HL Deb 07 April 1982 vol 429 cc222-3
Lord Renton

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will issue a circular informing local authorities that emergency planning should be applied to all district councils.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, district councils are required to assist in the preparation of local emergency plans. The circulars informing them of their statutory duties have already been issued. They are described in Home Office Circular No. ES 1/1974 and Scottish Home and Health Department Circular No. ES (Scotland) 3/1975, copies of both of which are in the Library.

Lord Renton

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for his first reply as a Home Office Minister, may I express to him our best wishes in his new responsibilities? May I ask him whether he is aware that of necessity district councils are closer to the people than are county councils, and in the event of an emergency will have more direct contact with the people? Will he therefore keep a very close watch on the implementation of those circulars so as to ensure that the district councils are fully involved?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I certainly take note of what my noble friend says, and I thank him very kindly for his courteous words of introduction to these responsibilities. My honourable friend with particular responsibility for civil defence is already keeping a close eye on things; and your Lordships may know that the leaflet Civil DefenceWhy we need it was recently published by the Home Office, and over half a million copies have now been sent to local authorities to hack up their campaigns.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, in his Answer the noble Lord referred to Scotland as well as to England. May I ask him whether the contents of the Scottish circular are the same as the contents of the English circular? Because it is important from the point of view of local authorities that the administrative arrangements on both sides of the Border, especially in operational issues like these, should be exactly the same.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I would have one reservation in agreeing with my noble friend, and that is, of course, that where the existing civil arrangements differ it is necessary to make the emergency arrangements differ in order to fit that difference.

Lord Boston of Faversham

My Lords, can the Minister say how many district councils have responded and drawn up plans? Would he accept from these Benches our warm congratulations on his appointment; and perhaps he might also (if I am not out of order in suggesting it) find a way of conveying to his predecessor in the Home Office our congratulations on his appointment?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I will certainly see that by means other than Hansard, which he will doubtless read, those good wishes are transmitted to my noble friend who has gone to the Foreign Office. As to the implementation of the circular, I understand that initial reluctance has diminished considerably. If there are outstanding cases I will write to the noble Lord, but I believe there are not.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whose responsibility it is to inform schools, particularly boarding schools, of emergency planning?

Lord Elton

My Lords, subject to correction, it would be the local authority. If I need to elaborate on that my noble friend will, I hope, allow me to write to her.

The Earl of Kimberley

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a few weeks ago a seminar on civil defence was held by the All-Party Defence Group, and that a report of the proceedings at that seminar is in the Library for noble Lords to read?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I hope that indeed many noble Lords will read that valuable report.

Lord Chelwood

My Lords, my noble friend, in his first reply to my noble friend Lord Renton, said that district councils are required to do certain things in these very important fields. Is it, then, a statutory obligation on them to do so; and, if not, should it not be, in view of the great importance that the Government and Parliament attach to these matters?

Lord Elton

My Lords, local authorities are required to assist in the planning of provision and can be requested then to assist in the provision itself.