HL Deb 05 March 1980 vol 406 cc260-386

3.10 p.m.

Lord CLIFFORD of CHUDLEIGH rose to call attention to lack of adequate home and civil defence;and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will remember that on 12th December last we had a short debate on reserves. Many of your Lordships taking part in that debate expressed a desire to have a longer debate on the subject of home and civil defence, including the noble Lords, Lord Peart and Lord Inglewood. Like Caesar's Gaul the matter we are discussing this afternoon can be divided into three parts. First, the reason for home and civil defence;secondly, home defence;and thirdly, civil defence. The latter two, to my mind, are like Belloc's Marmoset and Man; intimately linked. However, before we get to those main subjects——


My Lords, might we possibly ask those who regulate the amplification equipment to increase volume because we are most anxious to hear this introductory speech in a very important debate. It would be easier if we could have a little more volume so that we can hear it with pleasure and ease.


My Lords, being deaf, I was not aware of the fact that I was not speaking loudly enough. Let us first get out of the way that body of opinion, small but somewhat vociferous at times, that would welcome a Russian dominated world;like that foreign politician from that State which is the uncertain cork in the Baltic bottle whose only defence policy would be to have a tape recorder saying in Russian that he would surrender;or like that far Left Member of another place who told me that he would abolish all defence services and the police, to be replaced by a workers' militia. If they had their way then they would make us a vast East European State or, at best, a Finland. To my mind we would be surrendering our so-called Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. Faith and hope in the future of our people and our country—and of course charity is said to begin at home anyway. I would rather go along with the advice that General Eisenhower gave us in 1945 when he was made a citizen of London. He said, "Don't sell your liberty for mere existence".

Now to get on with the subject in hand. The West could have defeated Russia in the 1950s, got by in the 1960s, and perhaps the time could have been expanded a bit by the differences between China and Russia, but that era has now gone. Witness last year's Cuba crisis. I think most people missed the political signicance of that episode. The Russians, by not allowing President Carter a bone to save his face, gave notice to the world that she would henceforth do as she liked because her military might was now superior to that of the West. That was reinforced by the Soviet 1st Deputy Minister of Defence who reminded a member of the United States Armed Forces Committee last year: …the Soviet Union has superiority over the United States, and henceforth the USA will be threatened". The weapons to defend us in the 1980s should have been building in the 1960s. The NATO weapons acquisition systems take at least 15 years to develop. And we all know what we did in the 1960s. I remind your Lordships of the P.1154;the TSR 2;15 Regular Army battalions, and the Territorial Army as a home defence force abolished. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, has said before in this House that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. I think bad men did something.

Now let us take a quick look at the comparison of the intermediate range delivery systems in Europe. Russia has, I am told, 130 SS.20 missile launchers. The SS.20 is the world's most advanced intermediate range missile;three independently targeted warheads. I do not say anything else but that they can reach us now. She has 60 plus TU.26 Backfire bombers;450 older missile launchers and 350 older long-range bombers, against NATO's 56 Vulcan bombers and 365 F.1-11 strike aircraft. When it comes to shorter range the advantage is even greater on the side of the Warsaw Pact. In the past three years we have heard—and I am talking now about the members of the All-Party Defence Study Group—from our top military leaders, particularly sea and air, that this country can now be attacked from the West as well as from the East.

It is estimated that as a major NATO base we could expect up to 400 Soviet air sorties in the first 24 hours of a confrontation. As the main reinforcement staging platform that could well be a possibility. Personally I see the weak flanks going first and so isolating Western Europe, leaving it to wither on the vine. In that context I would remind those of your Lordships who attended that particular meeting of the talk that was given to us by the ex-commander of NATO Forces North.

If that is the case, and it could be, then let us ask ourselves what we have got to defend the homeland. I am tempted to reply to that by an expression that doubtless is still as current in the armed forces as it was in my day, but I leave it to your Lordships' imagination or perhaps memory to know what the answer would be. Let me start with the Senior Service. I shall leave details to those more versed than I to dot the i's and cross the t's. From the little I know, it seems that our few frigates, minesweepers, fishery protection vessels, are completely inadequate to meet the task. A few years ago the Government were about to abolish conventional submarines. I went to my son-in-law, who happens to be a nuclear submariner. He pointed out to me that we could not use nuclear submarines in the Channel or the North Sea because they need too much water. Therefore, nuclear submarines are no use in home defence, and home defence includes oil rigs inter alia. Thank goodness that particular decision was reversed!

I ask the Government, are they satisfied that we have adequate home defence from a naval point of view? Convoy protection. Compare the number of Russian submarines with those that Hitler had which nearly brought us to our knees. Following on that, what reserves of food, raw materials, have we stored away for an emergency? I do not ask for secrets;I just ask for assurance.

What about air defence of the homeland? What we have and what we have coming along I am informed is very good—that it is the top of the pops—but surely it is inadequate. How much of what we have and what we have coming along is committed to NATO? Are the Government satisfied with the number of aircraft based in this country that could be used for home defence? Are they satisfied with the supply of trained pilots, not only for now but in an emergency? This question of course applies to all the services;trained men in the naval dockyards and the industries that support them—shipbuilding, the aircraft and tank production industries, the lot: they are all part of home defence.

In the defence of this country the main element must be anti-aircraft and antiballistic missile systems, and I refer your Lordships to the remarks I made about the SS.20. Some noble Lords will remember that at the beginning of the last war there was quite a military scandal because a large number of the new antiaircraft guns arriving for the defence of London were found to have their breach blocks missing. I have a horrid feeling that the modern equivalent for the defence of, say, London or Birmingham have more than their breach blocks missing. A further question in relation to air defences is: are we satisfied that we have enough of the RAF Regiment to defend our aerodromes? And when we consider that our aerodromes are to be the staging platform for reinforcements to NATO, perhaps that should be taken into account.

Before dealing with our forces on land for home defence, I would point out what I consider to have been a number of wrong assumptions that have put us in the position we are in today, wrong assumptions made by our political leaders and their advisers over the past 20 years. The first and most important was the assumption that we would have the nuclear umbrella from the United States for all time. That started the rot—the abolition of national service, the Territorial Army and civil defence—and it had a lot to do with the trip-wire theory. The second assumption was that Russia was arming only for self-defence. Only last month I was talking to the father of an undergraduate doing war studies at one of our universities and he told me that that is still what is being taught. I should have thought that Afghanistan was only the last of a long line of incidents to disprove that assumption.

The third wrong assumption—I maintain it was—is that the Home Office planners have assumed that there would be three weeks' warning of war. It is my opinion that that is wrong. I do not think there would be more than four days' warning, and if, as some people say, the Russians are planning for an attack from a standing start, which I would do if I were a Russian general, four hours might be more like it. The fourth wrong assumption is that it was thought that the last two wars would be over by Christmas. In September 1939 I was serving in what was then the North-West of India and I made myself a darned nuisance to all and sundry trying to get back to Europe because I thought I would miss the party. How wrong I was! There are ominous signs that our planners are still suffering from that same mental aberration—the idea of a short war;otherwise, how can one explain the lack of spare parts and trained manpower in all the Services?

The fifth wrong assumption, following from the previous one of a short war, is that there is no need for industrial and general mobilisation plans and the necessary training centres. Sixthly, it is assumed that nuclear war would involve mass suicide and that nobody could hope to win. Again, I believe that to be wrong. Soviet nuclear weapons are extremely accurate, which, incidentally, is why the Americans would he well advised to move their ICBMs out of their silos. Civil defence precautions can reduce civilian casualties by 30 per cent. according to our figures, although the Swiss say 80 per cent. and the Russians also say 80 per cent.

The seventh assumption is that Britain could not be invaded. But she can be attacked from all sides, and surely you can expect enemy agents to be here among our own fifth column even before the first attack. Do you expect, for example, the IRA to cease their machinations the day the balloon goes up? It is assumed, eighthly—and this is the last wrong assumption to my mind—that Britain's only role is to reinforce NATO, and all our plans are based on that. Wrong again. I maintain we shall not have time for the Army of the Rhine, badly deployed, to reach their forward positions or for the TA.2 to reinforce their Regulars, and therefore Britain's primary role must now be to survive as NATO's forward base.

That brings me to home defence proper, namely men on the ground. We need men on the ground to defend vital points, to control panic, evacuation, looting, to guard against infiltrators, parachutists and the one hundred and one things we all remember being done by Captain Main-waring and his arch-enemy the air raid warden in the last war. Perhaps I may be permitted to reminisce slightly just to illustrate the point. In 1944 I was operating with the Italian partisans on the western flank of the Appenines. A couple of us and a handful of Italians had made the railway unworkable by destroying the main tunnel and bridges in the Val di Taro;then we put the road through La Cisa Pass out of order;and then we turned to the coast road between Genoa and La Spezia, which was very hilly. The allied air forces kept the German convoys off during the day and by our night attacks, with an ample use of "crows feet ", sten guns, hand grenades and so on, we put that road out of action. Mind you, that turned to our personal disadvantage, because the Germans were then forced to use escorted sea barge convoys during the night, and one of those interrupted one of our attempts to get some ex-prisoners of war away. Our MTB, just coming in, was met by a Brock's display, some of which was directed at where they thought we were and we had a very steep climb up the cliff. My "ward ", if that is the right word to use, at the time was the late father-in-law of my noble and gallant friend Lord Carver. The point I am trying to make is that if a couple of us and a handful of guerrillas could do that in an area where there was supposed to be a Volksdeutsche division as well as the fascist militia, think what could be done in large areas of Scotland, the North of England, Wales, the moors and the South-West. Really to think that we could get away with having nothing on the ground in those sort of cases is, I believe, nonsense. We have no reserves, no Dad's Army. Why?—because we abolished first national service, then the Territorial Army, then the civil defence;and I should like to finish my speech by discussing those three subjects.

First, I shall deal with national service. There has been much ill-informed mythology put out about national service. It does not have to be all square-bashing;it can be for the one hundred and one reserves we need in civil defence and the social services, and for specialists of all types. When I was a regular soldier in Malaya in 1948, almost 60 per cent. of my company were national servicemen. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Jacobson, who tried to question the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, on this subject earlier in another debate, that we well knew what to do with them. What we regulars in those days did not like about national service was having to send our best NCOs and our best junior officers off to train them, because it made it harder to keep up the standards of our own units. But that was a selfish attitude, and I plead guilty to having taken it at that time.

In 1966 I was coming across Salisbury Plain on my way to your Lordships' House. I was running short of petrol, and I went into a filling station. The petrol pump attendant looked at me, and said, "You're Major Clifford, aren't you? "I murmured something about having been so some time ago, and he said, I did my national service in your company in Malaya. You know, we grumbled a lot at the time, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I've two boys growing up now, and I'm scared stiff about what is going to happen to them now we've no national service". I maintain that reintroduction of some modified national service would solve the problems raised in our debate on 12th December, and many others, too—not least some of the social problems.

I turn now to the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army, as we used to have it, was perhaps in need of some reform. What organisation invented by man is not from time to time? But I should like to put it on record, because there has been much nastiness uttered on this subject, that when I commanded a Territorial Army battalion from 1957 to 1960 all my senior officers and NCOs had had war service, and all the junior ones had done national service, and when we went to annual camp our numbers were not far short of the numbers of certain regular units now going off to do their four months' stint in Northern Ireland. With the aftermath of national service reserve training we could have mobilised up to strength like that. Therefore, I believe that the massacre of the Territorial Army in 1967 was inexcusable, to say the least.

One of the advantages of the TA in those days was that we had a large number of drill halls. This was especially true in the rural areas. My battalion had 16 spread all over the place, and there were three other major units and a host of minor ones. Now the TA.3 unit of which I am honorary colonel, has three, 70 miles apart, and two of them are shared. They have now all been turned into bingo halls, or pulled down, or converted, much to the disadvantage of home defence in terms of places for civil defence training, mobilisation, and a hundred and one other things, particularly in rural areas.

When, in the Napoleonic Wars, the French Admiral Tate sailed up the Bristol Channel, he saw as he came along the North coast of Cornwall and Devon the local yeomanry and militia blocking any possible landing place. He then turned North to South Wales, where his landing party were obliterated by the local yeomanry, commanded by a then Member of your Lordships' House. Those who do not learn the lessons of history are compelled to repeat their mistakes. That is another quotation.

But the great thing about the TA when we had it was its integration with civil defence. One year in four was a civil defence training year. There were special training camps built for the purpose. The one that my unit attended was at Millom, in Cumberland. All aspects were covered, including rescue from bomb-damaged buildings, fire fighting, radiac instrument training—the lot. Three years later in 1962, when I was a deputy brigade commander, we had a nationwide civil defence exercise, which I co-ordinated. There was a simulated nuclear bomb attack on Bristol and Plymouth. In that exercise we had at the headquarters all the top liaison officers of all those connected with home and civil defence: the police—and what use we made of the special constables;the auxiliary fire services—remember the "green godesses";the WVS;the Red Cross;the St. John Ambulance;the local government services;as well as the trained civil defence organisation and the Territorial Army. In those days all the senior officers of those services had generally graduated at the Civil Defence Staff College at Sunningdale.

In 1967 we as good as abolished the TA. The TAVR.3, the home defence element which was left, was reduced in my county—and it is not one of the smallest in this country—to a cadre of eight men. Remember, my Lords, TAVR.2 was allocated to reinforce NATO.

In 1968 we abolished civil defence, and Sunningdale was turned into a staff college for civil servants—the only national growth industry of recent years. The police Civil Defence College at Fallowfield is now a prison.

That brings me to the last section, civil defence. There have always been in this country a number of people who have refused to lie down under the stupidities of their masters. One such was a small civil defence unit in Plymouth. It refused to give up, it kept on, on its own, with no support, and it formed the basis of what we now have in Devon, under my chairmanship—a 1,000-member strong unit called the Devon Emergency Volunteers. Many other counties have started their own bodies, and—as your Lordships will know if you have read the Press—some places are concerned about this matter and have started their own local organisations. What we want the Government to do is to give a lead, to co-ordinate an umbrella organisation, to encourage a body of volunteer men and women ready to assist their fellows in any emergency, including the worst.

In recent years we have, as I see it, been bedevilled by sectional interests. The generals, told to make cuts, took it out on the TA. The Police Federation took it out on the specials. The firefighters took it out on the AFS;and one has only to think of the last "winter of discontent ", to remember when NUPE gave such kicks in the teeth to bodies like the Red Cross, the St. John's Ambulance and the WRVS.

Therefore the prerequisite for an effective civil defence organisation is that it must be a grass-roots community effort, based on the parish in the country and the ward in the cities. Mind you, my Lords, something like that has a spin-off for those in the regular services. I remember in the desert during the war when we used to listen to the news on our wireless sets. I had a cockney at my squadron headquarters. London had been bombed again, and I asked him whether he was unduly worried. He said: "Oh, not much, sir. You see, old Jeff so-and-so, who is the warden, is a great friend of the family. My uncle Fred is a firewatcher. So if anything happens to my family, first they'd look after them, and second they'd let me know". I think that that shows one of the points that should always be borne in mind about having a civil defence organisation.

The great upsurge in public demand for an adequate civil defence organisation has been mirrored by several Press articles recently. Four such articles by Peter Evans in The Times (in which my organisation got quite a write-up) were followed by a leader headed, "A lethal failure of duty "—Government, please note.

The Daily Telegraph of 4th February had a long leader headed, "Self-Defence ", and commencing: A nationwide organisation for civil defence is essential to the security of the realm". It went on to say that every Chinese child knows the way to the air-raid shelter, and pointed out later the efforts made in Sweden and Switzerland—neutral countries who do a damned sight more than we do. I would have added Norway, where every male between the age of 16 and 60 has a niche in his country's emergency defence. For example, no new house can be built without its built-in air-raid shelter—its wine cellar, or whatever you like. The Daily Telegraph ended its article by saying: The time is ripe for the whole of Britain to follow the example of the Devonians". As chairman of the aforementioned Devonians, I hereby offer the Government the results of our experiences and our mistakes, so that we can perhaps now get a countrywide organisation.

I would add one more thing about the volunteers. They must be controlled by the volunteers;your permanent advisers must be just that. My last job as a regular soldier was as a training major to a TA battallion, and I was just that. My CO was a local bank manager, and that was also helpful. That is how a civil defence organisation should be run. Memories are long, my Lords. What happened in 1968 is that, because the civil defence organisation was controlled by the Government, it was abolished. The other parts of home and civil defence, because they were independent—the Red Cross, the St. John Ambulance—were able to continue. Only last month I met a man who had been the head of the Hampstead area of the old civil defence. He told me how, when its abolition was announced in 1968, grown men just sat down and wept. So you must be careful. If you are going to resuscitate—and, please God!, do—a civil defence organisation, do not put it under the control of either the Government or local govern-ment. Let the volunteers provide the advisers, because they are afraid that you have only to get a change of government, local or national, and they will be abolished.

Finally, the Home Office should no longer delay the publication of its pamphlet Protect and Survive. It should be rewritten it should be updated it should include something to do with the recent terrific increase in chemical and biological warfare by the Russians;and, for the rural areas, you should re-issue the sectional part to do with the farmers. The argument that it should not be issued because it would cause panic does not hold water. Anyway, it is much better to have a panic buying of, say, tinned food now than to have a panic buying of tinned food too late.

I am sorry I have gone on for so long but I would say, finally, that unless you release training equipment soonest we shall not be able to get our volunteers trained in time—and I hope that the Home Office has not "flogged "the lot. I would say just this: please remember that civil defence is essential to our overall defence strategy. Other countries have recognised it;it is time we did. I beg to move for Papers.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for enabling us to debate this matter, which is vital to our national survival. I must warn your Lordships that I am going to bring down the average speaking time considerably, and that I am not going to speak for very long. I want to make only one point. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, thought that might deal with the air defence of this country. I must say that my experience of 40 years ago in Wellingtons and Lancasters hardly qualifies me for speaking on this matter at the present day, especially when down on the enormous list of speakers we have field marshals and generals with recent staff experience. But I should like to say (perhaps in slight disagreement with the noble Lord) that in our party and from these Benches we have always placed our trust in NATO, in combination with our allies, in the best and most economical use of our resources together with our allies;and that we are pleased (not delighted, perhaps, but certainly pleased) that members of NATO have agreed to up their spending by a real 3 per cent. I think that is an important step, and it is one which we may well need to take further;but there is no question or shadow of doubt in our minds at all but that the core of our defence must lie in our association with NATO.

However, defence is indivisible, and I should like to talk for a very short time on civil defence. As I understand it from the Adjournment Debate in another place, we are at the present moment spending £22 million a year on keeping civil defence in cold storage. I think we must re-examine this, as the Government are doing, and I understand that they have promised the result of their review some time after the Easter Recess. We look forward to that eagerly;but such is the interest in the subject throughout the country at the present time that I hope the Minister will give us at least part of the answer in his reply to this debate today.

My Lords, I was recently in China with the parliamentary delegation led by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, and there we had an interview lasting some two hours with the No. 5 man in that enormous nation, a Vice-Premier. He was talking about China's attitude to the Russian threat. He said, "Of course we would be beaten, overcome, in a nuclear war, but we could lose 100 million people, 200 million people, 300 million people "—and he repeated these horrifying figures up to 500 million people—" but we would still survive". The point of this story is that his determination was enormously convincing;and it was quite obvious that they were taking immense precautions in civil defence, and that the whole people were trained or at least informed. Today, our people are not informed. People are in entire ignorance of what they might do in case of a nuclear attack.

If the great deterrent is to deter—and the whole purpose of defence now must be to stop war—then we need to be credible. All I want to ask the Minister is: Does he really think that the £22 million spent on keeping civil defence in cold storage is enough? I do not think it is enough to make us credible, and I think that we must do more if the rest of our efforts are to bear the fruit we want, which is, of course, to stop war and keep us safe.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, this debate is being held at a time when the reality of the threat to the Western Alliance is uppermost in our minds, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for initiating a debate on matters which require the attention of Parliament. Indeed, this debate has attracted as speakers a long list of your Lordships who have first-hand experience of the many matters which fall within the scope of the noble Lord's Motion today—speakers who include the next speaker, my noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, who will be speaking for the first time in this House. I must say that chairmanship of Ways and Means ought to qualify someone admirably for finding methods of solving the intractable problems of civil defence. I and, I know, all noble Lords will be looking forward to hearing the noble Lord for the first time.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for wording his Motion in the way he has. Because the noble Lords, Lord Mackie of Benshie and Lord Clifford, with their first-hand knowledge of military matters have made the interesting speeches that they have, I intend, if your Lordships will allow me, to concentrate on the civil defence aspects;but I say that recognising fully that these form a part of the defence strategy. This is not a defence debate but it is right (is it not?) that we should remember the need for the fullest credibility in the United Kingdom's determination to defend itself.

Our defence strategy is based firmly on our membership of NATO and our deterrent philosophy requires us to be able to respond to aggression at any level. We deploy forces in Germany as part of our contribution to the conventional forward defence of NATO territory;we provide the majority of the ready naval forces in the Eastern Atlantic;we contribute nuclear forces to the alliance and we have strategic nuclear forces in the shape of our Polaris submarines. We must be ready to use any or all of these forces, conventional and nuclear, to resist aggression. But, in addition, one of the essential military tasks is home defence, which can perhaps more accurately be described as the defence of the United Kingdom.

Those words involve our national sovereignty. They also recognise the very important factor that this country in time of war would be the main base for the reinforcing of NATO. Defence of the United Kingdom includes, as the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, has said, among other things, intercepting air attacks, guarding key points against sabotage and reinforcing the forces of the NATO Alliance. But home defence also involves our will to survive when under attack and our ability to recover thereafter. Thus, in addition to the whole range of conventional and nuclear military capability, we have got to have a commitment to civil defence.

So, early last summer, the Government authorised a thorough-going study which was held in November at the Home Defence College at Easingwold, in Yorkshire. Before then, on behalf of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, I had visited the college to see at first-hand the work which the principal, Air-Marshal Sir Leslie Mayor, and his dedicated staff have been doing there for over seven years. Civil defence, above all, is about people: their functions in the event of attack, their morale and their survival. I should like to pay tribute to the manner in which Sir Leslie and the staff of the college have shown to all those who go to the college that civil defence planning is an effective preparation for dealing with the aftermath of nuclear attack.

The November study at Easingwold has formed an integral part of the wide-ranging review of home defence which the Home Secretary has instituted. This review involves virtually all departments of Government. If I may pick up one of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, made, I should like to give him the assurance that this review is reexamining the planning assumptions upon which our home defence ought to be based;and, in doing so, it is taking serious account of the possibilities of conventional air attack on this country. Also, the speed with which an international crisis could deepen would have major implications far across the whole spectrum of home defence for both local and central Government, for all the public utilities and essential services, and for the peace-time emergency services, the police, fire and ambulance. All these considerations are forming part of this review.

But the Government must keep a close eye on expenditure and ensure that any improvements to the existing arrangements will be fully cost-effective. The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, had every right to point out that the present annual home defence expenditure of £22 million in real terms is not high. In fact, in real terms it is three times less than home defence expenditure in 1968 when civil defence was put on a care-and-maintenance basis. But there is no doubt that the money being spent on civil defence at the moment is being used to considerable effect. The United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation is at a high state of readiness;there is provision for wartime government and broadcasting;essential training is taking place;we maintain strategic stocks of food, medical supplies and special equipment;and the Government continue to provide 75 per cent. of the cost of approved expenditure on local authority planning. We shall ensure that the cost of additional policy options is thoroughly examined in this review so that the public can see what it is we need to do and what, as a country, as taxpayers, we are willing to see spent in this area.

The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, spoke about the value of the voluntary effort and, particularly, of the value of the work of the Territorial Army. Many noble Lords will know from personal experience how absolutely crucial is voluntary service in time of war. I think we would all agree that it is remarkable that the voluntary spirit continues to contribute so greatly to civil defence in time of peace. In addition to the activities and the dedication of our reserve forces, there is the efficient and unobtrusive way in which members of the Royal Observer Corps go about their duties. Some 10,000 members of the ROC constitute the field force of the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation. They are all part-time volunteers with the exception of some 70 full-time officers. I have had the opportunity to meet their commanding officer, Air Commodore Howe, and I have seen something of the valuable work which the ROC do. As I said in reply to a Question by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing last week, the radiac equipment of the ROC has been maintained in good working condition. The men and women of the ROC stand ready to provide an essential warning of patterns and levels of radiation fall-out following a nuclear attack.

Less well-known are the body of volunteer scientific advisers who train for their designated wartime roles at county, regional and sub-regional headquarters —men of considerable qualifications and commitments who give of their time and effort voluntarily and unsparingly. Then there are those voluntary organisations which make their considerable contribution at local level—and at national level as well—to civil defence preparation: the British Red Cross Society, the St. John Ambulance Association and Brigade and the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. I realise that many people regret the absence now of the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Civil Defence Corps which were disbanded in 1968.

I should like to make it crystal clear that the Government are anxious to see greater encouragement for volunteers and our present review is paying particular attention to this. But I think that we may find that the key to this lies in locally-organised effort. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, presides over a body of truly county status—which he spoke about with pride—the Devon Emergency Volunteers. I know that they have been in regular touch with the local authority and they have played their part in informing local communities in Devon of the protective measures which might usefully be taken should war threaten. They have also given valuable help in times of severe weather and flooding.

Other counties are also active in the same cause and undoubtedly possess citizens with similar experience and personal qualities, and the way the Government are thinking at the moment is to urge local authorities to tap the voluntary effort within their areas, so that civil defence planning can be more effective at community level. In speaking, incidentally, of voluntary effort, I am not forgetting the work of the National Voluntary Civil Aid Services of which H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh is patron. This, too, is a voluntary body, which I am sure your Lordships will agree commends itself to the local authorities in the discharge of their planning responsibilities under the 1974 regulations.

My Lords, I am absolutely certain in my own mind that we all respond best when we know the facts of a situation. One way in which the Government believe that this can be achieved is by publishing the booklet which is called Protect and Survive. There is nothing secret about this publication, but what has happened is that only about 2,250 copies have been printed in the past and most are distributed for training and planning purposes. Until now, the plan has been to print and distribute a copy for every household in times of crisis. Now the Government have decided to update the booklet and put it on sale at about the time my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announces the outcome of the civil defence review, which he hopes will be soon after the Easter Recess.

In 1978—just two years ago—two Conservative MPs, Mr. Banks, the Member for Harrogate, and Mr. Hodgson who was at that time a Member in another place, published a pamphlet which was called:Britain's Home Defence Gamble. It was an important contribution, because the authors methodically put the case for home defence, examined the policy and then made recommendations for the future. In our review we are taking a close look at all the points to which Robert Banks and Robin Hodgson particularly drew attention—and not least their call for more effective co-ordinating machinery.

As to that, let us not underestimate the work of the emergency planning teams of the GLC and the county councils, nor the work of the county emergency planning officers. I hope, if I may say so, that your Lordships who have experience of voluntary organisations will tell the House of how you see the co-ordination at county level working out in practice: but may I end by saying a word about two services which are crucial to civil defence.

The first of those two services is the police who have standing plans for its role in war and those plans are reviewed regularly. Each home defence region has one of its chief constables designated as regional police commander who is in regular contact with the local authorities and other bodies who have home defence responsibilities: and training, both locally and at the Home Defence College, form part of police training for duties in time of war.

In all this, the role of the Voluntary Special Constabulary is of the greatest importance. In an emergency, the Special Constabulary would be a vital addition to the forces with which they have worked and trained, and this is a contributory reason why the Police Advisory Board has recently set up a working party—as I was able to tell my noble friend Lora Inglewood recently—in order to try to look into the ways of how to reverse the reduction in numbers of the Special Constabulary which has occurred in recent years.

The other service is the Fire Service. Forty years ago, firemen played a wartime role which will never be forgotten. If called upon again, the peacetime manpower of brigades would be augmented by the enrolment as soon as possible into full-time service of as many part-time retained men as possible. There arc about 3,850 fire appliances in use throughout the country and these would be reinforced by the 1,000 "green godesses "and other equipment held in store which has been refurbished and brought into a state of readiness for emergency use.

My Lords, I hope that I have spoken with some realism to the House this afternoon. The expenditure implications of some aspects of our review are potentially very serious, and it is going to be for Parliament and for the country to decide what additional responsibilities we are going to be able to shoulder. If ever there was an area of public policy which involves us all, it is surely home defence. That is why we have decided to publish Protect and Survive; that is why we shall be coming to Parliament with the outcome of our review. That is why I welcome this debate today——


My Lords, would the Minister, before he sits down, refer to the provision of air raid shelters, which he has not mentioned?


My Lords, I can certainly do so. I was hoping that I might be free to do so when I wind up, if the noble Lord will forgive me. If the noble Lord will not be here at such a late hour, may I say very briefly that the provision of shelter accommodation—which I know is an absolutely vital question—forms part of my right honourable friend's review. Meanwhile, going on within the Home Office—and it has been going on for some time—is a most urgent study of how it may be possible to advise the public that they can have easily-provided family shelters against nuclear fall-out. That is the work which is going on at the moment. Meanwhile, after Easter I hope that I shall be in a position, along with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, to be reporting to the public on shelter accommodation in a rather wider ambit.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Belstead for the very kind remarks which he made regarding myself during part of his speech. I must confess that, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems to me that it was a mistake by the Government in 1968 when they decided to put home defence on to a care-and-maintenance basis. In this respect, my Lords, I would in the short time that I shall detain you refer only to home defence in its civil defence aspect. We were told in effect at that time that money spent on civil defence was in the nature of an insurance premium;and that it was the Government's duty to balance the size of the premium against the risks involved. The risks were supposed to have lessened and therefore the premium would be reduced—and indeed so it was.

Domestic economic pressure obviously played some part in that decision, although there was a general belief at that time in the military concept of a strategic stalemate. A situation was envisaged in which an assault by one power upon another would risk certain political, military and economic destruction in a retaliatory attack. This was the concept, I understand, of "Mutually Assured Destruction "—MAD for short—and if I may suggest it, mad in fact in execution should that ever have occurred.

Before that crucial decision in 1968, civil defence had been recognised as an active as well as an integral part of national defence strategy. It had the role of limiting damage to the home base. Its purpose was to minimise human casualties;to ensure the survival of government and the machinery of government;to maintain law and order and to save some of our industrial capacity from total destruction. The change of Government in 1970 brought no significant difference in attitude or belief, and I mention this in order to be entirely impartial in any criticism that I make and to keep myself nut of controversy on this occasion.

Signs of some heightening of international tension, mainly as a result of the Russian incursion into Afghanistan, have brought the question of home defence again into sharp focus. Many of us are becoming apprehensive about the low level of preparedness. In this connection, I am reassured by what my noble friend Lord Belstead has said this afternoon. However, it must be conceded that there are two schools of thought on this subject. There is one main group which holds the belief that strategic nuclear weapons will never be used. Allied to that group is another school which considers that the chances of mutual devastation are too great to be risked. Again, there are those who believe that if nuclear weapons were used all home defence, whatever its size, would be useless. There are also others who believe that to embark now on a comprehensive programme of building shelters for protection and of building up civil defence would cause an enemy to believe that a pre-emptive missile strike might be contemplated by us and our allies, and that the enemy of the time might react accordingly.

The other school of thought requires that something more positive should now be done. I belong to that persuasion, and indeed I would suggest that although we talk principally of nuclear destruction and the use of missiles with nuclear warheads, we should not forget it is quite possible that in the event of hostilities there could be heavy conventional strikes, using what we used to call "conventional means of delivery".

A first-class United Kingdom warning and monitoring system exists, and the Royal Observer Corps is still very much in being. What is not so clear is the state of readiness and efficiency of the home defence chain of command, comprising regions, sub-regions, local authority district and other councils. I was myself a controller-designate in the early 1960s, after I had reached the age limit for recall to the Territorial Army Reserve of officers. I should doubt very much whether the state of readiness now, overall, is as good as it was nearly 20 years ago—certainly not, it would appear, in some of the lower echelons in the chain of command.

There was an excellent programme on ITV on the 28th February last in Thames Report entitled "The Bomb". The deputy leader of a certain London borough was interviewed in the course of that programme. When asked how many of the borough staff were engaged on home defence planning he replied "One". When asked how much the borough spent on home defence preparation last year, he said between £250 and £300. In answer to a further question, he stated that in his borough people were more interested in social security and new roads than in any bomb. He personally was for peace: exactly—but at what price? I suggest, my Lords, that the price would be too high to contemplate.

What we do know is that the annual national expenditure on home defence is only some £32.9 million out-turn, including £13 million for the stock-piling of food. The estimate of expenditure for the coming year is £22.9 million. This brings me to an important point. There is a lack of conscious public awareness of the dangers, not only by the general public but also apparently among some of their elected representatives at local government level: and for that there is little excuse. There has been very little publicity. Notable exceptions are recent articles in The Times, the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph, as the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, has already mentioned—and of course that ITV programme which I have mentioned. All drew attention to the present shortcomings of our home defence organisation. The TV programme did prove a point. A representative sample of people, when asked to stop and think seriously about the nuclear threat, expressed some unease, somewhat naturally, and over 40 per cent. admitted, on thought, to the view that there could well be a nuclear war some day.

Is it right, therefore, to keep people in ignorance unless and until the threat escalates towards reality?—and pray God it never will! Education, instruction and advice should be undertaken now to prevent the possibility of panic and confusion later. An unprepared and uninstructed population is peculiarly susceptible to a war of nerves. We, as a resolute ally of the United States of America, have given agreement in principle to the siting in Britain of American-built and American-manned cruise missiles. This knowledge, coupled with the fact that the United Kingdom, as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said, in an international crisis will be the main base for NATO reinforcements of men and materials from the North American continent, would not be lost on an enemy's strategic thinking.

There must be no appeasement in the face of threatening postures by an enemy. We should be equipped to call his bluff, even to the acceptance that there may be strategic bombing of our ports and airfields in the event of war, whether it be conventional or a nuclear strike. That acceptance only becomes feasible if the morale of the civil population remains reasonably high, and that can only be ensured if the people know that there is a fully-manned, well-trained and confident home defence corps behind them. At its most terrible, a nuclear attack on Britain could be in the order of 200 megatons, which is equal to 13,000 bombs of the type dropped on Hiroshima. Even so, it has been estimated that 60 per cent. of the population would survive in the worst-hit zone and up to 95 per cent. in areas least affected.

To some, thoughts of such casualties hardly bear contemplation;but if no precautions to protect the population are taken at all, the overall casualty figure could be 80 per cent. It is calculated that the precautions now advocated by the Home Office, on the basis of family units staying put in their own homes, would reduce the casualty figure overall to 40 per cent. But the significant fact is the belief that if we had properly constructed bombproof shelters, the casualty figures would fall to 20 per cent. The Swiss have decided on such a policy and so have the Swedes. Even the Russians have tackled the problem and, moreover, they spend over £500 million annually on civil defence.

Why should we not reactivate a national volunteer force on home defence? I personally regret the demise of the old Territorial Army. Whether as complete units of reinforcement in the field or as disciplined units in the United Kingdom land force, they were invaluable in time of war. Had they existed now they could have formed a ready source of disciplined manpower for home defence. I naturally acknowledge the spirit and skills of the new Territorial Army volunteers, but they are destined, surely, for an immediate active role as part of the Regular Army. Surely the spirit still exists to serve one's country? Cannot our young men and women be encouraged to give up some of their leisure time? We need a home defence corps, an auxiliary fire service, more special constabulary and all the ancillary services.

We must increase our preparedness and we must bear in mind three important considerations. First, if adequate and efficient home defence exists at a moment of crisis, the effect might well result in courageous rather than appeasing political decisions. Secondly, such protection of the civil population as can be achieved is fully justified on political as well as on humanitarian grounds. Thirdly, no Government have the moral right to dismiss any measures which could result in the saving of millions of innocent human beings from extinction.

Mr. Stewart Tendler, in an article in The Times newspaper, quotes George Santavana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". My Lords, we have been more than fortunate in two World Wars this century, Let us forget not the lessons which we have learned, at such a cost, in our two victories.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, it falls to me congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Murton, on his maiden speech. I am still fairly new. I feel very junior in this august assembly. I still retain a vivid memory of the nervous anguish which a maiden speech can cause. The noble Lord, Lord Murton, has shown no evidence of such nervous anguish. He has notably succeeded in making a very powerful case. I offer him my congratulations and the congratulations of the House. I hope that we shall often hear him in debate in days to come.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for his Motion and I pay tribute, with high respect, to the generous and patriotic motives that made him move it. But I hope he will forgive me if my sympathy ends there. I want to argue in language which some will think waspish. But with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, and to the Minister who has spoken, I want to argue that no measure of civil defence, in any war which we can realistically expect to have, will save a single life, and that to nurse a hope of safety from civil defence is to indulge a self-deceiving, futile and dangerous illusion—self-deceiving and futile because, as I said, civil defence will not save our lives;dangerous because it diverts attention from the only policy that gives us any genuine hope. It makes the public think that there will be safety where no safety is. It obscures the fact that the only way to avert disaster is to avert the war, and to abolish those offensive weapons without which aggressions cannot be begun.

Of course, I admit that in theory we can have, as the noble Lord, Lord Murton, has argued, a conventional war or a limited nuclear war in which few low yield weapons would be used. In such a case, civil defence might serve a purpose, I admit. But I believe that those two suppositions are unrealistic in a high degree. If we have a war, I believe that it will be the war which the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, in his famous article in The Times, has predicted. It will be the war of which the late Lord Mountbatten spoke in his speech at Strasbourg. It will be the war which the Home Office, in their manuals of civil defence 20 years ago and now, have warned us will take place.

Twenty years ago, the manuals told us that quite small bombs used on the harbours of our ports might put the ports entirely out of action. They would vaporise 100 million tons of water and blanket the entire area of the port;our sea communications would be cut and our seaborne imports would not come. Defeat might loom. But the manuals also warned us that the main attack on Britain would be made by much larger bombs, by 10 megaton bombs, bombs with a yield of 10 million tons of TNT, and they told us what such bombs would do. They said that in an area 20 miles across everything would be totally destroyed by blast and fire. They said that the area covered by the fall-out would be much greater still. The late Lord Blackett, Patrick Blackett of King's College, estimated that the area would extend 230 miles downwind and 50 miles across at its widest point. He said that 10, 12 or 15 such bombs would put us out of any war.

I add another judgment, which will carry weight in your Lordships' House. In 1965, two years after he had signed the test ban treaty in Moscow, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, said in another place: Perhaps in a nuclear war some people in America might survive—I do not know. Perhaps some people in Russia might survive—I do not know. But one thing I do know. No one in these islands will survive. The case against civil defence does not depend alone on judgments such as these, or on the words of great authorities who have said that the whole human race will perish. It rests, also, on our long-sustained and large-scale experience of trying to create a credible system of civil defence. Twenty years ago, we spent a lot of money. NATO had 9 million men in its civil defence forces. But the most memorable experience was in the United States. They spent much more money than we did. They had a very able federal administrator, Mr. Petersen. Mr. Petersen organised exercises on a local, a regional and a national scale. Everybody took part. Even President Eisenhower and his staff flew in a helicopter to an emergency headquarters outside their capital.

Mr. Petersen made the United States very nuclear-minded. The Governor of California never travelled anywhere without his iron rations in his car. He was ready for a sudden nuclear attack. A Christian priest advised his flock that it would be no sin to kill a neighbour, if the neighbour sought to force an entry into his family shelter. The city of Las Vegas raised an armed force of 5,000 men to repel invading Californians, if they should seek to flee from a nuclear attack. The history of American experience is told in Mr. Petersen's annual reports. In 1954, after his exercise, he said there would be 22 million casualties, of whom 7 million would be dead. In 1956 he said that the dead would number 56 million, and in 1957 he said—I quote his words: If the whole 170 million Americans had air raid shelters, at least 50 per cent. of them would die in a sudden enemy attack". He added: In the last analysis, there is no such thing as a nation being prepared for thermo-nuclear war". With those words he buried the great experiment of the United States in civil defence. He buried what we were doing in Europe. It ended in failure and oblivion—no, not oblivion.

Noble Lords have recalled it this afternoon and I recall, with a sense of outrage, that our Home Office manuals used to say that civil defence would save millions of lives. I have a sense of outrage that the Home Office is now distributing to every citizen a picture pamphlet with the title "Protect and Survive". I am deeply shocked by the obscene gentility with which they seek to prevent the public from knowing the true facts. They have felt obliged to send a circular to town councillors and mayors which tells them that a bomb would leave so many dead that the corpses must be shovelled into a common grave;religious rites, last wishes and bequests, identification of the bodies would be impossible. They say that that circular is sent only to those who have a need to know and that no other copies are available. With respect, I believe that every citizen has a need to know. I believe he has a right to know that a nuclear holocaust will be a shambles in which every observance of respect for death will be impossible. I think such manuals and pamphlets would be assessed at their true value if people could come to understand what a nuclear bomb is really like.

I speak with feeling. I read for many years the books about the subject. I knew the estimates and the forecasts of the experts but I had no true inkling of what a bomb was like until I went to see Hiroshima, to visit the Peace Museum, to see the photographs of the disaster, to hear the tapes, to talk with survivors—dozens of them who were present in the city when the bomb exploded—to stand on the anniversary day of that explosion beside the cenotaph with the vast concourse of the present citizens and to relive the sequence of terrible events that happened now three and a half decades ago.

I want to try, with the indulgence of the House, and greatly daring, to make your Lordships relive what I relived in Hiroshima beside the cenotaph. I want to make your Lordships feel as though the sequence of events were happening to your Lordships now.

Hiroshima, 6th August 1945, 8.15 a.m., a perfect summer day: gentle breezes, sunshine, a blue sky. A blue sky is for happiness in Japan. The streets are full of people: people going to work, people going to shop, people—smaller people—going to school. The air raid siren sounds but no one runs, no one goes to shelter. There is only a single aircraft in this enemy raid. The aircraft steers a course across the city. Above the centre, something falls. It falls and falls-20 seconds, 30 seconds, 40—and then there is a sudden searing flash of blinding light, hotter and brighter than a thousand suns. Those who are looking at it have their eyes burned in their sockets. They will never look on men or things again.

In the street below other people are walking—a lady as beautiful as she is elegant, a businessman in charge of great affairs, a clever student, the leader of his class, a little girl, laughing as she runs. They are in the street, walking. Then suddenly they are not there. The lovely lady, the business man, the brilliant student, the scampering little girl have vanished, utterly consumed in the furnace of the flash. There are no ashes, even on the pavement—nothing but their black shadows on the stones.

Then comes the blast. For two kilometres in all directions every building, every structure is levelled to the ground. The people inside are buried in the ruins of their homes. Lorries, vans, men and women, babies, prams, are picked up and hurled, like bullets, 100 metres through the air. The blast piles its victims in huge heaps on the corners of the street—heaps seven, eight layers of corpses deep. I know a man and a woman who looked for seven days for their little grandson. When they found him. one layer below the top, he was still breathing but all the doctors in Hiroshima could not save his life.

Then the fireball touches the earth. Conflagrations spring up in every quarter. Swept by tornado winds, they rush together in a single firestorm. Tens of thousands more, trapped by walls of flame that leap higher than the highest tower in the town, swiftly, or in longer agony, are burned to death. And everything goes black. The mushroom cloud rises to the very vault of heaven. It carries with it many thousand tons of poison, there to fall out. The fall-out comes down again. It covers everything in Hiroshima not already rendered lethal and so those who have escaped the flash, the river, the blast, the fire, will die within a shorter or a longer time.

My Lords, the first atom bomb weighed two kilogrammes—less than 5 lbs. It was a little larger than a cricket ball. It killed 140,000 people on that August day. In 1978 more than 2,000 died in Hiroshima of its long-delayed effects. Today there are very many young adults who were only embryos in their mothers' wombs when the bombs exploded. They have leukaemia and shortly they will die. Babies are being born with tiny heads—and that first atom bomb was what the science editor of The Times called "A nuclear midget". We should be attacked with bombs a thousand times as powerful as that.

Against such a danger civil defence offers us no help, but there is a policy that does. In his speech on Afghanistan the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary spoke of the interdependence of all nations. If the peoples will come to understand their common interest in survival;if they will make their governments abolish war, as they are pledged to do;if they will abolish the offensive weapons without which aggression cannot be begun, as they are pledged to do, then science, no longer the prostitute of war, will make a world in which the youth of every nation will find it glorious to he alive.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, we must all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for the opportunity that he has given us this afternoon to debate this important and rather neglected subject. I should like to add my congratulations on the constructive and effective maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne and I should like to say also at the start that as the noble Lord. Lord Noel-Baker, will soon see, I am unable to follow the distinguished and sincere speech which he has just made, except to try to take a more positive line, because I think that fine words and fine sentiments are insufficient to protect and give us confidence against the possible aggression of a nation that is clearly on the march.

We all wait with great interest to hear the results of the Government's review of the state of civil defence in this country. Although it will cover a wide range of related problems and the need to reactivate our civil defence preparations, the most important aspect, I believe, will be to what extent the general public should now become involved in these preparations and plans. It is to that aspect that I wish to confine what I hope will be a short speech this afternoon.

As my noble friend the Minister, Lord Belstead, has said there is now in this country without any doubt widespread awareness and anxiety about Russian military preparations and the threat that these provide, and that anxiety has been heightened by the Soviet military aggression in Afghanistan. Many men and women of all ages throughout the country would welcome the opportunity to volunteer and commit themselves to play some part in strengthening our civil defence preparedness, whether for the protection of themselves and their families in their own homes or for the protection of the community as a whole.

Mr. Frank Allaun, a Member of the other place, and chairman of Labour Action for Peace, wrote recently to the Daily Telegraph and said that he disagreed that the Civil Defence Corps should be revived because there was no possible civil defence against nuclear weapons and because to reactivate civil defence would frighten people into supporting a war. That is very much the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker has just put forward. I regard that as the advice of despair, with which I cannot agree. Not everybody will be within the area of total destruction, even if it is a 20-mile radius from the ground zero of the nuclear strikes. Not everybody will be savagely affected by radiation and blast even if they are within 200 miles of the ground zero of the missile. Adequate civil defence precautions will not only improve the survival rate and reduce unnecessary casualties but will also establish a basis for recovery from the resulting chaos—and I do not underrate that chaos. I know it is just as awful as the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, described, but it will not be total. There will be people who will be able to survive and recover and that is what this debate is all about.

Furthermore, as my noble friend the Minister and my noble friend Lord Murton pointed out, it is by no means certain that if war occurred Russia would resort to nuclear attack. She posseses a powerful capacity to bombard British cities with conventional explosives, using her S.S. 20 missiles and the supersonic backfire bombers. A civil defence organisation would be just as vital in that case as with an all-out nuclear attack.

In mentioning Mr. Allaun's letter I must say that I agree with his final sentence when he says that the best defence against a war is to prevent that war from ever happening, although I very much doubt whether we would agree on the best way to achieve that. We all realise how dreadful war is and we share exactly the views of the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, recognising in particular how dreadful and devastating nuclear war would he. But to do nothing and to leave ourselves completely unprotected, would in my opinion, be an act of total irresponsibility. I believe that it is the urgent duty of the Government to revive and strengthen our civil defence preparations, not only for our national security but because it enhances the credibility and deterrence of our national defence posture.

It is ironical that Sweden and Switzerland, both traditionally neutral countries, have considerably better and more thorough civil defence preparations than we have. Indeed in Switzerland those people not required for military service, for conscription, are compelled to serve in civil defence. A Swiss Civil Protection Service official, commenting recently on Britain's civil defence preparations, said: We cannot afford to be as slipshod about our survival as you are in Britain". Our present policy seems to be to maintain a small nucleus of Home Office planning staff with a total strength of, I believe, 125 throughout the country, who, with an ever-declining budget, keep the broad plans alive. Presumably with this policy we would wait until war is imminent and peace has collapsed before this very small nucleus began to impart their knowledge and skills, in pamphlets and by other methods, to the civilian population, at the very moment when people will he too anxious and harassed to digest it. There are so many skills and different tasks and techniques involved in a sound civil defence preparation that the sooner the public are informed and involved the better. Volunteers would be forthcoming, of all ages, both sexes;of that I have absolutely no doubt. It if is decided not to revive the Civil Defence Corps then these volunteers could be channelled into the many existing full-time and voluntary organisations, the police, the Fire Service, the Red Cross, WRVS, St. John's Ambulance Brigade and so on. To co-ordinate all this activity the county emergency planning officers who now exist will need to have their staff increased, albeit with suitable voluntary workers, in order to provide a chain of communication for planning and training right down to each community throughout the country.

Therefore, my Lords, in conclusion, I wish to say that I strongly support a revived and strengthened civil defence organisation with full public voluntary participation: first of all, because it is the Government's urgent duty to do so now. People not only want this but want to know about it and want to take some part in it themselves. It is a form of deterrence without any sabre rattling, without implying any threat to anybody;and, finally, because it is an essential part of our national security for the Government to take action now, before it is too late.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh has done us a useful service by putting down this Motion. I hope it will also prove to have been timely, because we know that the Home Secretary is to make a Statement on Government intentions after Easter, and we must all hope that our discussions this afternoon will not be too late to be taken into account, despite the fact that no doubt that Statement is in an advanced state of readiness.

My Lords, I totally agree with everything that has been said, in the other place on 20th February, in Lord OrrEwing's Starred Question on 27th February, and so far during this debate, about the dangers to which all too evidently we are now exposed, and about the urgency of taking appropriate steps to remedy the neglect in our civil and home defence preparation. In such a long list of speakers I have no intention of taking your Lord- ships' time with any particular measures, and I will be limiting my few remarks to civil defence.

Everyone in your Lordships' House holds my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker in the highest respect for his lifelong work for peace. No one would dissent from his proposition that the way to defend ourselves is to prevent the holocaust, the catastrophe which we are discussing, falling upon us. But he knows as well as we do that we are living in an imperfect world, in a very dangerous world, and that it would be against all nature not to do anything. All life depends upon there being hope, but hope that nothing is going to happen is just not good enough. We have to hope that we can survive: otherwise there would be very little point in continuing to live.

It is against that background, and against my agreement in principle that we have got to do something, that I was very glad to learn from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that the report in The Times on the 22nd February is apparently correct in forecasting that the Government are not contemplating a period of compulsory adult service for civil defence or home defence training. That is the proposal of the National Association for Service to the Realm, who are calling for a year's national service at age 18. I think that is misguided, and, to hammer the point home, I think they are indulging in muddled thinking. In a handout that no doubt many of your Lordships have had they write of a real need for some form of national service for school-leavers as a reinforcement to our standing army and as a backup to civil defence service in case of need. They go on to say: We therefore propose that there should be a period of national service of one year for all young men at 18 years of age". Who are these young men, school-leavers of 18 years of age? They belong to a very small minority of the young people of this nation, most of whom are continuing in private education as a kind of insurance policy paid for by their parents. They are a tiny minority of the school-leavers in this country.

My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, that there is something to be said for repeated annual periods of training of a few weeks' duration, not limited, of course, to the 18 to 19-year-olds but for older people as well, on the Swiss model to which he referred;but I believe that 12 months would be far too long, far too costly and far too disruptive of our economy. I also fear that, while there would be a willing response from some young men and women, there would also be many other young people of both sexes who would be, to put it mildly, very reluctant conscripts.

Without the actuality of a national emergency there would also soon be boredom;and boredom and reluctance is not a very sound recipe for the defence of the Realm. I recall the effect of the compulsory military service which persisted into the 'fifties. The call-up at 18 created a gap of three years after leaving school at 15 which was very unsatisfactory and unsettling for employers and young employees alike. I speak with some knowledge about this, because it was the serious effects of this gap and the hope to do something about it which moved the Duke of Edinburgh to launch his award scheme for boys between 15 and 18, in February 1956. Need I add, particularly directing my remarks to Lord Belstead, that, as we are constantly reminded, politics is the art of the possible I wonder, can it realistically be asserted that there would at this time be the requisite measure of public consent across party lines for a general call-up of adult citizens?

On the other hand, my Lords, there is, in my view, a strong case for creating a professional national cadre as a framework for expansion into a civil defence corps and for appealing for volunteers to man it. We have heard of Lord Clifford's initiative in Devon, and I have no doubt whatever that there would be a very ready response throughout the land, everywhere, and that it would be filled by highly motivated people of high quality and between them having the necessary qualifications. In fact the nucleus is, surely, already there in what is known as civil aid.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred to other measures which must be taken, the initiative to be taken by local authorities. I would say this to my noble friend Lord Clifford, that local authorities alone can make the masterplans for civil defence at a local level. They alone can coordinate the actions of the police. the fire services and the medical and ambu- lance services. There is, of course, everything to be said for encouraging the appropriate voluntary organisations—and we have heard several mentioned this afternoon—to make their own plans and to undertake training for such tasks as the statutory authorities invite them to undertake in a war emergency. Citizens Advice Bureaux—which have not been mentioned this afternoon—will undoubtedly have a very important role in counselling citizens on what steps they might be taking now in preparation for conventional and nuclear war, and what they should and can do if such a calamity were to occur. But I hope that I have not wasted your Lordships' time because, from Mr. Leon Brittan's Statement in the other place on 20th February, and from what we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, it would seem certain that all these matters will be adequately dealt with by the Home Secretary in his Statement.

I turn to another matter which I hope your Lordships will not regard as irrelevant to the theme of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. I should like to talk briefly about a matter which was touched on—and I should like belatedly to congratulate him on a splendid maiden speech—by the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, and which I regard as a prerequisite to a national readiness to face up to the consequences of a war. In The Times of 22nd February Peter Hennessy wrote: a new spirit favourable to serious civil defence preparation in the United Kingdom is abroad in Whitehall". I am referring to something rather wider than what one might call the "spirit of self-protection "in and around your Lordships' House and the Palace of Westminster. I am referring to the need to generate to a degree far greater than appears to be the case at present, a new spirit in our nation of self-respect, confidence, belief in our kind of democracy;a spirit of community and national pride. a spirit of unity and purpose. Those seem to me to be the elements which should inform, inspire and fortify an effective home defence. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Murton, was thinking very much along those lines in his splendid speech.

In the debate of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London on 21st November last year, I proposed that, as one measure which might contribute towards that very desirable end, there should be a limited commitment on the part of all young people before—and I repeat "before "—attaining adult status, to continue beyond 16 with a programme of further education, with the theme of training for citizenship. The main feature would be some involvement in service to their own communities. It would, therefore, be neighbourhood based. It would be framed in terms of hours, or perhaps weeks, spread and staggered over two years after leaving school until their eighteenth birthday. It could be fitted into day release and block release schemes as well as being done in their spare time. It would be so arranged as not to interfere with jobs, further or higher education or technical training. It would not involve displacement from the places where young people live and, hopefully, work. It would therefore cost very much less than any form of call-up, however short. It might very well be operated by the social services. I should be grateful if the Minister could find a moment, when replying to the debate, to make some comment on that suggestion which, as far as I am concerned, I have been making for some time past.

Perhaps the most important point to make about this type of service is that it would not be merely in preparation for an emergency which we all hope might never occur: it is for real. It is meeting actual, visible, pressing needs, both for individual people and for the neighbourhood locally, which are not yet met, despite community service orders made by the courts, and despite the volunteer effort that is taking, place. It offers, in my humble opinion, the best chance of changing attitudes and of creating that new spirit in our nation. Without that spirit I doubt that we would have an effective defence against our enemies in war.

I should like to make one final point and it is probably the most important of all. In 1940 Churchill's stirring words evoked a response from the whole nation: We shall fight in the streets, we shall fight in the fields …we shall never surrender". It was not only those brave and defiant words, it was the man, the calibre and the stature of the person who spoke them, who drew us together in defence of the Realm. If ever such a calamity as we have been discussing this afternoon were to befall us, I can only pray that we should again be blessed with that type and calibre of leadership which would unite and inspire this nation.

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, I feel sure that all your Lordships would wish to share in the gratitude that I should like to express to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for raising this important matter. I should also like to add my own congratulations on the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne—and I hope, as a mere Scot, that I have pronounced his name correctly.

The debate has in the main centred around a nuclear attack on Britain: either nuclear bombs or some nuclear missile. As the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, has said, it is a terrible prospect, but it must be envisaged. In such an attack the points of delivery will be from land, sea and air. The points of acceptance will he confined not to military targets but to industrial and civil centres. The holocaust of the strategic bomb will be such as to make the destruction of Hamburg and the destruction of Dresden look like candlelight compared to an arc lamp. Millions will die.

As regards civil defence protection, up to now I think that the population of this country has been very largely ignorant, uninstructed and apathetic. In 1968 civil defence was put into cold storage and only now is energy beginning to be shown, but it is still in the early stage. The same money has been expended on civil defence for the last five years. I understand that there are 125 civil servants now engaged in civil defence.

My fear is that we shall do too little, too late. In saying that, my mind goes back to 1938 and the pathetic digging of trenches in St. James's Park. I believe that the only real civil defence lies in our power to retaliate. The power of offence means a realisation by intending aggressors that aggression will be swiftly followed by delivery of sufficient destructive power to devastate their cities and their industries. The West may never achieve parity with the Soviet forces, but, no matter, for I do not believe that parity is as important as sufficiency. Provided we have sufficient power to retaliate we need not worry very much about parity. After all, it does not much matter;it is rather an academic question. If you are incinerated by an enormous atomic bomb at 10,000 degrees centigrade or by a lesser bomb at 7,000 degrees centigrade, you are incinerated just the same. Therefore, I say that sufficiency and not parity should be our aim.

In sufficiency lies our true civil defence. Thank goodness the West is now taking emergency measures. I believe that there are to be 110 sites in this country and in the rest of Western Europe;that Polaris is to be brought up to date;and that various other measures are to be taken. However, for two reasons I cannot entirely regret the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. My first reason is that it needed some dramatic world event to bring home to our people the very real danger we face from powerful, ruthless Russian forces. My second reason for not entirely regretting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is that, knowing our determination to achieve sufficiency and looking at the world reaction to the Russian invasion of that country, it may be—and perhaps I am being optimistic—that Russia will adopt a new mood of approach to detente and enter into real negotiations for arms limitation.

Time is not on our side;nor is it on the side of the Russians. By the mid-1980s countries of the Third World may well be in the nuclear field. Unless the world is hell-bent on self-destruction, sooner or later we must stop this crazy build-up of nuclear forces in the world. For the reasons I have given, I hope that the wicked Soviet aggression in Afghanistan will throw up some benefits for ourselves and for the free world.

I come to my final words, and if they are at all sentimental I do not apologise because they are factual. I have grandchildren, as do many noble Lords, and some younger noble Lords have children still growing up. We do not want our children to grow up under the shadow of nuclear peril, where the sunlight of their lives could in a moment be turned into the darkness of oblivian. I believe that if their voices could be heard, Russian parents would not feel differently. It must be our duty to ensure that that does not happen.

5.14 p.m.


My Lords, I follow the eloquent, sincere, but for me somewhat familiar speech that we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, who, probably for good reason, has absented himself from the Chamber. No doubt the noble Lord will use the occasion tomorrow morning, when he receives the Official Report, to read what I am about to say. Let us suppose that as a result of the warnings, admonitions and horrific expectations, if one can call them expectations, which were embodied in his speech, noble Lords, decided that from now on we should abandon any notion of civil defence;that not a penny more should be spent on it. Let us ask ourselves what the consequences would be. Would Mr. Brezhnev, having heard our decision, send a polite note, with love and kisses thanking the noble Lord and all and sundry for such a concession? Would he resolve immediately without further ado or negotiation from any quarter—to vacate Afghanistan? From such knowledge as has come to me from time to time and which no doubt other Members of our Lordships' House have acquired, it would seem that the vast, comprehensive and communal civil defence machine of the Soviet Union could be most effective in the event of a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union from any quarter. One has only to say what I have just said and reflect upon it for a moment or two—no longer would be necessary—to realise what utter nonsense it is.

In this matter of civil defence one cannot ignore the general question of national and Western defence. They are closely related and interlocked;the one would be useless without the other. Indeed, for some years now I have been a member of a body described, according to protocol, as the All-Party House of Lords Study Defence Group. For what it is worth, I happen to be the chairman. With all our might and with the aid of many military experts we have been studying this question. Behind me is the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who has illuminated our proceedings on more than one occasion. As a result of pressure that I, personally, have exercised, even Russia agreed to send a representative to our deliberations, and we have heard from many others from all parts of the world.

What has been our purpose? It was a very simple one. It was to create an interest in the subject of national defence. That is precisely what we have to do, because of the circumstances that surround us as regards civil defence. We must direct our attention to what happens if and when we become involved in a nuclear or a conventional war. When I refer to "conventional "I have in mind the possibility of the use of tactical nuclear weapons—not formidable nuclear weapons —with limited range, with the possibility of invasion of this country with paratroopers capable of using such weapons.

If we are faced with a situation of that kind what do we do? Some weeks ago, as a result of some questions asked from this Bench, one of my colleagues—I need not mention his name—suggested that we have to accept either suicide or surrender because of the formidable and overwhelming military strength of the Soviet Union. Suicide or surrender! If I may be allowed to express a preference, I will have neither. I have no desire to commit suicide. My passing will come in due course. There is nothing to worry about in that;it happens to other people. As for surrender, it is not in my vocabulary, and I hope it is not in the vocabulary of Members of your Lordships' House.

The atmosphere that seems to overshadow the proceedings this afternoon is reminiscent of what happened in 1938 and 1939. Then the question that confronted us all was whether we were to have peace or to be involved in another war. There can be no doubt;there was division in certain quarters. Some even went to the length of being prepared to accept Mr. Hitler and company;in other words, to surrender rather than he involved in another conflagration. Reminding ourselves of what happened in the First World War, that was a war into which we ought not to have entered, and would not have entered if our diplomats had been less deceptive. That war ended with bankruptcy. Let us not forget that.

It was a vital issue that concerned us. What did we do? Not from one side of the political fence alone but from both sides. I remember it well. The late Arthur Henderson and the late Leopold Amery both said, almost with one voice, "Speak up for England. Act for Eng- land." They might have said for Britain;that would have suited me better at the time, and still would. That is what they said. The nation responded because the nation did not want to surrender. They are a peculiar kind of people in this country;they do not like to surrender. It is true that we have muddled through many times, and despite blemishes and all the rest of it we have somehow kept our heads above water. We have endured struggles and sacrifices and all the rest of it, and have gone through wars that perhaps we should not have entered;but nevertheless we went right through the mill. But the word "surrender "is not in our vocabulary, and because of that we had to make preparations for defence.

There has been some suggestion this afternoon about the kind of activity that we would ask our people to accept in the event of a nuclear war. It would be a mistake to forecast. It usually is. Certainly, I am not prepared to forecast what kind of war we are going to have in the future. What I say is that I do not want another war in the future;nor do I believe does any Member of your Lordships' House. In that respect we are as pacific as my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker. We do not want another war. We have had enough. We want to be at peace with our neighbours, whoever they are.

But how do we promote and produce peace? By sitting round a table in conference with potential aggressors, and deciding to reduce some of our arms? By indulging in limitation of nuclear and conventional arms? Or by making speeches of a pacific character? It is not realistic. It does not make sense, for the simple reason that we are not certain what our potential enemies intend to do. I wish we knew. Did we know they were going to invade Afghanistan recently? Were even the Government informed on the subject? I doubt it. It came in the nature of a surprise. There you are They could as easily step from East Germany into West Germany. It is just across the street. Their tanks could just roll across the street and take possession of West Germany. Of course that sort of thing can be done. In other words, the threat of another conflagration exists. I regret and deplore it. I wish it were otherwise, and so do we all, but it is there. What do we do about it?

I have no desire to emulate some of the previous speakers, except to congratulate them on their speeches;my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh;the noble Lord, Lord Murton;and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, whose speech was admirable to me because of the sentiments he expressed, which coincide with my views about the future civilised society where people are neighbourly, where we get rid of vandalism, terrorism, hooliganism, and all those blemishes that are inflicted on society. Therefore, I am almost going to come to a conclusion. Forgive the preliminary, the preface, but I thought it necessary because I want my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker to read it in the morning. It might console him. I have only heard that speech 50 times. From the beginning of the First World War I had to listen to it. That is one of the worst features of being in the same party, but you have just got to put up with it.

Now let us deal with the subject. What is to be done about civil defence. First, we have to understand that we require funds. It cannot be done without them. Twenty two million pounds is a mere bagatelle. It is not enough. Here I should like to interpose this question: Who was responsible for limiting the activities of civil defence in 1968? They have got the idea that it was a Labour Government. I was never informed, although I was chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party at the time and one expected to be informed of the Government's intentions. Indeed, I had entered into an arrangement with my noble friend Lord Aylestone—he is absent;I am not complaining about that—who happened to be President of the Council and Leader of the House, that I should be informed of the Government's intentions, so that could inform members of the party and keep them under control in cases like that. But I was not informed, and I should not be surprised to find that my noble friend Lord Peart was not actually informed that the Government intended to cut down on civil defence. In any event, even if we had been informed the public was not informed, and they should have been, and that brings me to the real point;that the public must be well and truly informed—apart from matters of security of course—on every aspect of civil defence.

Let us consider what we want. I do not want a regimented civil defence, and in that respect I agree with my noble friend Lord Hunt. I want a voluntary defence organisation, and when one speaks of an "organisation "one almost means regimentation, but noble Lords will understand what I mean. I want every industrial firm in the country, be it of note or minor character, to make whatever preparations are thought advisable, having taken advice on the subject, to protect its industry, its property and its work people in the event of attack. Next, I want a vast army of volunteers, and in this connection I applaud my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh for what he has done in the County of Devon, and what has been done there can be done in Wiltshire, Hampshire and in other counties. The number of people who have volunteered in comparatively small, but that number can be enlarged in many directions.

We also want a policy. We might get the money but not have a policy. One noble Lord referred to air raid shelters, and 1 believe that a question about air raid shelters was asked of the noble Lord, Lord l3elstead, by the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys. I take it we shall not indulge in what happened in the last war;we do not want air raid shelters of that kind. No doubt they were effective at times, but they would be absolutely useless in the event of a nuclear war and even in the event of a conventional war such as we might anticipate.

What kind of defence can we create? The first and best kind of civil defence is public opinion. We want to make the people of this country understand that, while we are anxious to avoid another conflict and will do everything possible to prevent one, if it occurs they must be able to assist in their own defence. That is the first essential. They must be advised and provided with the necessary facilities, whatever they may be—the organisation and equipment should be there with protective clothing against fall-out and all the things that occur to one who has given any study, however limited, to the subject—so that all the essentials are available. But the public must be fully informed on the subject. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that there are very few Members of your Lordships' House who are fully acquainted with what even the Government have done on the subject, who have read any documents about it and who—I say this with respect—have read any of the articles in The Times on the subject;and tint is saying something, not reading the articles in The Times, even in its new form, however abbreviated.

So we have to be thoroughly informed, and I want to be better informed. I would go so far as to say that probably the noble Lord, Lord Be'stead, would be glad to be better informed. Perhaps he did not like my saying that, but I meant it with respect. There I leave that aspect of the subject, except to say it was essential that we should have this debate and understand what we are up against. It is essential we should understand that the public should be thoroughly informed, just as it is essential, from all I have said, that our potential aggressors, our possible enemies, should understand that, whatever happens, we are going to defend ourselves adequately, not only with weapons—that is generally agreed—but also in the field of civil defence.

It is said by some of my friends, and they are still my friends, who take a pacifist view—a view which I reject, not that I dislike the sentiment but I think it is impractical and unrealistic—" you cannot provide adequate civil defence". It may be that many people will not survive and that many will suffer from bombs falling or from fall-out or from bacteriological and chemical weapons, if they are used, against us. All that could happen. But we can make the effort, a concerted and national effort, along with our allies, to defend ourselves and protect our people as best we can. That is what this debate is about. If we can succeed as a result of this debate, as we have had some success on the subject of defence in our Defence Group—creating interest and conveying our views to the people outside, and relying on our experts to become even more active and modern in their views, adapting themselves to new situations as they emerge—then this debate will have been well worth while.

But for heaven's sake, however pleasant it is to listen to eloquent speeches, fully adorned with sentiment, and however lovely they sound, like the flowers in the spring—while that is all very fine and large, I am getting too old for that kind of thing. I respond to what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, said when speaking of the future. What does a nuclear war matter to me? I am sure they will delay it until after I am gone;I am sure my friend President Brezhnev will not indulge in that kind of tactic as long as I am alive. But what about my grandchildren, and I have 12 of them, and my great-grandchildren, of whom I have 11—and what about yours? For the future, as well as for ourselves, we must have adequate defence, and that is the purpose of this debate.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh upon initiating this debate. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne on his very fine maiden speech. I feel some what of a sandwich speaking immediately after a former Secretary of State for Defence and having in front of me a former Chief of Defence Staff. They are rather expert and I am just an amateur.

I have said in your Lordships' House on several occasions that the strength of a chain is the strength of its weakest link, and I think that the weakest link we have at the moment in our defence strategy is home and civil defence. On several occasions in the last few months I have slightly stirred up Her Majesty's Government about this, usually through my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, and he has always tried to pass the buck to my noble friend Lord Belstead, who has it in his lap this afternoon. If there appears to be a lack of communication between the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, there should not be, and I was glad to hear my noble friend confirm that that was not the case.

Noble Lords who went to last week's Defence Group's seminar will remember that we had four distinguished speakers, and the one thing they were all in complete agreement about was that the defence strategy of the West was synonymous and one with foreign policy, and likewise I maintain that home and civil defence is an integral part of our overall defence policy. So it was very gratifying to hear what my noble friend Lord Belstead said about Easingwold.

I propose to be very brief and to talk about subversion, fifth column, quislings—call them what you will. I assume that in the event of some form of war there will be subversives and there will also be saboteurs, and if they succeed, all our efforts in home and civil defence would largely prove unsuccessful. In fact, they might even prove absolutely useless, as well as disastrous. So where is the threat? The threat, alas! is in certain key positions in certain unions which are occupied by Soviet-orientated persons;and I assure noble Lords opposite —many of whom I call my friends—that I am not union bashing, But the reds are not just under the bed, they arc everywhere, although very often well camouflaged.

Perhaps the situation was more serious a few years ago, and paradoxically it may be better, because of late several "moles "have come above ground and so we now know who they are. The Communist Party of Great Britain has 30,000 card-carrying members, but I wonder how many are hiding under different labels. I have no idea. My only hope is that MI5 knows, first, how many there are, and, secondly, who they are.

In 1946–34 years ago—I went to a political meeting in Norwich, at which the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, was speaking. I asked him whether the Tory Party was aware of how many Communists there were in the Labour Party in Parliament at that time. His answer was that he hoped that the Labour Party knew. My comment on that, 34 years later, is that I think the Labour Party arc much more aware. I also hope and believe that they have the strength and the will to fight this infiltration, because in the case of the right honourable Roy Mason and Mr. Sea -gill, and in Mr. Neville Sandelson we have prime examples of what I—and I hope the Labour Party—consider to be great danger. Furthermore, we have our own homegrown revolutionary organ'sations, and they will be, if they are not already, assisted by international ten rist groups, such as the IRA.

Should the Soviet Union attack—whether the attack is nuclear or conventional—if home and civil defence is to function adequately, I think it must realise that sabotage is probably one of its main enemies. We have the docks, water, food, electricity, gas, oil, broadcasting, newspapers, post and telecommunications, and transport. By the failure of even only one of these we could be paralysed, and as a result perhaps even defeated—I did not say "surrender ", I point out to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell.

We must not forget that quotation of Lenin—and 1 dislike quoting it because it has been quoted previously in your Lordships' Chamber, though not I think for about four years now: We must resort to all forms of stratagems, manoeuvres, and illegal methods, to evasions and subterfuges, so as to get into the trade unions, to remain in them, and to carry on within them Communist work at all costs". I need say no more, my Lords.

If the newspapers are printed at the time of a crisis, but cannot be read because they are not distributed, it is no good. If the Prime Minister wants to go on television to announce that there is a crisis in the nation, or that we are at war, it is no good if she is blacked out by technicians;if we have no electricity. The permutations of sabotage are endless. Do not let us forget that Hitler wrote Mein Kampf many years before he put what it said into operation. While that was going on very few of us paid much attention, and we nearly came to disaster.

The Russians' intentions have been known for years and years. Will we ever learn? The answer to that is I think, Yes, but we do not have too much time left. I do not think that the Russians want to have a war;they do so well without having one. So I hope that my noble friend Lord Belstead will agree with me that my fears of subversion and sabotage are real and justified, and without telling the enemy, will he please confirm that Her Majesty's Government have the necessary counter-measures in order to take these matters in hand? Home and civil defence are of prime importance to us both in peace and in war, and should war come, they will be our last bastion to make certain not only that we win, but that we survive.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, having in a previous debate in your Lordships' House described the lack of adequate civil defence as little short of scandalous, it is natural that I should welcome the fact that my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh has launched this debate. I welcome also the words that he has chosen;he has carefully mentioned both home and civil defence. Like other speakers, I should like to congratulate the maiden speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, and in particular upon the clarity with which he spoke about this problem, because I think that we need a little clarity. That clarity is being obscured at the moment by, as I understand it, the Government referring to what we used to refer to as civil defence as home defence, and by what the forces used to think of as home defence now being, for good reasons, described as the defence of the United Kingdom base. The Ministry of Defence adopted that term because there was a tendency—which has to a certain extent been reflected in this House—to think that defence of the United Kingdom is somehow different from the defence of Western Europe. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said, that is not so. It was important from the point of view of this country that neither the people in this country nor our allies should think that we regard the defence of the United Kingdom as not being part of the defence of the NATO area of Western Europe.

The reasons why the Motion is correct in saying that the preparations for home and civil defence are not adequate go back to certain military concepts, some of which were held not very long ago, and some of which are still held. The first is what I would call the bird sanctuary concept, and that is that, because we have a so-called independent nuclear strategic striking force of our own, we are by that preserved from a direct attack on this country. There were those who used to think that, although a war would have started somewhere else, we would have been preserved against conventional and nuclear attack, and that as the credibilty of the conventional aspect grew thinner and thinner, it was reserved;and it is still believed by some people that even though a war was taking place in a NATO area of Western Europe, in which nuclear weapons were being used, somehow or other our possession of an independent force of our own would preserve us from such an attack. I think that it would appear, perhaps appropriately, in view of his long connection with the Royal Air Force, that the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, is a bird sanctuary man.

One of the other reasons was largely given by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker. It is that if a thermo-nuclear attack on this country, with a comparatively small number of weapons—and I think that the noble Lord was absolutely correct in saying that it would be somewhere between 10 and 20—was intended to be an attack in order to wipe out the country, it would wipe it out. I agree that the picture that the noble Lord painted of what the country would be like under an attack of, say, up to 20 thermo-nuclear weapons was not exaggerated.

It was thought that if the first reason deterrent to a nuclear attack—had failed, an attack was bound to be so totally devastating that it was not worthwhile doing anything, and the policy that we did nothing, or very little, was generally adopted. I accept that in the event of a thermo-nuclear attack on this country, designed to knock this country out, no civil defence organisation—that is to say, that element of the civil defence organisation (which would be a very small one) which would survive such an attack—could really achieve much, if anything, worthwhile. However, I accept that individuals and communities, if fortunate enough not to be in the area directly affected by the explosion or by its fall-out, could do things to help themselves survive;but they could not do a very great deal. But what we really must face is the possibility of lesser damage than that as has already been mentioned, either conventional or nuclear.

Curiously enough, our own NATO policies of flexible response (or, a rather more recent development, what they call controlled response) envisage, after all, the delivery of nuclear attacks on the other side which are themselves limited. The responses range from the somewhat unrealistic one, in my view, of just firing off once as a demonstration, to show that you would be prepared to fire off others, to what has very nearly become, I think rather dangerously, a counter-force strategy confined to Europe itself;that means that all we would be doing is attacking military targets, and in particular the enemy's nuclear weapons delivery system. It has always seemed to me curious that people do not think about the fact that the other side might do exactly the same, and I do not believe, in those circumstances, that this country would necessarily be exempt from it. So I believe it is quite possible to envisage a lesser damage to this country by either a conventional or a nuclear attack that would not represent the total holocaust which, I absolutely agree, would come from a thermo-nuclear attack on this country designed to knock this country out.

So, if we have a war policy and a defence policy, and if we are prepared for war, we must be prepared to meet the consequences of war if our deterrents are credible—and, after all, this country has been, remains, and will in the future be a base for long-range offensive weapons systems. At the moment they are aircraft, both United Kingdom and United States, and submarines, and in future they are going to include cruise missiles;and, if we are the base for long-range offensive weapons systems, we must expect those bases to be attacked.

So much for what the problem is. Now for what we should do about it. I accept what I think is the Government's view (I am not quite sure whether it is the Government's view, but I think it is) that it would probably be rather fruitless at the moment to work up a great propaganda campaign, to hand out a lot of pamphlets and to get everybody designing their own little shelters in their cellars, and then for nothing else to happen. I think the pamphlets would get lost and the shelters would fall down, and get mice;and I do not believe that is the right answer. I think the Government are probably correct in reserving that sort of action until they really think that the need is about to arise;but when that need does arise it is essential that the resources, both human and material, should be ready in reserve to be brought out very quickly. My concern, and I think the concern of most of your Lordships, is that we do not believe those resources, either material or human, exist to the extent that they should, in spite of excellent organisations such as the Royal Observer Corps.

I think that the right answer is to base it on the local authorities' emergency organisation, of which we have heard a certain amount. Some counties are very much better than others in this respect. Devon has been quoted, and Nottinghamshire was quoted in The Times today. There are some local authorities, particularly those which are subjected to natural disasters, which have a very good organisation in this field. There are many local authorities, particularly those in large towns and conurbations, who have absolutely none at all as far as I know. A combination of the local authorities' emergency organisation —an efficient one—with the police, fire and ambulance services, and with the volunteer organisations (and I would entirely agree that they should all work together) could, I believe, provide the reserve of resources for which the regional emergency organisations which already exist and are practised, although the Government keep very quite about them, provide the framework that is required. We did some theoretical exercises on this when I was Commander-in-Chief, United Kingdom Land Forces designate involved in all the emergency planning, and we found, particularly in urban areas, that local authorities have a very large number of employees who are employed on things like meals on wheels, and all the rest of it, but who are available in an emergency to do other things if they are trained to do so and if people realise what they can do. Then, that framework can be supported by the armed forces in an emergency if they are available to do so and are not doing something else. That is all I have to say on civil defence.

Let me turn briefly to home defence. As I see it, whereas the job of civil defence is to deal with what happens if hostile bodies, human or material, land in this country, the job of home defence is seeing that those hostile bodies do not, or that, if they do, the numbers of them are limited. There is no defence at all, and I do not suggest that this country should try and erect one, against a ballistic missile nuclear attack on this country;it would be a terrible waste of time and money to try to erect one. Where there should be a greater and a more efficient defence, to my mind, is in the local defence of targets which are connected with military targets, particularly those connected or linked to the offensive weapons systems bases in this country. I myself have doubts as to whether adding more air defence aircraft to the Royal Air Force is the right answer here. I may be wrong, but I believe that what is needed is a greater degree of effort put into the local defence of surface-to-air missiles designed to shoot down both the launching platform and, particularly, the actual warhead itself. But I am absolutely certain that it is necessary to put more effort into passive defence of things like airfield shelters, the control and reporting systems, and anything to do with the whole weapons system of this country. I think that the whole problem of whether you should provide shelters for the population is a very much more difficult one, particularly given the sort of buildings that we have today. The problem, of course, is that the Royal Air Force themselves prefer to spend what money they get on aircraft and on flying.

As to the threat which is mentioned occasionally of airborne attack and amphibious attack, to my mind it is not worth spending a second talking about that. I do not believe it is practical in military terms for the Warsaw Pact countries to attempt to land men from boats or from aircraft in this country unless the air forces and the navies of NATO have been reduced to the extent of almost total defeat, and I do not believe in putting military effort into things which are required only if everything else is lost. As to the threat of sabotage, I have mentioned before in a previous debate in your Lordships' House, on 12th December, my doubts about whether the general reserve battalions, the Territorial Army, are really an effective way of dealing with this;and my concern is that the right answer is that those services, those installations, which are both essential to the national effort, military and civilian, and vulnerable, must have their own internal security organisation, which should be reinforced by a volunteer organisation which can join them in an emergency. That, I believe, is the right answer, rather than standing soldiers around the outside.

The noble Lord the Minister of State for Defence has had some correspondence with me on this subject, but I am still not totally convinced. I welcome the fact that the Government are having a review, and I hope that when that review is over the questions of civil defence and home defence, or the defence of the United Kingdom base, are dealt with together and tied in with our NATO strategy. For that reason, I am rather disturbed to think that the noble Lord the Minister of State for Defence is not here, and that it does not appear that he is going to be here.

6 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carver, who has just sat down has done this debate a service because while so many speeches have been concerned with civil defence he simply brought us back into the wider picture which is, I am sure, the one that we wish to consider tonight. Talking of civil defence, I should like to add my tribute to my noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne because I agreed almost entirely with every word he said. I think we should be pleased, also, with the information that my noble friend Lord Belstead has given us about the review;but I am bound to say that I have still a good many doubts (which I have had for the last 40 years) that the terms of reference for the review may not be widely enough drawn and the review body may not be properly constituted in order to get a complete answer which is worth while having. We are talking now in this debate in an atmosphere showing more interest in civil defence and the wider problem of home defence than I can remember for a very long time. That is why I hope that the Government will take every opportunity to take advantage of it and will not stop short of measures which could safely be taken.

Perhaps I may be pardoned for going back quite a long way by reminding noble Lords that when civil defence was first organised, it was organised under the shadow of the influence of the Peace Pledge Union and, therefore, was kept deliberately a considerable way from the rest of our defence efforts for fear that the civilian citizens might be pained at the idea of being too closely associated with the horrid soldiers.

I was for three-and-a-half years concerned with the Home Guard which was part of the home forces in the last war. During that period, we worked (as it was our duty to work) very closely with civil defence and we came away with certain lessons. My next experience of the subject was on the Opposition Front Bench when the Civil Defence Bill came in in 1948. I spoke on it. I then said something which I knew to be correct;that that Bill was not intended to alter the structure of civil defence or to take advantage of any lessons which might have been learned, but simply to give statutory authority in peacetime for the civil defence organisation. I then spent about 20 years on the civil defence committee of my own county council, during which I witnessed the disintegration, or virtual disintegration, of the Home Guard.

Before going any further, I should like to come back to something which the noble Lord, Lord Carver, said about the three kinds of threats, because there is no use in talking about dealing with threats unless we are certain what they are. If I may be excused for repeating them, they seemed to be: the threat from airborne missiles whether nuclear or otherwise;then the threat of invasion by landing armed forces by sea or by air;and, lastly, something touched on by my noble friend Lord Kimberley, the noble Lord, Lord Carver, and others, warfare of the mind—subversion, sabotage, propaganda and the rest.

We have talked about civil defence so much tonight that I am certainly not going to take your Lordships' time by saying very much more. All I would say is that any suggestions—and I may have misunderstood my noble friend Lord 13elstead when he spoke about this—that the people will volunteer for civil defence which can be organised without any official organisation, does not seem to me to be likely to work out. I am not concerned whether the organisation is set up by the Government or by local authorities;but it will have to he there. If it is there, people will join it. If they are told what to do, they will do that. They will not need to be paid. All that they will want, at the present high price of petrol, is their mileage allowance. I base my experience on a conversation with a friend of mine in my own village—which I think fairly represents England as a whole—that there will be no difficulty in getting the right people to volunteer and to take a lot of trouble about it. But some organisation there will have to be.

As the noble Lord, Lord Carver said, we can leave invasion alone by saying that it would only occur if we lost command of the air. Enough has been said by others about subversion and hostile propaganda and things of that sort to make it unnecessary to say much more, except for one point. Unlike the other forms of threat, that threat is going on all the time, and there is no use pretending that it is not. But in 1945 the arts of propaganda and so forth were largely in their infancy compared with what they are now. The third thing is that the more people there arc involved in some way or other with home defence or civil defence (call it what you like) the less risk there is of enemy propaganda taking root and the more prospect there is of those in authority receiving information about what is going on at the proper time. That may come out later in this debate if my noble friend Lord Inglewood speaks, as I think he will, about Special Constables.

That brings me to the point that I tried to make earlier about the terms of reference of the review being wide enough. Whatever the threat may be against us, it is quite certain that the aggressor will have unity of command and, therefore, it is important that we should have unity of command in handling our defence affairs over here. I doubt very much whether we have that. We had it in the last war because we had not only the War Cabinet but also a body called the Home Defence Executive. That was a body that I saw a great deal of. Few people knew about it, but it was in the charge of a very wise and distinguished civil servant, Sir Findlater Stewart. It had as its task to keep the various departments—and there were a great many of them concerned with home defence—in step, to resolve their difficulties and their objections to each other and to see that any point which could not be resolved at that level went to the Cabinet. I know from first hand how many difficulties were avoided in the war by having that body there.

I am certain, equally, that these difficulties will arise and that sectional interests (as they were called by an earlier speaker in the debate) will come up and will prevent agreement being reached and will cause patchwork solutions instead of proper solutions. I suggest as strongly as possible that what I am saying should receive attention. If your Lordships doubt what I am saying, I think that you have only to look at the rather sordid incident which led to the collapse of the T.AVR III which, if I understood it rightly, was caused by the Defence Ministry, on the one hand, and the Home Office, on the other, playing a game of departmental "Old Maid "in trying to avoid the cost landing on their Estimates. That would not have happened if there had been a home defence executive in existence.

My Lords, those are some of the points that I wish to make. In case anybody might think that a body like the Home Defence Executive would not have enough to do, I put down one or two points which may be dealt with later by my noble friend Lord Belstead or others in the review—or may not. First, is the operational boundary of responsibility right as it stands now between the Home Office and the Defence Ministry? Next, the local authorities. The whole shape of local authorities has changed a great deal since the last war. The district councils have much more authority. As someone in this debate has mentioned, there is a difference in performance between some counties like Devonshire and Wiltshire and other counties. What control is being exercised at the centre to make quite sure that a minimum level of efficiency is going to be maintained? After all, we have heard of local authorities revolting against Government policy on comprehensive schools. Why should they not do it again?

Then, if I may be forgiven, I hope that someone will be looking at the task which the Home Guard performed in the last war. If they do, that will bring them to the question, which plagued those who tried to keep the Home Guard and civil defence in step, as to whether it was wrong for the civil defence to carry arms and what happened when the same individual in scattered parts of the country had to decide whether at the moment that a spy appeared he was a civil defence chap unarmed, or a Home Guard chap with arms.

Lastly, may I again repeat that I hope that an objective view will be taken about sabotage. Those are some of the things which seem to me from my own experience will need attention. I very much hope that the Government will do this;but the task of whether they do so or not and implementing them belongs to a generation much younger than mine.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for inaugurating this debate. I should also like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Murton on his excellent maiden speech. A Department of Health and Social Security study on the Health Service in war had a course at the Home Defence College at Easingwold, in Yorkshire, in March 1979. In their study report they advised that first aid posts should be set up and manned by St. John and Red Cross personnel, all over the United Kingdom, because of these two organisations' considerable knowledge and practical experience in nursing and first aid. Also it was thought that they could both play a very important role in organising crash courses in first aid to increase the number of those able to provide first aid, home nursing and elementary hygiene.

It went on to say that St. John and the Red Cross need to know the extent to which their resources will be required, following the declaration of war or a nuclear attack. This is now one year ago and still nobody in St. John or the Red Cross has the faintest idea of what is to be done and what way it is to be done.

The local authorities employ an emergency planning officer, whose name describes his job. It is up to him to inform the local voluntary organisations of their role in the event of war or an emergency, so that they can start training and be prepared and efficient when war is declared. This means training all our personnel now in the roles they are required to do. I suggest that a definite order and full instructions must come from Her Majesty's Government to the county local authorities and be passed on by the emergency planning officer, to inform the voluntary organisations of their role in an emergency.

Speaking from the St. John point of view, we have roughly 85,000 volunteers in the United Kingdom, all trained in first aid. Surely some use could be made of them in an emergency. But nothing yet has filtered down from Her Majesty's Government as to what it is. I am convinced—and I think that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, agrees with me —that at this stage Her Majesty's Government should concentrate on the efficiency of what they have in the form of the voluntary organisations, such as the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and the WRVS. They must not form a new Civil Defence Corps, but should encourage the use of our existing assets, to train for the emergency. They must be told exactly what is needed of them. This must be done very clearly. After all, in St. John's case they have the expertise of a great many high class doctors and surgeons and also trained personnel. Not only in St. John Ambulance—by them I mean the uniformed branch—but so many have already received first aid training by the St. John Association in industry, British Rail, the Coal Board and many other big organisations. This cannot be done without Government financial aid and extra accommodation for training. For example, there are many territorial drill halls lying idle, owing to the cut-down of the Territorial Army, which could be used.

The final thing that Her Majesty's Government have to make their minds up about is whether the voluntary organisations are going to become a reserved occupation in the event of war thereby the personnel remaining with St. John and the Red Cross throughout hostilities, as opposed to what happened at the outbreak of war in 1939, when all able-bodied Red Cross or St. John personnel went straight to the armed forces, especially the medical services, who badly needed their experience. The time is now right to act and to give authoritative instructions and form a policy, so that we in voluntary organisations are prepared for an emergency and can do the job given to us efficiently and effectively.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I owe an apology to the House in advance because I am sure that your Lordships must by now be tired of hearing me talking about Northern Ireland problems and the security situation there. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, will forgive me if perhaps I put a slightly different slant on this situation. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, made reference to AVR III. I had the unpleasant task of having to preside over the disbandment of an AVR III unit. Prior to that, ironically, I trained the members in what action to take in the event of nuclear attack. Also, even more ironically in view of what has happened in the past 10 years, I trained them in how to deal with crowd control and riot situations. But there it was, AVR III folded up. For me it was a matter for great regret because our unit anyway had started to go extremely well.

The different slant to which I referred is that I think perhaps Northern Ireland is the most vulnerable area of the United Kingdom so far as home defence is concerned. Your Lordships may remember that in 1915–16 the cry was "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity I am afraid that there are still those in Ireland who would take that view. In the unfortunate event of an international crisis blowing up—whether of NATO proportions or resulting from the situation in Afghanistan—it could well be that regular troops would have to be withdrawn from Northern Ireland. Even if that did not occur, to be realistic about it I cannot envisage that regular troops will be able to be maintained indefinitely in Northern Ireland at their present strength.

That is not for a moment to suggest—want to emphasise this—that I am advocating a withdrawal. Far from it, I think it would be disastrous if there were even an intimation of withdrawal. But looking 10, 15 or 20 years ahead, I cannot see regular troops being kept at their present strength in Northern Ireland. Therefore, what I am saying is that we Ulstermen have to aim at becoming self-sufficient so far as security is concerned. In this respect, I am delighted to be able to say that my information is that the police and the Army are now working together better and more effectively than they ever have done since the emergency arose, and I hope that satisfactory relationship continues to develop.

The ceiling of establishment of the RUC has been increased, and in this respect I only hope that there is sufficient capacity for training the additional recruits as they come in, as indeed I hope they will. But here, as with the Ulster Defence Regiment, I think it is necessary to place emphasis on trying to recruit more and more junior to middle management. In the case of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I envisage the area between sergeant through warrant officer to junior officer, because, in my experience, enthusiasm and loyalty has never been difficult to generate and sustain, provided that the quality of leadership is right;and it is in this "centurion "area that the leadership has most effect on the men. So, whereas I know it has been done in the past, I suggest that further attention should be given in the future to trying to recruit middle management for both the RUC and the UDR.

I welcome the fact that the bounty for the UDR has been increased so as to bring it roughly into line with that of the TAVR, and I think this will do much to offset the financial loss that was suffered by many members in the past when they gave up normal working hours for training or for camp. It is very nearly seven years ago since I was kicked out of the UDR because I became political, after a fashion;but I tried to keep in touch with the local units and I am told that one of the things that would help them most would be to have more back-up vehicles for conveying personnel, in other words, a sort of transit minibus type of vehicle, because it seems that if a vehicle develops a fault it goes into the workshops for a considerable time and there has to be a sort of ferry service, which reduces the mobility of the unit in question. In this context, of course, mobility is of the essence.

Another thing that I think could be of use in the security situation in Northern Ireland and should be concentrated on in the event of Regular Army strength having to be reduced, is to develop further expertise in "seal and search "operations. Some of them have been very successful, but the most important thing here is that the search should be carried out with the utmost courtesy and discretion—no matter what sort of lout owns the house you are searching, call him "Sir ", and positively avoid causing any damage. But, having said that, I admit that one cannot win, because I am afraid there are people who will deliberately smash a door or something like that after the search has been completed, and then ring up the Press and complain that the security forces have done the damage.

Finally, if your house is on fire, my Lords, you do not stand back with your hands in your pockets and say, "I am not a fireman. Who is going to pay me if I take steps to put out this fire? "No, you get a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher and you do what you can to put the fire out. The same applies in Northern Ireland. Our house has been on fire for 10 or 11 years now, and any able-bodied man or woman who can help to put out that fire ought to get on with it and join the part-time security forces. I would do it myself were I medically fit so to do.

6.25 p.m.

Baroness PIKE

My Lords, I, too, should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for initiating this debate. I want to speak wholly about the vital contribution of the voluntary organisations, and particularly of the national voluntary organisations;in this, I want to follow the noble Lord, Lord Westbury.

I speak as the chairman of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service and in that capacity I want to pay my own particular tribute to the work of St. John and the Red Cross, because their unique work in this field is really quite outstanding. We work in very close co-operation and, while we are not in the medical field, we very often perform the very vital back-up and administrative services which enable them to do their excellent job.

This evening, however, I can only speak for the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. We are an all-purpose emergency service and in the context of a civil defence debate it really is valuable to look at our pattern of organisation because, as noble Lords will know, we were handed in 1938 as the Women's Royal Voluntary Service for Civil Defence and our whole organisation and the whole pattern of our development has been geared to the emergencies, first of all, of wartime and then to the extension of our services in peacetime to being an all-purpose emergency service.

In this context, our role is to provide shelter, food, clothing and administrative and back-up services. These are vital things: the shelters, the rest-centres, evacuation centres and so on. Clothing, of course, is vital, because in times of stress and emergency very often it is only a glanket to cover somebody. Food, emergency feeding and the administration of the whole back-up services are essential in any emergency. As in 1939, I think we have a really vital part to play in civil defence, should it ever happen that we need once more to look to wartime emergencies.

We are a unique service in so far as we are wholly supported by a Government grant. I am the statutory chairman and I am wholly accountable to the Home Office and to the Treasury. That, I think, is one of the most valuable things because it does mean that we really get very good value for money;it is a very good discipline on all of us. I am not interfered with in any way;I am not coerced in any way;I have complete freedom and yet I am able to have, as my service, a national network which is locally based. I believe this is tremendously important, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I talk in some detail about our organisation, because I think it can be relevant to a pattern of civil defence.

We have 19 areas, and Scotland and Wales headquarters. That means I have 21 points, and if I were to go out now after having spoken here, I could within an hour raise, as it were, the whole of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service—or perhaps within even less than an hour. I do not think that even I could take more than 30 minutes to make 21 phone calls and just say, "Red Alert "to the person concerned, although she might be out for a drink and I might have to make more than one phone call;and so I would allow myself an hour in which to do it. I could in doing that, before this debate finishes, alert substantially something over 300,000 active workers;that is the strength of the organisation at the present time. In fact, in an emergency we would have a larger number, but at the present time we have some 300,000 active workers in the country. Every day there are something like 100,000 active men and women. We are locally based and locally organised, right down to village level. We are a supportive service, which means that we are organised to work across boundaries, providing back-up and replacement teams wherever they are needed. At headquarters, I have filed in my office the contingency emergency plans of every county, every district and every local area. I also have filed the contingency plans of the local authorities, where we are written into them. Unfortunately, we are not written into all the local authority contingency plans.

Who are these people, whom I say I can go out and raise at an hour's notice? I expect that you would call them the mum's and dad's army. We have a lot of young people, but I must admit that "young "to us is young middle-aged, because it is the middle-thirties and middle-forties whom we mostly regard as our young leadership—the people who have the time to give to voluntary service in the community. We have 10,000 men who are full members of the WRVS, and there must be at least three times more than that number—a good 30,000 to 40,000 men—who are working with us, many of them in key positions. In theory and I stress "in theory "—all our members are trained in basic emergency service. I say in theory, because this is a voluntary organisation and some do and some do not. But I think that I can put my hand on my heart and say that at least 180,000 of them are trained in basic emergency service. We are also written into the syllabus of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and there are many youth organisations who come along to us and take emergency training.

I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for appearing to boast about what we have, but it is really important. We have on call 24,236 team leaders—because of our accountability to the Home Office, we are very keen on getting numbers exactly accurate and would not say 24,000 or 25,000—who are on call out at any time. We have 482 emergency service instructors, we have 450 emergency service organisers and we have 200 area, county and metropolitan district organisers who are responsible for emergency service, which means that we have over 1,100 key people who are responsible for emergency service.

We also have 262 people who have attended the Easingwold defence college and we were lucky enough in March 1978, to start a course of our own. We started negotiations in 1977, to see whether we could have a wholly WRVS course. It took us until March, 1978, and we have now managed to have three of those, with 50 on each course. We are having another two this year and we should like more. That is a three-day course with 50 people on each course. So that we now have 150 people who have been on that three-day course.

That is our basic organisational structure of people who are ready and able to respond to any emergency call, and that is the structure that we can provide to meet the challenge of the survival of the civilian population. But the importance of it—and this is why I stress the figures—is that these are really all-purpose people. Their main experience is not just gained in the occasional theoretical exercise. Exercises are extremely valuable, but, on the whole, they are fairly artificial and the experience one gains can be, to some extent, superficial.

The people that I have talked about, and the 300,000 active workers, are all working in the community all the time and their emergency work is an integral part of their everyday community voluntary service. That means that in times of flood, fire and severe weather, when there are no communications or no transport or no electricity, the emergency service special training comes into operation. The WRVS, and their husbands as well, all hate the soya boiler, but when you have severe weather, flood or fire and there is no other means of cooking, the soya boiler is particularly important, especially if the husbands come along and put a bottle of red wine in the stew to make it a little more palatable. This is part of their everyday work.

If you are talking out meals on wheels, you learn a great deal about your community, about the ordinary natural hazards and about the weak spots. We also get our day-to-day experience from accidents of all kinds, some large and some small, just like the Red Cross and St. John. Some are accidents which happen in the home, such as a small fire. Nevertheless, they help our people to have the practice in clothing, emergency feeding and information, which is so important. The reception and resettlement of refugees is, again, a wonderful exercise—if one wants to put it in that way—in rest centres, resettlement and clothing.

Camps and shows are a wonderful exercise as well. In London, we feed all the participants in the Lord Mayor's Show in the very short time of 30 or 40 minutes, when the procession is halted. We run the information desks at Wimbledon and this, again, is good training for information in the case of rest centres. Very often we also have to feed the police, the armed services and the firemen when they are out of their jobs. So we can say that we have a framework within which people can get practical training in emergencies, and yet, at the same time, can be making a practical contribution to the community as a whole.

There is also the other aspect of protection. Many Members of this House will have known and loved Lady Swan-borough, whom we knew better as Stella Reading, and she was a very far-sighted woman. In 1956 during the anxieties about the nuclear bomb and the troubles that we were then facing, she introduced something which she called One in Five, because she wanted one in five of the population to know about nuclear warfare, to know about some of the things that you could do to protect your home and some of the things that you could do to help in survival. So we started the scheme of One in Five.

It is still going, though not as well as it did in the early days, and the original-aim of meeting one in five of the population has fallen a long way short. However, between 1956 and 1973 we gave this very full, comprehensive talk—it is substantially Protect and Survive, the Home Office pamphlet—to 1,702,256 people. Then, in 1973, interest was beginning to wane and people did not any longer much want to know, so the figures began to drop. Therefore, between 1974 and 1979, which is the last year for which I have figures, we had only 28,118. Strangely enough 1979 was the best year since 1975.

Why I say that it was the best year is because this talk is given only to organisations and groups of people who ask for it. We do not go out and, as it were, tout for custom. If people want it, we go out and give it to them. Interest is beginning to increase again. I am glad to say that in Devonshire they are now asking for it, and I am hoping that some of the 500 One in Five speakers that we have can go along and help there. But between 1956 and 1980, this talk, along with an envelope containing all the pamphlets—which people can keep by their bedside, but which, I am afraid, usually goes by the recipe book in the kitchen—about what you can do to protect your home in the case of nuclear attack, has been given to 1 million people. That is not enough and we are hoping, now that interest is reviving, that we can perhaps give it to more people.

That brings me to how we could be more effective. One of the problems is the attitude of the general public. The general public did not want to know about nuclear warfare. They did not want to know how to protect themselves. So it is very difficult, in those circumstances, to keep up the enthusiasm and the energy of the volunteers. They come in with tremendous enthusiasm to cope with emergencies, but after a year or two the enthusiasm begins to wane and interest begins to go.

One of our other problems has been the attitude of the emergency planning officers. I have been interested to note that where the plans were the weakest, in recent times some of the loudest noises have come from the planning officers. I do not criticise them for that;I sympathise with them. Where the plans have been weak, this has not usually been the fault of the planning officer;very often it has been the fault of his council. They have not given him the support or the help that he needed. Now he is taking this opportunity to make himself known. But the weakest very often shout the loudest.

Any emergency service should be part of a contingency plan. The emergency planning officer should know the voluntary services in his district and their strengths and their weaknesses. I know only too well how very often a place that was strong two years ago suddenly, for no apparent reason, becomes dead or weak. People have moved away, or have lost interest, or have gone on to something else. However, they should have them as part of their contingency plans. We should have more exercises to help us to cooperate with other voluntary organisations and other people in the field. It is all very well having our own contingency plans, doing our own emergencies and being keen, but the key to it all is cooperation with all the other people in the field. This can be developed only if we have proper exercises.

One of the most important things is that the Home Defence College should be strengthened and enabled to take on more courses. As I have said, we could treble the numbers going there if only they could accommodate us. There is no doubt that when the leadership has been to Easingwold, it has done a marvellous job in smartening them up and increasing their enthusiasm. So in addition to any statutory obligation on the part of the local authority to file contingency emergency plans, there should be a statutory requirement that voluntary organisations are written into that plan. I think also that there should be a statutory obligation to hold a full-scale exercise at least once a year to test out the reality of the contribution, in particular the contribution of the voluntary organisation. As I have said, I think that the Home Defence College should be enlarged and strengthened.

I think that the great danger is complacency. We are in a period of tension now, and interest is rising. One hopes that this period will go;then, in two or three years' time, people may well sink hack into complacency. So we must have something similar to what the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgman, spoke about —perhaps some civil defence executive to stimulate interest and standards. There is nothing like being made to keep up to a standard to keep people on their toes, and enthusiastic. One of the great difficulties, when you have got your plans and when you have done your training, is if nobody tests it against any other standard.

I do not want there to be a revival of the Civil Defence Corps as it was in the old days but I do believe that the best way to organise our civil defence and our emergency services is on the county and metropolitan district basis that we have at the present time. I believe that in this way we shall get the local interest and the highest standards. But I am a little worried that if we just leave it like that —if we just leave it to the emergency planning officers, however good they are—we shall not get the support of the services across the county and local boundaries which are so important;I do not believe that we shall keep up the standards and the enthusiasm.

If it is left to the county councils and to the metropolitan councils, I believe that after a time enthusiasm will wane and that they will be left again in the doldrums. Therefore, I hope that the Government will look at the best of what we have and build upon it. In that way, we can not only build up a realistic civil defence force but we can also give to people the impetus and the opportunity that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, spoke about of working in the community.

I should like to end by stressing that we should not train ourselves only for emergencies in time of war or disaster. Let us use that training for the everyday emergencies of need and disadvantage that we find in the community. If people are working in the community, it teaches them the weaknesses, the strengths, the good spots and the bad spots in their own community. It teaches them a little bit more responsibility by knowing their own community. It teaches them to know the teams, the people with whom they are working, and I think it strengthens the whole fabric of our life.

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me when I say that my noble friend Lady Pike has done a great service by telling us in great detail of the work of the WRVS, work which we greatly admire under her distinguished chairmanship. think she came very close indeed to saying —and I hope that she will not mind my pointing this out—that in addition to the work which traditionally has fallen upon the WRVS they should also take on the work which used to be done by the civil defence organisation. She seemed to me to come very close indeed to that. I shall be coming back to the part to be played by volunteers, but before I go any further I, too, should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne upon his maiden speech. I am delighted that he made it on this occasion, bearing in mind his very distinguished service as an officer in the Territorial Army.

I, like other noble Lords, wish to concentrate on civil defence because it seems to me that this first duty of every Government, which is to defend the people against danger, has been largely neglected since 1968 when the civil defence organisation and activities became a mere paper exercise. My noble friend the Minister of State has told us about the warning and monitoring organisation, the daily work of the police and fire services and the contribution made by the voluntary bodies, but I think that even my noble friend Lady Pike would agree that their coverage is not always complete. They do not go into every village. They are better in some towns and cities than in others. As for the NCVAS, of which my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh and I are both vice-presidents, it applies with even greater force to them. So when we are thinking about the part to be played by the voluntary bodies we must be realistic and realise that, when it comes to rebuilding an effective organisation, it may not be quite enough just to rely upon the existing voluntary bodies co-operating with the local authorities, which I believe, in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Carver, is the best way to reorganise the effort that needs to be made.

The last time, it so happens, that our civil defence organisation was improved and strengthened and much more money provided for it, in real terms, was in the early 1960s, when the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, was Home Secretary. I was the Minister of State in charge of civil defence and occupied, although I was in another place, the position that my noble friend Lord Belstead occupies today. I must say that I did not envy my noble friend today when he described to your Lordships the present position, although I do admire the way in which he made bricks without straw.

We had, in the early 1960s, when Lord Butler managed to get this extra money for the purpose, a fairly elaborate organisation. Rightly or wrongly, and on the scientific evidence which we had, we considered that we would have given effective protection against fall-out, and some protection against burns and blast on the periphery of each nuclear explosion. Therefore, the question of whether life was completely wiped out in this country would have depended upon the number of nuclear explosions and their pattern. Obviously, if the whole country was honeycombed there would be no hope for anybody, but it is not necessary to make that assumption, and indeed as soon as one makes an assumption of something less dreadful happening then one must have a civil defence organisation.

Also, the organisation that we had would have given almost as good protection against heavy air bombardment of a conventional kind as was provided by ARP towards the end of the last war. It is rather sad, looking back and comparing things then with those of today, but in the early 1960s representatives from the Governments of our NATO allies used to come to the United Kingdom to study what we were doing about civil defence, to see what they could learn from us—and they went away in admiration. In fact, a lot of the civil defence that has been put into force in Europe in the years since then was based upon what we had done.

I reckon (and this is only an exercise of judgment, guesswork, if you like, on my part) that it would take at least a year, starting now, to establish a really effective civil defence organisation of the kind which we had before, or of any reasonable kind. I think a year;others may have a more optimistic outlook. But this question of the time that it would take is very important indeed because as the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, pointed out, the Home Office plans in recent years have been based upon the remarkable assumption that all necessary preparations could be made during a period of—the noble Lord said—three weeks of international tension before we were attacked. Well, God help us if something happens in the next three weeks!

It is an absurd assumption, of course. That goes without saying. It is absurd partly because wars generally start somewhat suddenly and unexpectedly, but also because a few weeks would be nothing like enough to create the necessary organisation. Therefore, I hope that when we are told the outcome of the Home Office review we shall find that it specifies the risks which we should prepare to meet, because that is vital to the timing of the rebuilding of the organisation.

Although it is not the only risk, or the most probable one, the one which has been discussed by your Lordships who have spoken in this debate today is the risk of full-scale nuclear bombing—the holocaust. I do believe that, however sincerely people of pacifist or Left-Wing inclination feel about that matter, and in spite of the concession that I make that a real honeycombing of this country would leave us with no hope, we really should try to agree among ourselves—all of us—that there are other things besides the holocaust which we should consider as a risk. They have mostly been mentioned;therefore. I need mention them only very quickly.

One is just one or two nuclear explosions like a Hiroshima and a Nagasaki towards the end of what until then had been a conventional war;possibly explosions caused by the country which looked like losing the war and fearing that it was going to lose it, and thinking that one or two bombs might settle the matter, with not much retaliation. That is another possibility.

Then there is one possibility which has not been mentioned so far in this debate. It is that there might be a third world war carried out mainly with conventional weapons but becoming nuclear only on the great continental mass of Asia and Europe and not dropping directly on this country, but with fall-out drifting from the Continent to our shores. If we had done nothing to protect our people against that possibility they would have every right to resent our inactivity.

Then there is the possibility that no nuclear weapons would ever be used. After all, there was no gas used in the last World War and it may well be that both sides would fear to use nuclear weapons and therefore we should be justified in preparing—which is rarely a sound justification in military terms—in the next war to face the risks of the last war. But I concede that if that were to happen the bombing that we had in the last war would be considered not as bad as the bombing that we should get in the next war, because even conventional weapons have increased in size and power of destruction. Therefore, if some people say that civil defence is a waste of effort in full-scale nuclear attack they should in humanity concede, as the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, did, that we could and should protect our people against the other risks, as so many other countries have done.

The question is, what should we do? Here I come to a point which I think has given rise to controversy in this debate. Everyone agrees that we should use volunteers;everyone agrees that the local authorities will have to provide the basic organisation. Where I have detected a note of disagreement in some of the speeches concerns the exact relationship that there should be between the local authorities and the volunteers. I think there are three possibi ities. One is that we should have, as we did before something like the old type of Civil Defence Corps, whether the expanded WRVS or whatever it may be, closely linked with the local authorities, and indeed the local authorities responsible for the recruiting, the training and the organisation of the volunteers. That is one possibility.

Another possibility which the NCVAS favour is that the volunteers should be left to run their own show. I do not think that my noble friend Lady Pike was saying that but it is a point of view. Then there is a compromise between those two ways, and it is the compromise that I think most of your Lordships who have spoken would seem to favour;that is to let the local authorities use and guide and help the volunteers, but we then have to come to the situation that we do not want overlapping of effort between different kinds of voluntary societies. My noble friend Lady Pike referred to the WRVS as an "all-purpose body". We have deep respect for her, but I do not think that it is one. I have never thought of it as such. I have never heard of the WRVS being concerned greatly with first aid and light rescue work. I have never heard of them being concerned with radio communications, the use of radiac instruments and so on.

Baroness PIKE: My Lords, if I may intervene, I did not mean to give that impression. We are concerned with all the emergency services within the work that the WRVS does, and I did go on to define that we did the shelter, the food, the clothing and the administrative work and the back-up.


My Lords, I am grateful for that clarification and I am sure the true position is as my noble friend has stated it. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said that we want a vast army of volunteers. I think that is a slight contradiction in terms, expressed in that way. We assume that the opportunities given, the needs of the moment, the building on existing societies, will produce a lot of volunteers, but each of the volunteers must have a specific job or jobs to do, and only the local authorities can ensure that that happens. Therefore, we get back to this proposition, that whatever the degree of independence of each of the voluntary bodies may be, there has still to be some kind of direction and that direction has got to come from the local authorities. There is a tremendous lot to be done to provide an effective civil defence organisation. It will, I believe, take a year or so to achieve. But it must be done, and the sooner the better.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, must be pleased, I am sure, by the immense interest in the House to which the subject he has proposed has given rise. It has given us additionally the pleasure of hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, who, if I may say so, made an exemplary maiden speech, and we shall look forward to hearing from him soon and often.

My Lords, it would take at least half an hour to summarise all the different proposals that have been made: whatever else the Home Secretary may say, I am sure he will not be critical of any deficiency in ideas put forward tonight. I propose to confine myself entirely to civil defence in relation to a nuclear war. Here one is, of course, in the hands of experts. It was the scientists who made the bomb and it is the scientific advisers who understand it. I should have thought that it would be difficult to find one of higher qualification to express an opinion than the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, whom I understand to be abroad, who was, after all, the chief scientific adviser to Combined Operations at SHAEF throughout the war, and for many years chief scientific adviser to our Ministry of Defence and then chief scientific adviser to our Government.

In November of last year he made a speech in the United States, extracts from which were subsequently published in The Times. In the course of that he said: As our own White Paper on Defence put it as long ago as 1957, there were then no means of protecting the population against the consequences of a nuclear war. There are none today when the scale of attack that could he envisaged may be a hundred times greater than it was in the 1950s. There is no dispute about this fact. Yet today we read that nuclear deterrents based on mutually assured destruction ' might, none the less, break down because the accuracy with which nuclear warheads could now be delivered has improved so much that a so-called counterforce policy is possible, that both the Russians and the Americans either already, or soon, will haw it in their power to deliver a first-strike' in order to destroy military targets such as fixed missile bases. But it is still inevitable that, were military installations rather than cities to become the objectives of military attacks, millions, even tens of millions, of civilians would be killed, whatever the proportion of missile sites, airfields, armament plants, ports and so on that would be destroyed". Then he gives the technical basis of that.

Then he says: Nor was I ever able to see any military reality in what is now referred to as theatre or tactical nuclear warfare;that is to say, of field warfare in which nuclear weapons—however modernised, are used. The analyses and studies which lead to this conclusion have never been controverted. There are no vast deserts in Europe, no endless open plains, on which to turn war games in which nuclear weapons are used into a reality. The distances between villages are no greater than the radius of effect of low yield weapons of a few kilotons;between towns and cities, say a megaton. And a single one megaton bomb could erase the heart of any great city—say Birmingham —and kill instantly a third of its citizens. It has been calculated that a one megaton strike over Washington would lay waste not only to the White House and the Pentagon, but Capitol Hill and almost every Government building…. The declared purpose of SALT 2 is to establish a measure of nuclear equivalents between the two sides, but at a level which, were the present state of mutual deterrence ever to break down, would be well above the threshold needed to devastate utterly, and without hope of repair, all the cities, even most of the small towns of both the North American and Euroasiatic continents, with hundreds of millions killed in a flash, and with vast numbers of those who were not so lucky then dying of the effects of radiation. These are not extravagent statements. They are spelled out in several recent official American reports which record the results of detached scientific analyses of what would happen at different levels of nuclear exchange. Similar conclusions were drawn from corresponding and even more detailed studies that were carried out in Britain about 20 years ago". My Lords, I thought the House ought to be reminded that that is the advice of that chief scientific adviser.

If I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, a question of which I have given him notice, it is this. How far was what purported to be the views of the Home Office in this matter published in the Sunday Times of 17th February, accurate? What the article said in part was this: The Home Office planners envisage that a nuclear attack on Britain would be in the order of 200 megatons, the equivalent of about 13,000 bombs of the type dropped on Hiroshima. The blast from a single five-megaton H-bomb detonated about one mile above Trafalgar Square, for example, would completely devastate a circle of three and a half miles radius, kill everyone within a radius of one and three quarter miles and 60 per cent. of the people living two and half miles away. Most structures within a circle bounded by Hackney, Greenwich, Fulham and Willesden, would collapse and houses as far away as Bushey in Hertfordshire would be damaged. About 1 million people would be killed immediately and many more would die later from delayed effects. Houses and cars would burst into flames and human skin would be charred and blistered as far as 15 miles from the bomb". My Lords, that is one bomb. I have thought carefully about what Lord Renton said. I would not think that either of the big nuclear powers, whichever presses the button, would do it in a half-hearted way;obviously they would want to make a go of it. I should like to know whether that is an accurate account of Home Office thinking.

This morning I received in the post a leaflet which has on it a picture of an atom mushroom and it offers me an air-raid shelter, field shelter mark II, costing some £1,400. I am not clear how many people it is designed for because it occupies a space of only 7 ft. 8 ins. by 9 ft. 6 ins. When you think of all the food, water and lavatories and things which have to be included, it does not seem very large. That is obviously only for the well-to-do. It provides one with advice. It says: If outdoors when attack is imminent, go to the nearest building or lie flat in a ditch, covering exposed skin of head and hands. Do not look at the flash, lasting perhaps twenty seconds. Await the blast before moving indoors. There will he time after the attack to inspect for damage". It is rather reminiscent of the original version of Protect and Survive, which, I think, recommended blotting paper! What happens if one is outside? As I understand it, the siren will give only 10 minutes' notice. The pamphlet deals with the fireball and it says: Any fires should be dealt with, so a garden syringe with buckets of water or sand should be available". I suppose that all of those items are to go into the shelter.

There is another man whose views your Lordships ought to bear in mind. He is not a chief scientific adviser;he is a soldier. I do not wish to disparage any other military observations which have been made from any other quarter, but he was an outstanding man. I am referring to the late Lord Mountbatten of Burma. In May last year he made a speech in Strasbourg on the occasion of a prize-giving ceremony, and he also dealt, in part, with the question of a military confrontation. He said: And here lies the greatest danger of all. A military confrontation between the nuclear powers could entail the horrifying risk of nuclear warfare. The Western powers and the USSR started by producing and stockpiling nuclear weapons as a deterrent to general war. The idea seemed simple enough. Because of the enormous amount of destruction that could be wreaked by a single nuclear explosion, the idea was that both sides in what we still see as an East-West conflict would be deterred from taking any aggressive action which might endanger the vital interests of the other. It was not long, however, before smaller nuclear weapons of various designs were produced and deployed for use in what was assumed to be a tactical or theatre war. The belief was that were hostilities ever to break out in Western Europe, such weapons could be used in field warfare without triggering an all-out nuclear exchange leading to the final holocaust. I have never found this idea credible. I have never been able to accept the reasons for the belief that any class of nuclear weapons can be categorised in terms of their tactical or strategic purposes. Your Lordships will notice that as regards that point he agrees with the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman. He goes on: Then in 1943 I became Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia, and saw death and destruction on an even greater scale. But that was all conventional warfare and, horrible as it was, we all felt we had a fighting ' chance of survival. In the event of a nuclear war there will be no chances, there will be no survivors—all will be obliterated. I am not asserting this without having deeply thought about the matter. When I was Chief of the British Defence Staff I made my views known. I have heard the arguments against this view but I have never found them convincing. So I repeat in all sincerity as a military man I can see no use for any nuclear weapons which would not end in escalation, with consequences that no one can conceive. And nuclear devastation is not science fiction —it is a matter of fact. Thirty-four years ago "— he then refers to what happened at Hiroshima, and goes on: But that is not the end of the story. We remember the tens of thousands who were killed instantly or worse still those who suffered a slow painful death from the effect of the burns—we forget that many are still dying horribly from the delayed effects of radiation. To this knowledge must be added the fact that we now have missiles a thousand times as dreadful;I repeat, a thousand times as terrible. One or two nuclear strikes on this great city of Strasbourg with what today would be regarded as relatively low yield weapons would utterly destroy all that we see around us and immediately kill probably half its population. Imagine what the picture would be if larger nuclear strikes were to be levelled against not just Strasbourg but ten other cities in, say, a 200 mile radius. Or even worse, imagine what the picture would be if there was an unrestrained exchange of nuclear weapons —and this is the most appalling risk of all since, as I have already said, I cannot imagine a situation in which nuclear weapons would be used as battlefield weapons without the conflagration spreading. Could we not take steps to make sure that these things never come about? A new war can hardly fail to involve the all-out use of nuclear weapons. Such a war would not drag on for years. It could all he over in a matter of days. And when it is all over what will the world be like? Our fine great buildings, our homes will exist no more. The thousands of years it took to develop our civilisation will have been in vain. Our works of art will be lost. Radio, television, newspapers will disappear. There will be no means of transport. There will be no hospitals. No help can be expected for the few mutilated survivors in any town to be sent from a neighbouring town—there will be no neighbouring towns left, no neighbours, there will be no help, there will be no hope That speech unaccountably has not been reported in any national British newspaper, but as it coincides so very closely with what the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, our chief scientific adviser, also said on the same subject, I would only express the hope that the Home Secretary, when hearing all the views put forward tonight, will take those views into account as well.

7.17 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for initiating this debate today. I also thank him for mentioning the City of Plymouth, which I think has done splendid work in this regard. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, especially for the way that he has sat through the whole of the debate, which does not always happen with maiden speakers, and also for what he has said.

During the last war my father built an air raid shelter under a hill in our garden. It is still in good "nick". He built it for the evacuees because he did not think that there would be enough room for them in the houses. Having done that, he lived in London himself and. regrettably, he was killed by a blast from a bomb in London.

I should like to say something practical —because we seem to have heard about a great many matters today—in regard in particular to Wiltshire. The Wiltshire County Council has an excellent Emergency Planning Officer, and full attention has been given to the Civil Defence (Planning Regulations) 1974—No. 70. In 1969 all the local councils in Wiltshire met at chairman and clerk level. They were told their responsibilities and what nuclear war could do to the country. They were asked to decide for themselves whether civil defence should be taken seriously, and, if so, there were two requirements. First, they agreed that the officers of the council should regard civil defence planning as a normal part of their duties;and secondly, that an informed and co-operative public was essential.

The councils, as I am sure my noble friend Lord Belstead will be pleased to hear, have put in more money, more time and more effort than required by the Government. They did so because they thought that it was essential to keep up the standard: there was no point in working so hard if the subject would have no meaning because they did not have the facilities, money and equipment. I am glad to say that the public in Wiltshire responded well and now over 2,000 people, throughout the length and breadth of the county, have attended eight or more of the 12 studies which have been offered. They understand the dangers of nuclear attack and they go home to their villages and advise their neighbours what to do. There is also an excellent printed directory of their names and addresses, and if possible their telephone numbers, so that these people can be contacted at any time they are needed. There are also evening classes for the public, and the local authority officers study their responsibilities, which involve a close tie-up—and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will be pleased to hear this—with the public at community level.

However, it is felt by the county council and myself that it is essential for the Government to give a lead. There should be a master concept as to how civil defence can be undertaken. I regret to say that there is at present no strategy, no theory and no concept. Therefore, all those engaged in civil defence are in difficulty. I understand that the Society of County Emergency Planning Officers has failed, despite all efforts, to reach any sort of agreement. Therefore, civil defence is at the moment undefined, muddled and totally uncoordinated.

My noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve who, unfortunately, has almost lost her voice, has asked me to put forward one point on her behalf. Apparently the Red Cross and St. John's Ambulance come under the area health authority, which is responsible for the preparation of the Health Service in the event of nuclear war and other disasters. The circular is HDC(77)1 and HC(77)1 They have no idea what will happen because the local health authority has not told them whether they will man—as they believe they will—first aid posts and work in collecting stations. No indication has been given of how many of these posts there are or where they could be located nationwide. I gather that there is to be a Red Cross conference or seminar at Easingwold in May. I believe that it is the second one that has been held there. They would be very grateful if they could he given some indication of plans for the future, particularly as they want to hold exercises, which is now very difficult.

With regard to Wiltshire, they would very much like to have more radio instruments, better communications, and premises that will give protection to essential services. I should like to see an organisation like the Civil Contingencies Unit—known as the CCU—under someone like Mr. Robert Wade-Gery who is the Cabinet's chief contingency planner. That unit was founded to deal with civil emergencies. I hope that my noble friend will agree that civil defence also needs a contingency planner, and someone who can co-ordinate all these willing people in the various counties. I should like more co-ordination for that very good organisation, the Royal Observer Corps.

The noble Lord who spoke from the Liberal Benches mentioned the question of China. As far back as 1961, when I was in China, I was able to see the rabbit warrens which are literally under Peking and other cities. Even then they contained food and were lit, but the people will not stay there for long. Roads are being built out so that they can take the population into the countryside. That may not be so easy to do here, but I think that we should take more interest in having some of these shelters.

I gather from an article published in the Sunday Times on 17th February this year, on emergency arrangements, that 44 Home Office circulars have been issued, six of which are restricted. I should like to know whether any of the others have been issued, to whom they have been issued, and what use can be made of them by the general public or by the officers from the county councils who are running the emergency services. I was very glad that my noble friend mentioned the publication, Britain's Gamble on Civil Defence, because those two young Members of Parliament did excellent work and it is a very helpful document.

I understand that it would be possible to neutralise Britain through threats of nuclear chemical or conventional bombs or missiles, which would enable the Soviet Union to advance on a major step towards global domination. We must be prepared to prevent this, together with the other side about which I shall not speak today.

I turn to what the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, said. There is a more hopeful side to his argument. I admire the noble Lord because I have heard his speeches for the past 20 years, and he always sticks very strongly to his views. In the report of the United Nations Secretary-General published in 1967 it is said that a one megaton explosion over a city of approximately 1 million persons would result in 270,000 people being killed by blast and heat;90,000 being killed by radiation;90,000 being injured, but 710,000 being uninjured. It is those people about whom we must think and ensure that they are equipped—I should, of course, like all the people to be equipped, because we cannot say who will or who will not be injured—to deal with those who are injured. That is the only way in which we shall be able to save lives.

I hope that what I have said today shows the need for action. I am quite sure that if my noble friend gives a lead, the general public would be willing to co-operate. My noble friend Lord Renton said that he thought it would take a year. Locally, it is estimated that it would take 10 years to get any really safe civil defence action.

I end by asking the Minister two questions. I gather that the Bexley Bunker being made by the GLC at a cost of £77,000, is to be an underground fall-out shelter. Are any other such shelters being built? I also gather that some shelters exist in London which should be looked after by the Property Services Agency. Are they being cared for, and can my noble friend say who will be allowed to use them?—because I remember only too well that in the last war we were told that no one could go into the underground for safety reasons, but, of course, nobody could keep people out. I worked in them so I know of the thousands who went down to the Underground every night. I should like to know what these shelters will be used for, and, if possible, perhaps the Minister can tell me tonight.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to address you in particular on how this question of civil defence affects rural areas. It appears to me that it does not particularly matter whether we have nuclear or conventional assaults on our major urban areas as to what happens there. I feel very deeply that we must realise that the future of our country lies in its children. Prior to the last war we had a great mass evacuation of children, and I hope that in any immediate threat of future war we shall be able to do something to take away from these danger areas, where the mass of our industry is, the children who will have to reconstruct the future of this country.

Tonight, I should like to draw attention to the fact that there is a total lack of knowledge throughout the country areas of what will happen as regards civil defence during the run-up to another war. It is to the rural areas that people will send their children. We do not know where they will go; we do not know who is to be evacuated or how they will be evacuated. Are we quite satisfied that plans are being laid by voluntary or other services on how this evacuation is to take place? I am appalled at times to realise what a lack of communication there is between what one might call the "deep" planning and the individual person and family on the ground. I would be more than surprised, if you went into any rural area which would have to receive a mass of evacuees, if you could find anyone who could tell you where they were going; whether they had been consulted; whether they knew about it; or whether there were any plans for it. It is difficult to convey to people who have not got their feet actually on the ground in these areas which might receive mass evacuation what is going to happen.

It is quite easy to convey to the public in a highly populated rural area what might happen if somebody dropped a nuclear bomb on the place. It is easy to conceive, from all the things that have been said, the mass of destruction which could be done by fire and blast throughout an area. This can be understood, but what are we going to do about the basic population of young people who are in these areas? They must be moved because they are the basis on which we are going to build our future society. If we do not move them, we are in a situation where we shall be without any youth at all to build up a future society.

We read and we hear that county councils and everybody else have been given guidelines on to which these plans have been built up. The councils at the moment are so involved in matters which are of a more immediate importance that it appears to me that the long-term planning—and I am not sure that it is all that longterm—is being forgotten. If you come down in detail, have the Government really worked out how they are going to do a mass evacuation, where it starts, or where people are going to go?

Prior to the last war we were not a multiracial society; we are now. Could they tell us where, in a multiracial society, you are going to put people? Is the day-to-day life which they expect going to be carried on in some border county of Wales? It is a most difficult subject, and one about which one has not heard that there has been any thought at all. Further, it is surprising that one has never heard how a mass evacuation of young people is going to take place. Are British Rail in a position to move them, because at the same time that they are called upon to do mass evacuations they will also be mobilising reserve forces and helping to move forces over to Europe. It would be interesting to know at some timewhether the rolling stock of British Rail is now at the same level as it was prior to the last war. My information is that they would not have the rolling stock.

While one cannot envisage what is going to happen, have they enough locomotives to be brought into use to move a mass of children from great, sprawling suburban areas? Have we enough communications to move all the people, the food, and everything else required when these mass evacuations take place? I am worried about all these matters because basically one comes down to the situation that a war is fought, and won, on the ability to break the resistance of the population, and one of the ways of doing it is to destroy any hope of the future. And, as I said earlier, the future is in our children.

I should also be interested to know whether anybody has ever been into any of these small country villages and asked whether they have even been approached as to how many evacuee children could be introduced. I doubt whether anybody ever has. The information is most readily available if required. I would say that it would be easy to get it, because one of the organisations you would go to to ask what accommodation was available would be the Women's Institute. They know everything and everybody, and exactly how many people anybody could take. They could also tell you a lot more things.

I feel that a plan for people to assemble and collect children from places where the railway has put them, or where the buses have put them down, is absolutely essential. Do voluntary organisations such as the women's voluntary services know these things? Are they organised? Have things been conveyed to them? If they have, they have escaped me entirely. I have contacts with a number of people in rural areas and I have never heard anything of it.

What really worries me is the total lack of information about what is going on, and who is doing what, getting down to the person actually living on the ground. If you are to save young people who are now in the towns it is essential that people on the ground should know now exactly what is expected of them and what they have to do, where their supplies and their food will come from, and everything else connected with a sudden and unexpected influx. You would find that the mass of people who live in this country would be only too willing and anxious to help. There is a tremendous feeling of national pride and willingness to survive and help, particularly when it comes to looking to our future with the young. I hope the Government are giving great thought to the detailed planning that is required, and that they will stimulate councils to make much greater efforts to convey to everybody what the future dangers are.

7.41 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to detain your Lordships at this late hour for any great length of time, but I want to touch on two aspects of the subject which has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and the House is grateful to him for having raised it. The first is purely the defence aspect and the second is the social aspect of defence in this country today.

In regard to defence, I will follow the example of my noble friend Lord Shin-well and take a brief glance at the history of the present century, because history repeats itself, and historians will really marvel at the speed with which the decline of this country and the disintegration of the British Empire took place;and because, as Sir Winston Churchill once said, The purpose of recriminating about the immediate past is to ensure better action in the present". We have had in this century three decades of decline: first, the opening decade, known as the Edwardian era;secondly, the 'thirties, which I call the decade of deflation;and thirdly, the 'seventies, which I call the decade of inflation. I have lived through all of them, two of them in Parliament: and the similarity between them is frightening. The result of the first decade was the First World War, and the result of the second was the Second World War. In both we were very nearly defeated. We were saved twice by the skin of our teeth because we threw up, in the nick of time and at the right moment, the only two men of authentic genius in our public life this century, Lloyd George and Churchill. They rank with Cromwell and Chatham;and they are not easily come by. It is difficult to believe it now, but in 1920 the British Empire was at its zenith;it had never been so large and never been so powerful, and that is only 60 years ago. Not only the Dominions and India and large parts of Africa. but the whole of the Middle East and South East Asia, were under British protection, and often under British rule. Alone we stood up to Ataturk in 1922 and stopped a Turkish invasion of Europe. At the beginning of the 1920s the world felt safe, and it was largely under our protection.

Then, in 1922, we threw out Lloyd George, because he was said to be a dynamic force;and opted for tranquility. For a while we got it, and slept peacefully and happily under Mr. Baldwin. While we were doing that, we allowed Germany to re-arm, in defiance of the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno, to send troops into the Rhineland and to seize Austria. When we woke up in 1936 we did not like what we saw in Europe, the Middle East or in the Far East. What happened? Did we re-arm? Not a bit of it. Mr. Baldwin came down to the House of Commons and apologised for having misled us about German re-armament in the air;and at Munich we fled thankfully from the world stage, only to find ourselves grappling with mortal peril two years later. Why? As so often happens, Shakespeare has given the answer: That England, being empty of defence, Hath shook and trembled at the ill neighbourhood". Again, after the Second World War, we stood up for about four years. The then Government were pretty tough. Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Ancurin Bevan, Stafford Cripps and my noble friend Lord Shinwell did not flinch from the Berlin airlift;they signed the NATO Treaty and, if I am not wrong—he is not here to contradict me, thank goodness!—my noble friend Lord Shinwell, as Minister of Defence, brought compulsory national Service to an end with great reluctance and many misgivings. I think he would admit that if he were here;I will ask him afterwards.

What happened next? Back to sleep we went again, under the influence of inflation, dishing out paper money to everybody right, left and centre which we had not earned but which was in the early stages a drug. We withdrew the British Naval presence from the Persian Gulf and cleared out of Aden and the Gulf States. I felt it was a great mistake, and said so, at the time. Secondly, when the French—and it was the French who did it—brought forward the Pleven plan for a European Defence Community, which would have been a very good thing today if it existed, it was smashed to pieces in half-an-hour at a press conference in Rome by Eden, and with it the whole concept of Western European political union. That has gone now. There is no hope of getting it back in the measurable future;but it is an awful pity that it happened, because there is no co-ordinated European defence force which could be used in the event of an attack on the West by conventional forces.

Meanwhile, the Russian build-up continued. We were kept in the dark about that and successive Ministers of Defence told us nothing about it. Now their policy is, I think, pretty clear: they will take what they can, without serious risk, anywhere in the world with the overwhelming superiority they have built up in conventional forces;and they have done, as I said to your Lordships the other day, pretty well up-to-date. Look at what they did in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. There was no credible defence in either of those countries, but the invasion was brutal, swift and absolute. They did it, and we could do nothing about it. Did they do it in Yugoslavia? No. Why did they not do it in Yugoslavia?—because Tito had, not nuclear weapons, but a regular army of 3 million troops, as he has today, constantly on the watch, and constantly on guard. Therefore, the Russians would not take that on.

I think that we are very fortunate in having the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as Foreign Secretary at the present time because I believe that in Afghanistan the Russians may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew. It is not certain yet, but I think it is a very good move on our part to provide them with an escape hatch if they do think they have bitten off more than they can chew. I think that we are also fortunate in having Mr. Pym as Secretary of State for Defence, because by agreeing to deploy cruise missiles in Britain, and bring our Polaris force up-to-date, he has ensured that, with the United States of America, we can at least match the Russian nuclear strength. But relying upon the nuclear deterrent for a credible defence to the extent that we are now doing is taking a terrible risk, because I do not believe —for cogent reasons given by my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, in what I can only describe as a hilarious speech—that the Russians have any intention of using nuclear weapons unless they are used against them;and further, I believe that they do not think that they will ever be used against them.

So far as home and civil defence against an attack with conventional weapons goes, it is for all practical purposes in this country at present not only inadequate, but almost non-existent;and so it will be;unless and until we restore compulsory national service, we cannot have either proper home defence or proper civil defence.

Let us suppose that tonight there was an air raid on one of our great cities with conventional, heavy, high explosive bombs. What would we all do? We would not know what the hell to do. There was a television programme the other day which turned into a search for an air raid warden ill a small town in England. Somebody knew his name, but nobody knew his telephone number;and at the end of the film he had not yet been found. That is the measure of our defence against conventional air attack today;and itis not good enough. I do not think that we have too much time, because I believe that in our present defenceless condition the temptation to the Russians to attack us is very great. The least we can do is to set up a register, without which we cannot hope to achieve any quick expansion of our conventional armed forces to meet an emergency. If President Carter can do it, surely we can do it.

In conclusion, I turn to the social aspect of the defence which we are discussing tonight. We are now in the last stage of the second industrial revolution, with a transition for Britain from heavy industrial production to modern technical production, demanding invention and engineering skill. We have both;and I am not unduly worried about the future of the engineering industry in this country. I was greatly encouraged by the remarkable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, last week about this. I think that the engineering industry has a great future before it, as have many other highly technical industries. But the shipbuilding industry will not recover;the textile industry will not recover;and, as we all know, the steel industry must be cut, and is being cut, by at least 50 per cent.

Whatever monetary policy we pursue—whether one is a Friedmanite, a Galbraithite, or any other "ite "—and whether we have confrontation, or, as I hope, consensus in British industry, there is no hope of escape for this country from heavy unemployment during the next two or three critical years. We cannot avoid it. As Dr. Kissinger constantly reminds us, the next two or three years are going to be critical for the West. What are we to do about it? I listened, or rather, I did not listen to all of it, but I read carefully the debate on education last week in your Lordships' House, and I was impressed by the fact that every speech, without exception, highlighted the problem of the 16 and 17 year old school-leavers. Far too many of them, even the most gifted, are being sent to the labour exchanges, and what then?—frustration, the streets, a feeling of hopelessness, leading in many cases to drugs and drink, and finally to prison. That is the future that we are offering to far too many of our young people in this country today. We owe it to them to give them a good training in the modern world, as well as discipline and a sense of purpose, so thatcomradeship and a feeling of security will replace fear and hatred.

We must never forget Freud's greatest discovery: that there are two basic instincts in us all—the life instinct, and the instinct of aggression and self-destruction —continually at war with each other. I bow to the reproach of my fellow men", Freud said, that I have no consolation to offer them;for at bottom this is what they all demand—the frenzied revolutionary, as passionately as the most pious believer. Then, in a prophetic flash, he wrote: Men have brought their powers "— and this was long before the invention of the atomic bomb— of subduing the forces of nature to such a pitch that by using them they could now destroy each other to the last man, adding, characteristically, that from this arose a great part of their current unrest, dejection, and mood of apprehension.

We must face the fact that for the last 10 years the death instinct seems to have been winning. Look at television, any night you like. Look at the violence, look at the hatred on the faces of the rioting crowds in Tehran, or on the faces of some—not all—of those in picket lines, and even on occasions on the faces of some football hooligans. Why do they do this? —because they have no other purpose in life.

The last time that I advocated compulsory national service—and I was the only Member of Parliament at that time to do so—was in January, 1938, and for that I was denounced by the Home Secretary as a "jitterbug". In a remarkable speech at Chelsea he said, These timid panic-mongers are doing the greatest harm"; and he blamed us for holding up a five-year plan worked out by Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Chamberlain and—God save us!—Daladier, which he said would lead us immediately to a golden age. Four days after that pronouncement the German tanks thundered into Prague—and that was the end of the golden age. So, if anyone calls me a "jitterbug "after this debate, I can only reply, "Tell that to the Marines, if we've got any left".

My Lords, I am sorry if I have spoken a little violently, but I feel that, in a way, this is a touchstone;because I think it is the final test of our will to survive. We had a will to survive in 1917 and 1918;we had a will to survive in 1940—and we did, just. But this time we must show it, not after war breaks out but before it begins, because a Third World War will be the end of us.

8 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that I may be forgiven by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and others if, in the interests of time-saving at this rather late hour, I do not comment in any detail on any preceding speech—not even, in fact, upon that highly-congratulation-worthy maiden speech (if I may so put it) of my noble and patient friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne. I want instead, if I may, to ask a question, and it is this: How fiercely self-defensive are we, the British? Or, rather more to the point, how fiercely self-defensive do other people think we are? I suggest it is high time we faced the fact that the answer to this question will be pretty rude. So disinclined do we appear to be to defend ourselves that it is very hard to see how an ill-disposed foreigner could experience so much as a nervous tremor at the thought of provoking us. "Those British ", I can hear him say, "a pretty dim lot if you are asking me. Of course they can find soldiers and sailors and airmen to play with NATO;but at home, why, they will be a push-over! "

Is this possible? Is it true that we have lost the will to defend ourselves? I think it may be partly true, and, what is much more important, I think it certainly looks true to other people. I suggest a couple of reasons why this has happened. The first of these reasons is the Welfare State. Children grow up in the belief that they are entitled as of right to be looked after in sickness and in health, in work or voluntary idleness, from the cradle to the grave, by other people, and that the prime business of Governments is to raise their standard of living—a notion in which every Government heartily encourages them. This belief in the duty of other people to look after us has gone far beyond the ordinary principles of national insurance. It has divided us into two classes, givers and takers, and the takers are scroungers, lead-swingers, and exceedingly expensive hypochondriacs.

In saying this, my Lords, I do not "knock "the Welfare State;it is a treasure and a wonder. But we deceive ourselves if we think that it can be paid for by money alone. There is another price;namely, a certain sapping of the moral fibre of the nation. That price may be worth paying;I do not say that it is or that it is not, but it is high, and it is paid when people look on the State or the Government as a universal provider—an attitude most properly condemned by the Prime Minister herself. As soon as you have decided that the responsibility for something belongs to somebody else you naturally wash your hands of it: and if the Government do nothing about it, either (if it is the Government which is in question) then clearly nothing will be done. Nobody cares;the will is gone. So, of my two causes of the loss of will to defend ourselves, the first is the Welfare State.

The second, my Lords, is socialism It is a familiar ploy of the party opposite to refer to policies other than its own as "divisive ", and this may in some cases be so;but that word lies strangely in the mouth of the only party we know, or have ever known, that is itself divisive in character, in intention and even in name. It stands for organised labour, which, however worthy and important, is certainly a minority in the nation. It is in fact the trade unions in politics. And remember, my Lords, that the unions have as their decision-making instrument the card vote, which, relying as it does on thousands, even millions, of votes that have not been cast, including many that would certainly have been cast the other way if they had been cast at all, is not only not democratic hut might have been invented expressly in order to make a democratic decision impossible. A little less claim to democratic virtues on the part of the Labour Party and a great deal less on the part of the trade unions would not be unbecoming.

Now, my Lords, the end of undemocratic processes is either oligarchy or anarchy, and the end of divisiveness is division. Given a party informed by both these principles governing a country that is already a Welfare State, that country is likely to become divided, demoralised and enfeebled. Small wonder if we have, as a result of all this, lost our will to defend ourselves. But, fortunately, to describe the country as being already a Welfare State is to exaggerate. Much of the nation's life-blood still runs through arteries which are not Government-controlled. Many vital services are in the hands of private persons or are run by volunteers, from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to the magistrates' courts. Thus, the canker of selfish dependence on others has not worked right through the nation, and there is still a nucleus—indeed, much more than a nucleus—of the young and of the not so young to whom the word "service ", whether rewarded or unrewarded, is a word of honour—and by "service " mean service not to any particular section of the community, however important or deserving, but to the nation as a whole.

Civil defence is such a service, and we now have, I believe, the leadership necessary to make it a reality. It has been pointed out already, and before, that in our attitude to civil defence we are, in one respect at least, unique, because we base our attitude to it, generally speaking, on the proposition that defence against nuclear attack is impossible, so we should not try. This argument is not only erroneous but also highly dangerous, and it is dangerous not only because it condemns in principle multitudes of people to needless suffering and death, which it does, but also because it ignores, as my noble friend Lord Renton has pointed out, all other possible forms of disaster.

The nuclear deterrent has in fact worked successfully for some 30 years, and I myself am optimistic enough to believe that it may well work for ever. But it does not work only in favour of the innocent: it works also as an umbrella under which a determined aggressor can expand. We know well enough by now by what means the Soviets expand: infiltration, subversion, the spurious cry for help from within the victim country, the military occupation lasting until the so-called threat to peace has been removed, which means for ever;and the whole process is carried out under the protecting shield of the threat of nuclear war. That process can be used against us. Indeed, in its earlier stages it is already being used against us, as my noble friend Lord Kimberley has pointed out. Strategically speaking, this country, Great Britain, is the key to the defence of Western Europe. Neutralise it and Russia could roll up all the rest, largely from behind.

I therefore suggest, my Lords, that we should stop talking about civil defence and home defence and find, perhaps, some other single word of a less pacific-sounding kind. Internal defence might do, perhaps, which has the advantage of not implying a rigid line of division between civil defence and home defence. Some say that civil defence is defence, anyway, and therefore should he under the Ministry of Defence and not the Home Office. I doubt whether the requirement is quite as simple, in fact, as that. But whatever the solution may be, let us forget the dangerous notion that the only danger we have to fear from a possible aggressor is nuclear.

It may well be that the proper objects of defence are not fully identified by the terms of the Motion, which refers to home defence and civil defence. "Home defence "suggests rifles and bayonets and anti-aircraft guns, while "civil defence "suggests air-raid precautions, maintenance of essential supplies and services, fire brigades, the auxiliary fire service, the civil defence corps and so on—all brought up to date, of course. But infiltration and subversion, these make calls upon the Intelligence and counter-espionage services (with all the electronic and other ramifications that they now dispose), advanced anti-subversion and counter-insurgency measures and techniques, close co-operation between the special branches of the civil and Service police forces and a whole host of interdependent and interlocking agencies.

Above all, and most urgently of all, we need a resurgence of the defensive spirit that I referred to earlier. That, in turn, calls for public education and a Government dedicated to the safety of the nation before all else. I see no reason to despair. The spirit may have been seduced and tampered with, but it is still there. It is innate in the genius of our people and does not die. We have the right and necessary Government, at last. We have determined county councils like those of Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devonshire, and dedicated pioneering organisations like the Devon Emergency Volunteers, with whom we can share such patriots and leaders as the noble Lord, Colonel Clifford of Chudleigh —on whom be peace!

8.11 p.m.


My Lords, the very large number of noble Lords who wanted to take part in this debate shows the great width of interest—and I do not think it just in this House—in the subject which is increasing across the country. It does great credit to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for introducing this subject which follows the debate we had on 12th December on the reserve forces. As the hour is late I intend to speak on one subject only, a subject mentioned by the Minister in his speech, that of the police role which he described as "crucial". I spoke on 12th December on this same subject but, as there was no Home Office Minister on the Front Bench at that time, I fear that there may be now some repetition. I cannot see opposite many noble Lords who could have heard the speech before and who therefore may find it a boring repetition;but I shall try to vary the words even if the points and the questions will, in the end, be the same. But this will be the first time that the Minister has heard them;I have warned him and I look forward to his reply.

No one who saw Belgium's collapse in the spring of 1940 will ever forget the confusion and misery, and I can remember the point striking me then of how much could have been spared if only there had been better preparation and better training. That has been the theme of a number of speeches here this evening.

The Minister referred to the police role as crucial, but he did not tell us much about it. He spoke of standing plans for the police role in war and how each region has a chief constable nominated as commander of any special operation;but he did not tell us from where he would find the men.

In this country, we have no police reserve;we are not organised that way. To whom is the commander to be responsible? That is important. Where is the chain of command? Normally, a chief constable is wholly responsible for the operational employment of his force. But private armies hardly fit in with war conditions. I would like to know exactly how these police operations fit in with the army's operations. Referring again to the police reserves;every force has some form of task force or SPG, but they are on a small scale in this country. We have nothing to compare with the Continental forces which are organised on an entirely different basis. Northern Ireland may be an exception. I speak under correction for I do not know. It is possible to collect men for occasional duties such as Rhodesia. for example, or for a particular demonstration;hut, even so, wide areas are left painfully weak and the police presence is very thin. I do not see how one can continue over long periods to draw men from their normal territories. This plays into the hands of thieves.

We once had in this country something called the First Police Reserve. It has been run down to nothing since the war. I remember being told not long ago in correspondence (with, I think, the noble Lord himself) that the First Police Reserve is deemed "obsolete". I wonder what that means. We know that it is run down, we know that it is no longer in existence, hut why are we told that it is obsolete? Is the noble Lord happy that we should now have no police reserve in the country? If not, what plans have the Government for creating one? I cannot see it as very difficult to create a reserve, but it would mean a big change in police traditions.

The Minister went on to speak of the Special Constabulary. I think he called them a vital addition to the regular Police Service. He mentioned the inquiry which was recently set up into recruiting. The need for such an inquiry shows how very run down this part of the Police Service is. At this point I must say again, as I have said many times, that I have no personal interest to declare. We have heard from officers of the Territorial Army, from the WRVS and from St. John Ambulance and others about their service;but, to dispel any doubts, I may say that I have never been a special constable. 1 tried more than once but I was always turned down.

The blame for this low strength now lies at several doors, not least at that of the Home Office. The WRVS, I am told, has a strength of 300,000 while the Special Constabulary has a strength of 17,000—and dropping every day. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, over the last few years—and I am sure that he never wanted to mislead the House—was all too ready to say how the recommendations of the working party which reported in 1976 gave the Special Constabulary a new start. In fact, they have done nothing but slip back, because those recommendations were most unattractive to a volunteer element.

I am sorry to say that the record of the regular police in their relations with their special constables—the poor training opportunities they have given and the reluctance they have shown to give any interesting duty—is, on the whole, very bad;and true leadership, as the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, mentioned, has not been present on the scale it should have been.

My noble friend Lord Belstead also said that the British people respond best when they know the facts. That is a true statement. But how few of us know anything at all about policing. Lawyers know a certain side of it, as do certain social workers, but most of us know little or nothing. We have in this House scores of noble Lords who have served in the Army and in the other armed forces. They know about the organisation, regimental duty and staff work;but, to the best of my belief, we have no Member of this House who has served as a regular police officer. If some policing duty is very confidential, most of it is not. If the Government and the police want more support from the public for the police, they must see that more people know more about what they are up to.

I read in a newspaper not long ago remarks by a very senior police officer in this country taken from a recent speech. I hope that this is not out of context. He referred to the police in this country, in contrast to that in most of the Continental countries, as a "people's police "and said, in effect, that long may they remain so. I thought it rather unhappy wording. One is reminded of people's courts and other things associated with the Eastern bloc; but we can all see what he meant. But I do not think any police is a true people's police so long as it looks on itself as an imperium in imperio —which it is the tendency of all police forces to do;living in a private world and tending sometimes to hold even their friends at arm's length. How do we get over this? If 50 members of your Lordships' House called on the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, over the course of a week and asked whether they could be given elementary facilities so that they could learn something about police duties and what a police constable's job is about, there would be every kind of excuse put forward about calls on the overstrained manpower—which would not be true—and I would not be surprised if the Home Office fell down in a swoon!

Joking apart, we must be serious about every side of civil defence, and many established conventions may have to go. No one is in a better position than the police, with their example to us all of loyalty and training, to give the lead that we want in the counties and to instil confidence and purpose in what we are doing. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, would agree with me there.

My Lords, those who have read the Evening News this evening will have noticed the vile headlines on the front page running down the Metropolitan Police CID. The corruption in the Metropolitan Police CID is a sorry business and I do not want to belittle it. But tonight I want to think of their good points and achievements, and to look forward with confidence to regular police, the Special Constabulary and the public working ever more closely together, and not just in war. Much of the success of this country in the past has been due to the co-operation between professionals and volunteers. I think that co-operation is as important today as ever it was.

8.22 p.m.


My Lords, we face the awful spectacle of the largest offensive military machine the world has ever seen supporting a declared policy of world political domination and specifically designed to fight and win a world war using all weapons in all parts of the world. The Soviets preach the inevitability of the war and maintain an economy capable of rapid transition to war. Little wonder they have a very highly developed civil defence system, and all their citizens are trained and equipped to face nuclear attack and not to be deterred by the thought of it. Many other countries have highly developed civil and home defence plans and shelter systems: Sweden, France, Norway and others, and particularly Switzerland.

By comparison, in the United Kingdom since the disbandment of the Civil Defence Corps in 1968 and until recently, the Home Office has required little more than the designation of officers for wartime duties and the earmarking of certain premises, and guidance has fallen far short of that warranted by the threat. Consequently, there is no awareness by the authorities or the public, and no standing instructions regarding buildings, survival, and so on. Yet civil defence—which would have to be organised very quickly in threat of war—presents an enormously complex problem with most difficult decisions to be taken. There will be little time and few resources, and possibly a shortage of communications, to inform and reach the public in emergency. yet at the moment the local authorities say that there is no clear definition of civil defence. The very word means different things to different authorities.

There is no common base for planning and no declared strategy for the protection of the population. There are a number of areas of concern. Basic assumptions have been dealt with by the Minister. First, the low profile of information to the public mitigates against planning. Next, there is a wide disparity between different local authority plans and preparedness. There is little co-ordination between Government departments and public utilities. There is inadequate Government financial support for encouraging local defence planning. The merger of the civil defence grant with the general rate grant may harm civil defence in some authorities.

What must be done, my Lords? Perhaps a home defence committee under a Minister should co-ordinate home defence planning and strengthen Government commitment to civil defence. We have heard about the review of planning assumptions;a review of information policy to arouse public awareness is required, and perhaps the establishment of a Home Office and local authority research cell to improve the effectiveness of plans and avoid duplication. There should be the establishment of machinery for co-ordinating planning at regional level to increase liaison between departments and utilities;to increase support to involve community levels in defence plans;to complete arrangements for subregion premises and staffing and other headquarters;to improve home defence communications networks;to issue guidance to industry on their role in home defence;and to ensure that there is no reduction in expenditure for civil defence for local authorities. Perhaps the November conference has dealt with some of these, and the words of the Minister were certainly encouraging.

One must also ask: What is the present supply and modernisation of anti-nuclear defence equipment from dosimeters to fire engines? To what extent would any units of the Territorial Army or other force be available and even partially trained to help in emergency? Should there not be a trained voluntary body of potential leaders to instruct in emergency on survival skills after attack? What would he the result of the electro-magnetic pulse high altitude bomb? And what alternative means of communications would be used with almost all the medium wave wireless disabled? Could the coal, ironstone and old lead mines be used as shelters?

We then come to another aspect of defence, the Territorial Army and the Air Force reserves. Probably all the Territorial Army units will be fully tied up on the NATO front within days of the threat, leaving few, if any, units at home. The few regular air squadrons will also be there and will be tied up, if not shot up, within days of the conflict. The country will then be exposed to the rather obvious threat of a large-scale airborne landing from the East, to remove the United Kingdom at an early stage from being the forward base for the United States.

Is there therefore not a need for an improved scale of reserves to provide a home defence reserve when the present TA has gone to do their job in NATO? Such units could certainly be raised in the North of England where recruiting is good. In addition, with the regular Air Force gone to NATO, there will be the crying need of an auxiliary air force armed with adequate but not necessarily the most sophisticated aircraft. Any sign of an auxiliary air force is just exactly what we have not got. Yet, to increase the air reserve, train pilots and obtain planes, takes years, not days. Should we not therefore have a reserve of trained pilots and aircraft for this role as the TA plays its part on the ground.?

There is always the strong counter-argument that reserve pilots could not remain trained to handle modern aircraft, and that the ageing aircraft would be shot out of the sky;also reserve aerodrome costs would be too high. As regards pilots, those who leave the RAF do not forget all their training;and the Americans and Australians successfully bring back pilots for two or three weeks each year for intensive flying, as we used to do in the days of the Meteor and the Vampire.

A few more Hawk trainers readily convertible to war planes could provide the hardware. They may not he the most sophisticated aircraft, but in the confusion of war some would survive, and they are faster and better than many contemporary aircraft in use, for example the Alpha jet. Regarding airfields and aids, it used to be standard to fly without all the new sophisticated aids, and the ability to get home without the aids may have produced better pilots. The Russians operate from ill-prepared airfields with few aids and accept odd losses;so should we, especially as in war most of the electronic aids would soon be nullified by EMP.

Thus reserve fields would not need expensive aid equipment, and anyhow in peacetime TAC AN would allow reserve airfields to use aids from existing nearby prime airfields, and reserve pilots could operate in reasonable weather down to about 500 feet.

This is trespassing on the field of management of the RAF. But it does seem to me that a new look could be taken at the possibility of creating an active home defence air reserve. But despite the offensive posture and talk of the Soviets and their belief in their ability to fight and win a nuclear war, one cannot seriously credit that they would willingly risk the nuclear response, however dispersed their population and industry in the threat of war.

However, the deterrence of the West is only viable if they believe it will be used;and the sight of an unprotected and undispersed civil population in. the West must encourage the Kremlin hawks "to argue that the West would not in fact dare to respond to conventional aggression with nuclear weapons. Each successful venture has encouraged another until Afghanistan;and one has seen the remarkable picture of the Russians finding themselves bogged down by a resentful population and international sanctions.

There are three ways of dealing with the Russian aggression: to surrender;to fight a third world war;or to oppose by non-military means. That is, of course, what is being done. Sanctions will have some effect and shortage of grain may make the Soviets dig into their war reserves and thereby affect their civil defence plan. But, to my mind, two outstanding features predominate. The Olympic Games are the great psychological political and publicity triumph of the decade for Moscow. For years, Russian tourists have been shown the site. It is the climax of respectability. Just as Hitler needed the Games to build up German morale in 1936, so will the Games boost the morale of the Soviet people. To lose them now would be a major propaganda defeat. The Russian people, having been told little of the truth about Afghanistan, will demand to know why they are being ostracised by the West. More than any other factor, this must influence the Russians to pull out of Afghanistan.

But what happens next? We hope the BBC will not report the Games;but the athletes tell the politicians to go play their games, but they are going to Moscow. If they do that, Moscow can only deduce that, whatever the politicians say, the young people of the West do not really much mind about Afghanistan and that soon the West will forget. After a decent interval, perhaps, they can try Turkey or Yugoslavia. I hope that these athletes who value their trip to Moscow above the maintenance of the Free World will not blame the politicians if they have to be called on in a year or two to defend their way of life by a call to arms, having failed to contribute to freedom by peaceful action this year.

Remember last time? It was the Oxford Union debaters who said they would not fight for King and country, who encouraged Hitler;and those boys ended up fighting and dying. This time it will be the Olympic athletes who arc condoning aggression and encouraging the Soviets thereby. They should consider very carefully the heavy responsibility that lies upon their shoulders in deciding to go to Moscow.

The other major lesson of Afghanistan is one that the Russians are learning. Great popular resistance to occupation has surely contributed to their apparent desire to find a face-saving formula for pulling out. They must be made to learn that, should they succeed in their stated aim of world domination (and Hitler, Napoleon and many others made the fatal mistake of believing that they could do so) they would meet with two factors—first, permanent and preplanned resistance and ungovernability that would sap their strength, as many occupying powers have found to their cost. Secondly, their troops, having seen the fruits of capitalism, would demand rights and consumer goods back home, which would destroy the grip of Communism.

The Soviets must realise that even if they won a war the results would destroy their own political system and gain them nothing. Victory, even if gained, must be shown, if possible, for many reasons to be unacceptably unattractive. These factors can contribute to civil defence and to the military deterrence, in ensuring that the latter will never have to be used. The Bear has reached into Afghanistan for honey and had its paw stung. It must be made to realise that to put its paw into the West, even if it succeeds in doing so, will not only get it stung, but get it caught in a debilitating and fatal trap.

8.39 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened to the whole of this debate and am the more grateful as it has developed for the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, opened the gate into a field in which such profitable tillage has been provided by speaker after speaker. I have had the opportunity of relishing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Murton, for which I sincerely thank him and I am much tempted to dilate or to comment upon some of the remarks made in previous speeches. As the hour is late, I shall do nothing of the sort, but with some trepidation will recall the House, if I may, to that which lies behind this debate. It is the question as to what human beings do under the threat of armed violence and in particular of what we now know as war. That is what we are endeavouring to talk about;it is the defence against that particular adversity with which we are concerned.

I believe that in the various reactions to this question it would be totally improper entirely to ignore the pacifist position. Therefore, with some trepidation, as I say, I would seek to attract your Lordships' attention to a way of approaching the question of defence which hitherto has not been included in any previous speech but one in which I believe earnestly and which, perhaps without great hopes of conversion, I would venture to share with those of you who care to listen to it now.

The pacifist position, the pacifist case, is that warfare is an extraordinarily and peculiarly dangerous activity of the human species—one which is not shared by any other species. A swarm of locusts will eat almost anything except another swarm of locusts. It is the human species which has committed itself to the internecine and suicidal strife, the various aspects of which we have been discussing this afternoon. We are all impressed and oppressed by the severity of that test and of the mortal danger of that activity.

The pacifist believes there is no justification for the exercise of armed violence and that it is entirely wrong. It cannot be baptised: there is no such thing as a just war. It cannot be domesticated: an international committee the other week broke up in some confusion because their remit was the question as to what are objectionable weapons, as disticnt from those which are more kindly. There is no such thing as the limitation of war and it has, I believe, a terminal consequence now, in that it produces a situation that is irremediable, irreversible and totally dangerous.

I admit frankly that this is a belief that I hold and it is shared by many others, including His Holiness of Rome, who not long ago in Ireland pronounced with no reservations at all: Thou shalt not kill". I regard it and so does the pacifist case, as something which is intimately connected with the possession and the use of weapons—in fact, the possession of weapons, which marvellously concentrates the mind of those who possess them in exactly the same way that the sentence of death is supposed so to do. In other words, we believe as pacifists that there is a practical answer which will prevent the access of warfare and prevent the various remedial and "ambulance "methods which have been so widely ventilated in your Lordships' House this afternoon.

If you think of a cliff as the cliff of war, some kind of fence at the top of that cliff will enable those who venture near to disaster to refrain from committing themselves—and then to yell as they are half-way down: "What can we do now? "—which is a fairly vapid comment. It is, I suppose, perfectly reasonable to think in certain circumstances that if you have not got a fence at the top of the cliff it is only right and proper that you should have some sort of ambulance at the bottom. Therefore, in principle, if some people are afflicted with the scourge of war it is only right and proper that those who care for their welfare and those who escape from the kind of dolours that afflict them should endeavour so to aid them to the extent that is possible. But this is not the prior consideration.

I believe that the prior consideration is to prevent the outbreak of that war, and that can only be done by the active refusal to take part in it and the application of all the means of government to reduce to nonentities those who otherwise would be capable of inflicting harm on others by the taking away of the weapons or the non-provision of the armaments. I have said that, and I realise how antipathetic many of you will be to it. I would claim it as a faith, but I would also invite your Lordships to believe that nowadays that faith is reinforced as probably never before. It is reinforced in the very nature of the weapons which we now possess.

I am sure that your Lordships listened with great care to what my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner read out of the consequences, the terminal consequences, of nuclear warfare. I believe that they are totally frightening, and I do not share the belief that some people rather vapidly seem to me to possess, that it would be acceptable to see millions of people destroyed, if some remnant were able to carry on after the cataclysm. But I readily agree that it cannot be argued that a future war will necessarily begin with a nuclear explosion.

What I am sure about is that one of the characteristics of modern war is that it is intimately linked with deception. It was none other than Winston Churchill himself, who said that in wartime lying is an indispensable ally. He was not being unduly unkind to ordinary people, who would wish to bestow upon their activities in warfare the same kind of behaviour as they are characteristically known to pursue in civil occasions. There is nothing that any pacifist should say which would, in any way, denigrate the sublime courage, the heroism and the self-sacrifice of those who go to war.

What, however, does appear is that the practice of war progressively erodes any moral principle, and that the catastrophe of war is that the possession of the weapons by which you wage it is increasingly the means whereby you deceive the enemy, particularly when, as in this House this afternoon, we have been busy nominating him in the USSR. I believe, therefore, that there is evidence now to support a faith which I have held ever since the early days of Dick Sheppard. I think I was number three in his peace army. We had a Brigadier-General Crozier and one or two other people. We were rather short of infantry, but we were fairly strong in the junior soldiery, the junior lieutenants and so on.

But over the years, I have been increasingly convinced that, whereas a great deal of the argument this afternoon has been about "What do you do when a war comes? ", the real point of this debate should be, "Is there a practical method whereby you can avoid this catastrophe? "I believe that, whereas multilateral disarmament may take too long, and is generally ineffective, and unilateral disarmament of one weapon may make it more likely that other weapons will be used in its place, there is a dynamic which belongs to the refusal to take part in war, not as an escapist policy, but so that you may contribute to other forms of social intercourse and behaviour. I declare it, I hope with modesty, but with complete conviction.

I shall not sit down without making one further comment, and your Lordships will not object to it in as much as I wear the collar that I do. I wish that some of my friends on the episcopal Bench could support me in this. It is that we are bidden as Christians to lift up the Cross. We are not told to brandish it. I hope no noble Lord will think that in what I say now I am flaunting the Cross, but I find it completely incompatible with the teaching and spirit of the Jesus whom I profess to serve, to believe that you can reconcile even what is called conventional warfare with what we now look forward to in these days of Lent, and come at last to Good Friday and the foot of the Cross.

I know that this is an ambition. It is more, I believe, than a pious aspiration. I declare it, not in the sense that it is likely to be acceptable as a programme. I have learned that over the years. But I believe that a testimony of the pacifist position should be included in any discussion as to what we are to do in the future.

Arthur Koestler said that we are in grave danger of putting an end to our human species altogether. Some people regard Koestler as a polymath;others regard him as someone who has been educated above his intelligence, but I think you disagree with him at your peril. I remember what Arthur Koestler said about this flaw in human nature, the flaw of violence—apparently, incurable violence;the flaw which has, in the past, put an end to the sabre-tooth tiger and the mammoth. I believe that we have little time left in order not only to devise an improved way of containing this evil of war and providing what remedial processes are available to us, but to recognise that in this revolutionary age we need an entirely new concept of where power lies. I believe that that power does not lie in the gun, however justly some people may believe that they ought to use it. I believe that, finally, it must reside in the way of the Cross.

8.46 p.m.

The Marquess of AILSA

My Lords, I very much welcome this debate which has been initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. I echo his sentiments, that our arrangements for both civil and home defence are totally inadequate. I would go further and say that they are virtually non-existent. Many years ago I was rather soundly rebuked in this House for suggesting that there was a need for home defence. Since that time it has become more and more apparent to me that this need exists.

Not far from where I live there is a very large international airport. So far as I am aware, the nearest security forces are at least three hours' journey away and it would not be difficult for an enemy to take control of that airport. While I do not suggest that any home or local defence arrangements would necessarily be able to prevent this from happening, I feel certain that they could, at least, delay the exploitation until such time as the security forces could react.

I remember hearing a story that a Norwegian friend of mine told me. After the Germans had occupied Oslo and were making their way north, they were delayed for a great many hours at one of the passes because the Norwegian local defence force had come out and occupied that pass. They stopped the Germans for, I think, something like 36 hours, so they bought time for the rest of us.

I should like to turn briefly to civil defence, because it has become apparent that in this sphere little or nothing has been done for a great many years. It appears that fright has been taken, because of the large numbers of casualties that could arise from a nuclear attack. The attitude seems to be, "As we shall all be dead, why worry about the living?". While, undoubtedly, there will be tremendous numbers of casualties;there will, equally, be large numbers of people who survive and, having survived, will want to live.

There are a number of basic do's and don'ts about survival under nuclear bombardment. Most of them are fairly simple. Surely it is possible to let people know these, so that they can at least take precautions to look after themselves. I strongly urge that the Government encourage the setting-up of local voluntary organisations, for the very purpose of spreading the word about what to do and how to defend yourself, so that when the time comes people are prepared. I suggest that these organisations should be basic and simple—nothing very highfalutin' or high-powered—using very much their local resources. But they could, if the need arose, look after those in their own localities, using what they had—because I doubt whether anything else would get to them until it was too late.

I turn to a possible suggestion about the use of the general reserve. I think that your Lordships know that this reserve is made up of all those who have served in the armed forces up to a certain age. So far as I am aware, if that reserve force is called into being what I would describe as a general post takes place. People start moving from one end of the country to another to report to their bases. Signals have to go to Catterick, the Engineers somewhere else and the Gunners somewhere else. Why can these people not report somewhere near their own locality where they are readily available to be made up into units for home and civil defence? These are trained men. Should this situation arise, the one thing we shall need will be trained men. Whatever happens, I should like to urge the Government to think seriously about encouraging the setting up of more voluntary organisations for the purpose of both civil and home defence so that we may be able to defend ourselves should this country ever be attacked.

Before I sit down I should like to pay a tribute to the members of the Royal Observer Corps. As has already been mentioned, these persons have served for many years, virtually unsung and virtually unrewarded. Their task is to warn us of a nuclear attack and to monitor it when it comes. If we do not know how to look after ourselves when it happens, they will have been wasting their time.

8.52 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to speak only on one very small matter, and I hope that I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a minute or so. I want to ask the Government about the pamphlet called Protect and Survive. We all know that it has been rather hard to get hold of in the past. My noble friend Lord Belstead insists that it is not secret and I am sure he is right about that, but it has been rather difficult to get hold of. I rang the Home Office to ask them about it and they told me I could not have a copy. They said that there was a copy in the Library of this House, and eventually I found a photostat copy there. But no matter;the Government now say that they will issue it, which is a change.

Having said that they will issue it, I want to ask the Government whether they are going to do anything further. Are they going to push it? There is no point in just making it available in HMSO bookshops where one can buy it at a price. If it is to have any effect at all, it needs to be pushed down people's throats. The point about civil defence is that everyone must know about it. They must all know that they can hide under the kitchen table with tins of baked beans on top to prevent atomic fall-out getting through to them.

I do not know whether any noble Lords ever travel on the Underground. If they do, they will have noticed that there are posters indicating which parts of London will be affected by flooding, should the Thames burst its banks. I am sure that this is a very unlikely eventuality, just as I am sure that a nuclear war is very unlikely. But it shows that the local authority—in this case I presume the GLC—is making some effort to tell people that it is unsafe to live in Pimlico because it is going to be flooded;and no doubt Wapping, Deptford and places like that are equally unsafe. Similarly, if noble Lords ever go into City of Westminster libraries they will come across a document called City of Westminster: If Westminster is Flooded. There is a picture on the front of it of the Houses of Parliament, with water all around it and lots of flooded cars. It tells you roughly what to do and what the warning systems are. So far as I can make out, you do just the opposite of what you do in a nuclear attack. You go upstairs rather than downstairs, and you also turn off the gas and take upstairs your elderly, disabled and infirm. So another local authority, the City of Westminster, is also making some effort to tell us roughly what to do, although it has not sent out this document to all ratepayers. At least, I have never received a copy. However, they have made it available in the libraries.

All I want to ask the Government is whether they will do much the same with Protect and Survive. Will they be prepared to put it in the libraries and to make it freely available? Will they put advertisements in the Underground and elsewhere telling people that such a document is available, so that we can all find out how to build our bomb proof shelters, and so on?

8.55 p.m.


My Lords, I should like very much to thank my noble friend, if I may so describe him, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh for introducing this most timely and interesting debate. I must apologise to my noble friend Lord Belstead and to my noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne for missing their speeches. Indeed, I must apologise to your Lordships for not having been here at the opening of the debate. I hope, however, that I can make some fairly short contribution to the debate, as the hour is late.

Perhaps I should start by saying that I had the doubtful privilege of visiting Hiroshima about six months after the one bomb had been dropped upon it. To this moment I have always remembered the extraordinary effect that that one bomb had, so in my subsequent remarks I hope that your Lordships will not feel that I am not to a certain extent aware of what might happen. It is very sad indeed that one cannot go all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Soper, in his spendidly Christian approach to the problems, but the fact is that the Soviets are not Christians. If they were, perhaps the world would be a different place;with the threat of nuclear warfare, it would make it much easier. But the fact is that we really must take what we believe to be the right precautions.

I personally believe that the Government have not been so stupid, backward and cheese-paring as some people might think. Until quite recently—it is difficult to put a time upon it—the threat was containable;it was not something for which one had to take extra precautions. But I really do believe that the Soviets are getting more and more dangerous, almost day by day, and that there is always the threat that they may get carried away by their own enthusiasm, since they have such immense resources for both conventional and nuclear warfare. Therefore, it is terribly important that we should take what might be called reasonable precautions against some sort of attack which might be thrust upon us at a time when we least expect it.

I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Carver, when he said that the total nuclear attack on these islands would be something from which so little would survive that very little could be organised. I will come back to that point in a minute. I believe also that there are other sorts of attack which may take place. For one thing, there is chemical warfare, not just nuclear warfare. There are conventional threats of warfare. I agree also with the noble Lord, Lord Carver, that these islands would be extremely difficult to invade, whether by sea or by air, and that it is probably most unlikely that that would be the particular threat. However, there are all sorts of other methods of blackmail available to a potential enemy which must not be discounted.

I do not want to dwell for too long on the various methods by which we could be threatened or hit. However, I think it would not be sensible to rule out a limited nuclear attack;nor do I think it would be sensible to rule out—to me this is the crux of the matter—a situation in which some people will survive, whatever form of attack it is, but nobody will know who they are or, indeed, where they are. For example, I come from the Isle of Wight. If the wind happens to be from the North and a large nuclear bomb is dropped on Southampton, we are wiped out with Southampton, while Winchester, let us say, survives—or maybe it is Basingstoke. If, on the other hand, the prevailing winds are blowing it may be that South of the Down, where I happen to live, we would survive.

The point is that there will be some survivors and it seems to me that, with the threat having increased to the extent that it has over the years—and there is no sign of the Soviets slackening their progress in the development of weapons—it is important that we should have some sort of provision for those who are going to survive. We cannot organise it very thoroughly in advance because we do not know who they will be. So we have to have a basic system, and I should have thought that the system which exists in nucleus, of a local emergency set-up centred on the local authorities, is an admirable basis from which to start. I should have thought that was particularly important as a co-ordinating function, and indeed that is what it is for. However, what it needs is something to co-ordinate and that, to my mind, is lacking.

In the first instance, whatever happens and wherever these people arc, they will need to have a disciplined and trained root corps of people around which to centre themselves, and I find it very distressing to discover that whereas in 1914 in my little island, which then had a population of about 50,000 or 60,000, there were 2,000 territorial soldiers, and whereas in 1939 there were something like 800 territorial soldiers, today we have just had a recruiting campaign to build our one platoon up from 25 soldiers to 50. It is ludicrous, my Lords;and really we need some other stronger basic force of people who in peace-time are taught the rudiments of discipline and trained to take charge in emergencies.

It does not really matter what the emergencies are;it is the ability to lend themselves to this sort of task if and when it comes about. There are literally hundreds, indeed thousands, of people who are ready to join. The voluntary spirit is very strong in this country and it has not been tapped to a proper extent. There is an ample supply of people who would join the Territorial Army and indeed make themselves available for other purposes. It is terribly important that we should have this stronger nucleus to fall back on when and if the disaster was to come about.

We shall not only need soldiers, my Lords, we shall need specialists and, coming as I do from a coastal area, we shall need a great deal of assistance from people who go to sea;and there is room for an extension of the Royal Naval Reserve in that area. But above everything else there is a need to co-ordinate the people with special knowledge, whether it be underwater divers or mountaineers in that part of the world, or whatever, who need to have some idea of what will be required of them, if they are around.

In addition to that, people of the appropriate type will need to know what resources there are—where, for instance petrol is stored, so that if the disasters happen on one side of the hill they will know where they can go to on the other side of the hill, and vice versa. So there needs to be a co-ordination of knowledge, a co-ordination of specialised effort and a backbone of disciplined, trained people. To my mind those are the things of which we have not got nearly enough in this country.

Finally, we come to the point of whether the people should be given some sort of clue as to what to do. It was my privilege in the 1950s to serve on the NATO staff in Malta and there, with the assistance of an American naval officer and with the approval of our admiral, we produced little cards which told all the service people and their families and dependants above the age of eleven (which was the age at which we struck it) what to do. We gave each of them a card which said, "If you are at home"—do this; "if you are out in the streets" —do that; "if you are on duty"—do something else. It told them where to go and what to do and who to get into touch with.

I am not suggesting for one minute that we need to distribute cards like that to our population today because the immediate threat is nothing like great enough for it. Nor indeed was it in Malta in 1950;we were most unlikely as a target. But it did have an immense advantage. One should not forget that these young women who were the wives of the sailors were all away from home, so they felt rather more cut off than they would have done in the United Kingdom. But we subsequently discovered that being given these cards had a most tremendously beneficial effect on their morale. They were fully conscious of the fact that somebody had done something to give them a fighting chance to survive if a disaster occurred. Looking back on the 1950s, the poor old Russians would have been out of their tiny heads to have bothered to drop a bomb on Malta. There were many more important places to drop the few bombs they had. But the point of it was that it was something which made people feel that there was an organisation and that something was going to happen. That is very important.

So there is a great deal to be done. I would hesitate now to address these next remarks to my noble friend. So long as he is in his post, I have no shadow of doubt that he is more than capable of handling what I am talking about. But I do wonder whether the time has come to take the responsibility for civil defence away from the Home Office. It seems to me that it was the obvious Ministry to have this task back in 1938—which is rather a long time ago, my Lords—but since then there have been all sorts of changes, and one of them has been in some respects a greater degree of organisation by local authorities.

It seems to me that the civil department which should be handling this co-ordinating task in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence—and I must confess that I am a little distressed that the Government did not see fit to have our noble friend for the Ministry of Defence to speak in this debate, because I think there is a strong element of defence working together with the civil arm—would more appropriately be the Department of the Environment, because I believe that the co-ordinating function must be pushed down as low as it possibly can be. I do not believe that the Home Office, on the excuse no doubt that they have some sort of control over the police, are really the ones to do the job.

It seems to me that one of the reasons—though I did in a sense forgive them for not having operated more swiftly—why they are perhaps even more backward than they need be is because I think the Home Office's heart is not in this, though I am sure my noble friend's is. I wonder whether, when he comes to reply, he could comment on that point? I hope very much that so long as his Ministry has this task it will give great care to introducing some of the ideas which noble Lords from all sides of the House have suggested as being matters of considerably greater urgency than I think has hitherto been given to them.

9.9 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a very long debate and a very good debate, and I am glad it has not been a debate on party lines. I was tempted to reply to one noble Lord, but he is not now in the Chamber. I see the noble Earl, Lord Cork, is here now. I was going to say that patriotism is not the monopoly of one party. I was very proud to be in a Cabinet where we had more serving officers at that period than any other Cabinet had had in the history of this country. I was very proud that I was a gunner. We have listened to speeches representing various trends of opinion.

Inevitably we have had, quite rightly, a speech from a sincere Christian, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, which I think was echoed by my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker. I heard that speech once before, but I think it is a good speech and I think he should go on saying it. I mean it sincerely. I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Shinwell who rather criticised it. After all, it is a point of view. Sometimes when I read what could happen to our country if we had to have massive evacuation and an attack very soon I shudder to think what would happen. So I believe it is right and proper that that point of view should be expressed, and indeed Lord Gardiner, in reading out solid parts of Solly Zuckerman's article, and indeed the speech made by Lord Mountbatten in Europe, shows that there is concern about this, and that is right.

I want to get involved at the very end of my speech in the sphere of foreign policy, because most noble Lords have not really stuck entirely to their brief in the sense of speaking of civil defence. I think that probably is right in a debate of this kind. We have had a variety of speeches which I think have been very fine. I enjoyed so much Bob Boothby's speech. But, above all, we owe a great debt to Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. I was delighted to hear what he does, what a fantastic life he lives in his area and what he does for the community, which is to his great credit. Above all, it is to his great credit as a good patriot that he stimulated this debate. It is important that we should examine our defence and our civil defence. Before I go on to what I want to say, may I, above all, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Murton, on his maiden speech. What a lovely title: Lord Murton of Lindisfarne. He is from my area and I am from his area, and I am very proud of him. He was shackled a lot in the other place when I was there because he sat in the Chair. Now he has freedom, and I hope he will use it as well as he has done today in his maiden speech. It was a fine speech and we all pay him tribute.

Now we come to some of the main arguments that we have to consider. When we were talking about atomic energy immediately after the war an amendment was put down to the Address in reply to a King's Speech (as it was then);it was an attempt by a group of young officers who had just come out of the Army and Navy to move an amendment which would have altered British policy;in other words, the desire to create an international organisation to control nuclear power. I only wish that had been accomplished. Then emerged the famous Baruch Plan. I think if we had had control of nuclear power through an international organisation we would not have had the situation we have today.

There was a debate the other week in the other House. I think it was a very good debate, and the Minister of State there did outline policy. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in his own able way has already given the House considerable information and has outlined policy. No doubt he will intervene again and reply.

Another matter that emerged from the debate in another place—and it has been emphasised over and over again in this House—is what do other countries do for their defence? I gather that we are informed—and this certainly emerged from the debate in the other place—that Russia has a sophisticated civil defence organisation and shelter programme. That disturbs me. I believe that we should have the very best and that is why it is urgent that we take action.

I should like to take up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I believe that the £22 million is inadequate. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will press his colleagues and the Treasury to give more financial aid in order to improve our civil defence organisation. It is an urgent matter: it is part of the defence of the realm. I know that we have a policy which provides a system for warning and monitoring nuclear fall-out. There are plans also for an administrative and governmental organisation to be run from 24 sub-regional headquarters. I understand also that Cabinet Ministers would leave London and move to those headquarters.

For the community, we have had the pamphlet Protect and Survive which asks the public to take precautions. It is not enough for only a few to have that pamphlet. I am not saying that it is an answer to the nuclear bomb or how we should survive if nuclear war occurred, but at least it is an attempt to give information. Let us hope that more of those pamphlets can be distributed. Many noble Lords may find it inadequate and I was rather worried about it. But what can we do? I would only ask noble Lords to read it.

There is another excellent Home Office booklet,Nuclear Weapons. I think that that booklet is more suitable for the technician. Indeed, one must have a knowledge of higher mathematics to be able to understand it, but it is a very good document which all noble Lords should read carefully. It will enable them also to appreciate how important it is that we should now have adequate defence. The public, too, will be advised on what steps should be taken for protection in their own homes and what stocks of food and materials they should get in for a two-week period. Advice will be given on television and radio, and in the Press, and in the booklet which I have mentioned, Protect and Survive, which will be distributed to as many homes as possible. If a decision is taken in time I understand that the present plan allows only 72 hours for all of this to happen. Protect and Survive relies on the simpler expedient of advising its readers to live under the kitchen table, or something similar, suitably protected by mattresses. If ever we really face an atom bomb and nuclear warfare, I doubt whether that will be adequate.

However, I believe that the pamphlet should be distributed because it is important that people should understand what is happening. There should be discussion about this matter throughout the country and that in the end should generate the need for effective civil defence throughout the country. It is a major operation and I believe that we must proceed very quickly. After all, just imagine what would happen to the people who live in high rise flats in our large cities if a bomb were dropped? Imagine the chaos that would ensue and the difficulties of evacuation. All those matters are problems for the departments. I do not go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and say that civil defence should be taken out of the hands of the Home Office and given to another department. I believe that the Home Office can cope with it and that it is their job. Therefore, I cannot agree with the noble Lord on that matter.

However, we must ensure that our underground structures are suitable and see how existing ones can be adapted to provide shelter from nuclear and conventional attacks. Again, there are problems as regards food stocks. When I was the Minister for Agriculture I used to be on a defence committee concerned with this matter. It is an important part of defence. We should also know what is to happen in the European Community as regards its surplus stocks which we could probably use in this country or store in case of emergency. That might be one way of getting rid of the many surpluses which have been created because of the Common Agricultural Policy. I am not condemning them for it.

We also need to examine more carefully the co-ordination of the police and fire services, the military and the departments at local levels. I was glad that the Minister of State for the Home Office stressed that there has now been a revival in public interest and an increase in the number of letters received from the general public expressing concern about defence. I understand that because of that situation the Home Secretary has speeded up arrangements.

In other words, we shall maintain the United Kingdom warning and monitoring organisation at a high level of efficiency and readiness;we shall maintain an increased stockpile of food;grants will be given to local authorities to help pay the cost of the emergency planning teams which are maintained by the county councils and the GLC to produce, in consultation with the district councils and other public bodies, the detailed plans required under the Civil Defence Planning Regulations 1974. Again, this will affect important areas, such as emergency feeding and the care of the homeless, expenditure on emergency communications networks and on small planning teams in certain Government departments.

I understand that the review embraces the whole spectrum of home defence and involves practically all Whitehall departments. Considering the threat and the assumptions that we must make of the probability of attack, the nature of such an attack, and the likely warning period, we must give the public information. We must be frank with the public. We must be certain about the roles of the police, the fire services and the ambulance services, and about how we must, as I have said, maintain essential food and water supplies. We must be certain how our hospital services and essential industrial production, which must continue, will cope. We must be certain how coal, gas, oil and electricity supplies will cope during an incident. Then there is the question of our inland transport, and the use of shipping and aircraft for carrying essential supplies. These are all-important, especially to our dispersal policy. A survey of buildings must be made, which I mentioned earlier. Above all, this must be done quickly.

I turn to a point which I hope will please some of my noble friends who take a different point of view from mine. I am not a pacifist, but I believe that we must think in terms of trying to overcome the arms race. That is why I have always believed in SALT 1, SALT 2 and SALT 3, if it ever comes about. I remember participating in a defence debate in this House some time ago. I believe that we must still probe and test the Russians and others;if we can, we must come to the table to discuss these major issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has had an outstanding success over Rhodesia; he has removed a sore point which, after all, is important from the point of view of defence. I believe that he should persevere still further, even it' it may involve having to meet the Russians. I think that that would be the right approach. After all, it is an approach which is not only for us. It would be for our NATO allies and the United States. I shall not say that we should condone what the Russians have done in Afghanistan. But I believe it is important that the major powers should still meet and discuss a strategic arms limit, which we have mentioned, and the balanced force reductions which are needed. I am sure that many noble Lords and I have heard their speeches in this House on this very question—will approve of what I have said.

If we do that, it does not mean that we should not spend more money on defence. I believe that we must spend money on defence. I am not a pacifist. I believe that we must have adequate defence arrangement. Of that I am quite certain. With all due respect to my friends who are pacifists—and I admire their idealism —the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, was quite right when he read Solly Zuckerman's remarkable article. I do not know whether noble Lords have read it, but it frightened me a little. However, despite the article by Solly Zuckerman, who is a very distinguished defence scientist and a Member of this House, I believe that we must have defence. It is in that spirit that I welcome what the Government are doing and, as I and the Liberal Party have advocated today in this debate, I hope that they will continue to give more money.

9.25 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peart, for the speech he has just made. As a senior Minister in the previous Government over a period of many years the noble Lord knows what needs to be done in this field. It was the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in his remarks during this debate who said that it was essential in his view that your Lordships' House should have this debate. Indeed, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for the debate, which has been important for civil defence planning in this country. I should like to give an assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who specifically asked me the question, that the Government will be better placed to reach conclusions on the varied and complex aspects of the review that they are conducting because of the debate which has been held in your Lordships' House today.

I was particularly interested in the views expressed by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye. As a former Air Minister the noble Lord's view of the effectiveness of the deterrent was to me particularly interesting, and your Lordships who listened to my noble friend may have noticed that although he called for a stop to nuclear build-up, he was careful to affirm the need for deterrence through the nuclear capability of the Western Alliance while that need remains.

It was the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, in his splendid maiden speech who, in essence, said that civil defence and the defence of our country are indissolubly linked;that civil defence preparedness is essential if our nuclear deterrent is to be credible. It is in that context that this debate of the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, is being held today. Four noble Lords particularly—my noble friend Lord Renton, and the noble Lords, Lord Murton, Lord Carver and Lord Mottistone—spoke of the possibilities of limited damage being done by what the noble Lord, Lord Carver, explained he would call the equivalent of our policy of flexible response;in other words, a conventional attack upon this country, for whatever reason.

The use of aircraft and missiles armed with non-nuclear devices against selected targets cannot of course be discounted. But many of the measures taken in the context of nuclear war would be of equal relevance to a war which began with conventional weapons. None the less, may I just repeat what 1 tried to say to your Lordships at the beginning of this debate;namely, that our review includes a most serious look at the possibilities of conventional air attack upon this country. If I may add a word about nuclear attack, it is of course true that present plans assume a period of warning running into weeks of possible nuclear attack. Those are the present assumptions that we have. We are reviewing our plans in the light of new assumptions of perhaps less time of political warning.

It is also possible that the Warsaw Pact, as I am sure many of your Lordships know better than I, might be able to launch a military attack against NATO with only a few days' warning. Such an attack, I am advised, could not be launched with only a few hours' notice. However, the only defence against a pre-emptive missile attack, of which we would have only minutes tactical warning, is our second strike capability, such as Polaris, to deter it. It is that which brings me to say that of course when the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, says that therefore the threat of a conflagration exists, the noble Lord is absolutely right.

I realise that those grim facts are not palatable to the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker. I respect the noble Lord's sincerity and, if I may say so, very much admire the way he speaks;but although I take to heart his graphic description of nuclear holocaust, I have to say I do not agree with his conclusion, for the inevitable conclusion from the noble Lord's speech was that we should do nothing to defend ourselves. I am profoundly thankful that that has never been the way of the British people, and I feel that the noble Lord ignores wholly that effective civil defence is a necessary contribution to deterrence against nuclear attack.

If nuclear attack occurred, as my noble friend Lord Cathcart said, that would not wipe out the nation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, asked me whether the Home Office accepted the views which were put forward in The Times article of 17th February of this year, which referred to numbers of people who would be killed in a single five-megaton H-bomb explosion both from blast and fallout. The answer of course is, yes, so far as blast is concerned. The article appeared to be based on the official handbook called Nuclear Weapons, and was substantially correct, but the article assumed that no precautions had been taken. Even rudimentary protection from fall-out, such as sheltering in undamaged or lightly damaged houses, would reduce tremendously radiation casualties;and I therefore return to what some noble Lords have said today, which is that casualties can be kept down by proper civil defence plans. Whether the balance of our protection measures is right is under urgent review, but I have to say that our plans do not include the philo- sophy of the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker.

I will try to answer some of the questions which noble Lords have asked. My noble friend Lord Kimberley referred to the threat from saboteurs. We recognise that it is one of our most important tasks in transition to war and in wartime to protect certain vital installations, in particular those which are essential for the United Kingdom to be able to maintain an effective defence. I cannot of course go into details in what is a sensitive area, but my noble friend can be assured that this task is afforded a high priority by the armed forces, the police and the security services, and our arrangements are kept under careful review.

The noble Lords, Lord Duncan-Sandys and Lord Peart, both brought up the question of shelter policy. Soon people will be able to buy copies of Protect and Survive—which, I would say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, is being revised before being published—and will be able to consider the measures which can be taken in the home to improve their protection against radioactive fall-out.

My noble friend Lord Henley asked how the pamphlet was to be put on sale. The answer is that our plan is to put it on sale for a reasonably modest price after Easter;but, should war threaten, this material could be rapidly promulgated through the media so that everyone then could complete their preparations, whether or not they had bought the pamphlet.

We are urgently considering ways in which a family could purchase or construct at reasonable cost simple forms of fall-out shelter affording greater degrees of protection than the crisis measures in Protect and Survive. Therefore, my reply to the remarks of my noble friend Lady Vickers towards the end of her speech, is that we are also giving thought to the extremely difficult question of the provision of public fall-out shelters;but as your Lordships would expect me to say once again, the cost in that respect has to be looked at very carefully.

My noble friend asked me about a shelter which is costing in the region of £10,000. This is at the design stage and is part of the work of the Home Office working group on a range of structures which would afford greater family protection than the advice in Protect and Survive. The question of using the underground shelter in London will be examined as part of our more general study of future shelter policy.

All of your Lordships, in one way or another, have said that the civil defence organisation must contain a strong voluntary element. May I record again the tribute which I tried to pay at the outset of the debate to the many thousands of public-spirited people who perform voluntary duties. My noble friend Lady Pike spoke of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service getting value for money from the Home Office. I must say that I was delighted to have such a kindly friend on the benches on which I sit pay a tribute of that kind, because of course the truth of the matter is that the boot is on the other foot: we in Government get, and the populous throughout the country gets, value for money from the Women's Royal Voluntary Service, as well as from the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance, because to some extent Government grant aids those two organisations, too;and we realise their worth.

I realise that your Lordships are anxious that we should not fail to take advantage of the efforts of those voluntary organisations which are specifically interested in civil defence work. In this respect I assure my noble friend Lady Pike, and the noble Lord, Lord Westbury, who spoke in particular on behalf of St. John Ambulance, that the Government will take serious account of the suggestions they made in their speeches. But, please, let us bear in mind views which were expressed, I think I can claim, by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who both said that it is the local authorities who can, and should, prepare plans for civil defence in their areas. This is the sort of middle way which my noble friend Lord Renton said was one of three ways in which local co-ordination can be worked out.

I particularly say this to the House, not just because the 1974 Civil Defence Planning Regulations make it a statutory function of local authorities to plan for civil defence, but also because there must be a co-ordination of the emergency services and civil defence organisations at local level. As things stand therefore this falls at the moment to the local authorities, with advice given in numerous circulars from the Home Office, all of which, incidentally, are in the Library of your Lordships' House. It may, or may not, be that additional machinery is needed, but I give an assurance this evening that we should not fail to study carefully how all this effort may be more effectively integrated into the nation's plans.

I was asked by my noble friend Lord Inglewood in his speech about the position of the police. The Regional Police Commander in time of war will report to the Regional Commissioner, who will be a Minister. When my noble friend asks me—as he has every right to do—where will the extra police come from in time of war, may I first make the point that the total police establishment in this country today is at an all-time high. There has never before been so many full-time regular police in this country;and this is something of which I believe we can be proud.

So far as a reserve is concerned, the Special Constabulary are not, of course, a reserve. They are volunteers under the operational command of their chief constable, but as I sought to make clear, in time of emergency, the Special Constabulary would be a vital additon to the forces with which they have worked and trained in pevious years. This is the reason why I attach the very greatest importance to the working party which has been set up by the Police Advisory Board (of which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is chairman), which is looking into the ways of trying to reverse the recent downward trend in numbers in the Special Constabulary, to which my noble friend quite rightly drew attention.

I wonder whether your Lordships will forgive me if I answer no more questions, not just because of the time but for another reason. The review being conducted by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is the first review of civil defence for many years. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman expressed the view that the review might not be wide enough. It deals with all the activities of all Government departments connected with civil defence;and I hope that my noble friend will not think I am being slipshod if I say that it was put in much better form than I could possibly put it by my honourable friend Mr. Britton, the Minister of State at the Home Office, in columns 625 to 626 in Hansard of 20th February 1980 —the scope of the review. The review therefore covers the many additional points which I am asking I may leave unanswered this evening. I am thinking, for instance, of several points which my noble friend Lady Vickers made;of the most interesting speech which my noble friend Lord de Clifford made about evacuation policy, which of course is being taken most seriously into account in the review we are undertaking;the many practical points which my noble friend Lord Gisborough made;and the point which both my noble friends Lord Mottistone and Lord Bridgeman made on departmental responsibility.

Just upon that question, before I finish, may I say (because I am working in a department with other people, officials, who have been working very hard over a period of many years) that I should like to make three quick points. The question which my noble friends raised on this is an important one. I think, however, it is arguable that the Home Office is the relevant department, if, for no other reason, because in my right honourable friend's department we have certain responsibilities for the police and the fire services;we have traditionally been closely involved in broad questions of national security;and there is, I do ask your Lordships to accept, certainly no lack of engagement or commitment to the work on the part of those who are working in the Home Office.

The review therefore covers these many additional points, and when my right honourable friend comes to report to Parliament he will set his report in the context of public expenditure;and it will then be for Parliament, and indeed ultimately for the approval of the country, to decide what level of public expenditure in this area the nation can bear. What is certain is that the Government are fully committed to reviewing the present plans for civil and home defence, and in that review, my Lords, the views expressed in your Lordships' House today will most certainly be taken very carefully into account.


My Lords, before the noble Lord the Minister sits down, may I thank him for what he was good enough to say and may I ask him to consider that the programme I proposed was not to do nothing? I have never been a unilateral disarmer, but in my lifetime I have seen the possibility that multilateral disarmament could succeed. It could have succeeded in 1924 if British and French militarists had not destroyed the Geneva protocol. It could have succeeded in 1932 if they had not destroyed proposals by the President of the United States for drastic world disarmament by land, sea and air. The programme which I propose is not, if I may say it with respect, to do nothing: on the contrary, it is that the Government, in the person of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, should use their utmost influence and power to work in the United Nations, with that genius which the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has shown in relation to Rhodesia, for a negotiated world treaty by which we shall deprive the Russians and all other possible enemies of the offensive weapons by which they could attack us. That is the only realistic programme of national defence in the world of nuclear stocks, which amount now to more than I million Hiroshima bombs. May I ask the noble Lord that tomorrow morning, when he is relaxed, he read again the speech by my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner and consider whether what he has told us tonight about action for civil defence does not fail to face all the basic, realistic facts of the present world situation?


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord for misinterpreting the speech he made to the House, and I repeat that apology. But the issue surely is whether one conducts one's foreign policy from a position of strength or from a position of weakness. I have to say to this House that this Government follow the previous administration in doing our very best to follow our foreign policy from a position of a firm defence and civil defence policy.



My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate this afternoon, and also to say how honoured I am that the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, has chosen this debate on which to make his maiden speech. I made some notes, but your Lordships will be pleased to know that I am not going to say anything else. Your Lordships have covered so much ground that I think the number of pantechnicons that would be needed to transport the Papers necessary to cover that ground—if I did not ask what I am about to ask now—would be beyond the resources of this country. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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