. When I made my speech in October I indicated that a committee representative of certain organisations had been established. That committee has had meetings since then, and some committees of that body are now at work on the details, first, respecting shelters for the protection of workmen, and secondly, in relation to finance. As to finance, perhaps I should add that certain matters respecting organisation and training will involve expenditure for business concerns. This expenditure will be treated by the income tax people as revenue expenditure and, therefore, will have the benefit of tax relaxation. The difficulties with respect to finance which we experienced at one time with local government authorities are on the way to settlement. Discussion is proceeding about the use of certain words and their meaning, and it is our hope that when agreement has been reached thereon, the question of finance to these bodies will be settled.

In view of the circumstances, even though I have a great deal more information that I could give to your Lordships, I do not think I should pursue the discussion further. Therefore, I will wind up by again saying how pleased the Government are with the suggestions that have been made, and I will promise that every possible attention shall be given to the points placed before us for our consideration and future discussion.

5.39 p.m.


My Lords, I was very glad indeed to hear the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, say that he and his colleagues would study this debate and the points raised therein. Certainly, a large number have been discussed, and I do not intend to cantor over the ground again. I should like to thank both noble Lords, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. for the careful attention and study he has given to this problem, and for the courteous way in which he dealt with this Motion to-day.

A good deal of attention has been concentrated upon the problem of enrolling the Home Guard, and a lot was said, in particular by my noble friend Lord Swinton, which I felt was very pertinent to the question. This problem is at once important in itself and as an illustration of other problems. It is important because the Home Guard must form a very substantial part of our Home Defence. It is important as an illustration because, if you use the word "priority," you get all your ideas wrong. Of course, there must be a priority in preparation. You must allot different priorities in the equipment and training you give the Regular Army, the Territorial Army and the Home Guard. But unless there is a Home Guard when there is a war, neither the Regular Army nor the Territorial Army will be able to fulfil their proper function. It is because we are up against shortage of time, as well as shortage of man-power, and because we have to measure what is going on, not by the good will or the pertinacity of Ministers and officials, but in the compass of the scale of events and the power of those forces opposed to us, that we stress again the urgency of the problem. I understand that there are procedural difficulties involved in the noble Lord's accepting my Motion for Papers. I am in-formed that in so doing he committed the Secretary of State to an Address to the King.


May I say that that was the last thing I intended?


I am very grateful to the noble Lord for accepting my Motion, but I do not want to embarrass him and his colleagues. If he will agree, I should like, with the leave of the House, to withdraw my Motion for Papers, and to move a Resolution in the following terms: To resolve That this House is of opinion that the organisation of the Home Guard and Civil Defence Services, with special regard to the need for their co-ordination, is a matter of the greatest importance.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Moved to resolve, That this House is of opinion that the organisation of the Home Guard and Civil Defence Services, with special regard to the need for their co-ordination, is a matter of the greatest importance. — (Lord De L'Isle and Dudley.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.