HL Deb 13 May 1975 vol 360 cc684-6

6.40 p.m.

Lord HUGHES rose to move, That the Draft Civil Defence (Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 1975, laid before the House on 28th April, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I discuss with these Regulations the Civil Defence (General) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1975. The need for the Regulations arises from the reorganisation of local government which will take effect in Scotland on 16th May 1975. The new Regulations, which are before you in draft, place responsibility for planning on the regional and islands area councils. The district councils are enjoined to provide information and assistance to the other authorities, but have no primary planning responsibilities. The opport-tunity has also been taken to consolidate the many Regulations which have been made since the passing of the Civil Defence Act 1948 and to omit those which no longer come within local authority responsibility, for example, those relating to nursing.

The Government have chosen the regional and islands councils as the main planning authorities because most of the services which would be vital following a hostile attack, for instance, police, fire, water, are controlled by the regional and islands area councils. That is not to say that the services provided by district councils will not be important too. However, the system envisaged for Government in the survival period following possible nuclear attack provides for a single chain of command coming down from Central Government through the chief executive of the regional council, who will be appointed regional controller, and then to the chief executive of the district council, as district controller. This is quite different from the normal relationship between the region and the district. But a different system would be essential after a nuclear attack when the disruption would make the conventional distinctions between central and local government, and between different levels of local government, quite meaningless. The effect of the Draft Planning Regulations is to consolidate and simplify, in a single Statutory Instrument, the main Civil Defence planning functions of local authorities. This will give the new local authorities a clear statement of their statutory duties. If approved, the Regulations will come into force on 16th May, the day on which the new local authorities assume full responsibility. The authorities will receive guidance, at intervals, from the Scottish Office on detailed aspects of planning.

May I now refer briefly to the second set of Regulations, the Civil Defence (General) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1975. These Regulations, which will also come into effect on 16th May 1975, amend the Civil Defence (General) (Scotland) Regulations 1949 in a minor and consequential way. Regulation 2 revokes Regulations 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the 1949 Regulations. These Regula- tions deal with matters relating to Joint Committees now redundant following the more general provisions of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. It also revokes Regulation 7 of the 1949 Regulations, which gave the Secretary of State power to impose limits on the resources which a local authority could employ on Civil Defence. The general discretion given to authorities to allocate the funds available to them, subject to the overriding limits imposed by the national interest, has made this kind of provision outmoded. Finally, it removes from Regulation 9(1) of the 1949 Regulations a number of definitions which are superfluous following on the revocations mentioned earlier.

Discussions will take place over the coming year with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities with the aim of ensuring that the most effective use is made of the limited amount of funds available. For the present, however, we felt it would be unfair to make changes in the grant arrangements when resources are not available to make a thorough change in the operations to be assisted. I can assure your Lordships that these Regulations are in no sense warlike instruments. They are intended to provide a basis for local authorities to take simple precautions at very little cost as an insurance against the effects of the possible use by a hostile power of the terible weapons available today. We all hope, of course, that such plans will never need to be implemented, but that is no reason for not making them and having them ready for use. I therefore commend the Draft Regulations to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Civil Defence (Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 1975, laid before the House on 28th April, be approved.—(Lord Hughes.)


My Lords, I should just like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for his explanation of these two Draft Regulations. Reading the first Regulation, Regulation 4, is harrowing to a degree. I can only echo the penultimate paragraph of the noble Lord's speech. I pray and hope, with him, that such things will never need to be done.