HL Deb 14 July 1967 vol 284 cc1369-72

12.11 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Civil Defence (Casualty Services) Regulations 1967, laid before this House on June 26, be approved. A good deal of what I have to say will be supplementary and complementary to the statement already made by my noble friend Lord Stonham. Therefore the House will excuse me if sometimes my remarks appear to be superfluous.

I am sure that any noble Lord who has looked back on the debate that took place in this House on March 22 cannot but be filled with a certain melancholy at the thought that this possibility of racial homicide is a contingency for the future. Although there are those who contend that little can be done in these catastrophic circumstances, naturally we must do all we can to prepare at least for the possibility of some surviving from an onslaught that could no doubt be taking place, not only in this country but in other countries at the same time. For that reason, quite rightly, these two sets of Regulations are put before your Lordships' House.

My noble friend Lord Stonham has referred to-day, as he did on March 22, to the necessary changes which, on the grounds of both efficiency and economy, were apparently accepted at that time. One result of this change is that the Civil Defence Act 1948, are now in available members for providing ambulance and first aid services: the role of the Corps in relation to the casualty services of local authorities will be to provide a limited number of specialists to help to organise the first aid services. For this reason, new regulations are required to permit the training of other persons who will be engaged in these services.

These Regulations, which my right honourable friend the Minister of Health proposes to make under Section 2 of the Civil Defence Act 1948, are now in draft before the House. They consolidate, with amendments, two existing sets of Civil Defence Regulations relating to the war-time ambulance and first aid services provided by local authorities. These Regulations, which were approved by Resolutions of the House in 1949 and 1954, gave to county and county borough councils, and, by virtue of a provision in the London Government Act 1963, the Greater London Council, a duty to formulate plans for the expansion of the peace-time ambulance service and the provision of a service for the collection and removal of casualties in the event of hostile action or the threat of hostile action. These plans require trained manpower, and the Regulations provide for the training by local authorities of members of the staffs of their peace-time ambulance services and also members of ambulance and first aid sections of the Civil Defence Corps.

As I have already said, the draft Instrument consolidates two sets of existing regulations. Regulations 2(a) and (b) continue the duty placed on local authorities to plan for the provision of casualty and first aid services and for the expansion of the peace-time ambulance services. Regulation 2(c) provides in general terms for the training of persons who would be engaged in those services now or in the future. And Regulations 2(d), (e) and (f) continue provision made in the existing Regulations relating to vehicles, limitations affecting the peace-time services and the co-operation between local authorities in the way they discharge their functions.

I should explain one change that has been made in the local authorities concerned with these duties. Section 49 of the London Government Act of 1963 applied to the Greater London Council the provision of the existing Regulations concerned with ambulance and first aid services. This provision is to be repealed by Regulation 3 of the Draft Regulations because it is no longer required. But it is proposed that while the augmentation of the ambulance service in London should continue to be the duty of the Greater London Council, because it is the peace-time ambulance authority, the duty for providing a first aid service in London should be the responsibility of the London borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London. These authorities have smaller areas and are therefore more suitable for planning first aid services. This change has been agreed with the Greater London Council and the London Boroughs Committee, and is provided for in Regulation 1 of the Draft Regulations.

Perhaps I may add just one or two other small details about the main changes made by the Regulations, which relate to the training of persons engaged in the war-time ambulance and first aid services. For the first aid services my right honourable friend the Minister of Health proposes to ask the local authorities concerned to plan on the basis that those trained members of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross Society having no other war-time commitment would make their services available in war time. These two organisations have agreed to planning proceeding on this basis and I should like to pay tribute (as I am sure we all do) to the way in which their Headquarters have co-operated in the discussions. I am quite sure the county organisations of the two bodies which have done so much good work in the past and will do in the future, will respond equally readily when they are approached by the local authorities for their areas. Their members are, of course, already trained in first aid. They will, however, need training on the background against which they would work in war time, and some will need training in the specialised work of war-time first aid organisation or casualty sorting. Local authorities will be permitted to make arrangements for such training, or assist the training provided by the two bodies themselves by the provisions of Regulation 2(c).

For the ambulance services, local authorities will continue to make the maximum use of their peace-time ambulance staffs who will be trained to provide operational control and officer direction of the expanded ambulance services. My right honourable friend the Minister of Health intends to create a new volunteer Civil Defence body under Section 1 of the Civil Defence Act 1948 which will provide the additional manpower required in the expanding services. This body, which will be called "The Ambulance Reserve", will be organised in divisions based on the areas of the ambulance authorities. Members will be persons licensed to drive motor cars who have no war-time commitment and who would be willing to drive an ambulance if there was a war-time emergency. My right honourable friend the Minister of Health is hoping for a good response to the recruitment campaigns which he proposes to ask the ambulance authorities to launch. Local authorities may also wish to provide training for other members of their staff—mainly in ambulance and first aid services or in casualty sorting duties—and for persons trained in first aid who are not employed by the authorities and are not members of the St. John Ambulance Brigade or the British Red Cross Society. They will be able to do this under the provisions of Regulation 2(c).

Finally, Regulation 3 requires local authorities to comply with any direction given by my right honourable friend the Minister of Health. This provision derives directly from Section 2(2)(a) of the Civil Defence Act 1948. There has been full consultation with the local authority associations about the arrangements which I have described. These, I believe, have been entirely satisfactory. If these Regulations are approved they will come into operation on September 1 this year. I hope that the House will now approve these Regulations, and I recommend that it should do so. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Civil Defence (Casualty Services) Regulations 1967, laid before the House on June 26, 1967, be approved.—(Lord Sorensen.)


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for having followed his noble friend in furnishing the House with the details of these Regulations. The Civil Defence is so seldom appreciated to the full, and the people who work for it are so seldom thanked for what they do, that if these Regulations will help the Civil Defence in their work then we shall be very happy with them.

On Question, Motion agreed to.