HL Deb 17 March 1982 vol 428 cc650-1

3.12 p.m.

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 request the nationalised industries and other public corporations to co-operate fully with the local authorities' emergency planning teams so as to achieve increased preparedness for protecting the public against conventional or nuclear attack and against fallout drifting from the continent.

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

My Lords, nationalised industries and other public corporations are, where appropriate, already involved in home defence planning at national, regional and local level. County civil emergency planning officers are encouraged to work directly with the local representatives of public sector organisations and in general there is good co-operation at this level; but the final responsibility for home defence planning in these organisations lies with the sponsoring department. Following the home defence review in 1980, good progress continues to be made in improving the state of preparedness of the public sector.

Lord Renton

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I remind him of the paramount importance of getting the public utilities involved in this emergency planning process? Will he give an undertaking to your Lordships that the Government will monitor that progress in order to see that proper arrangements are being made?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend about the importance of this matter. The Government are looking urgently at the role of industry in the event of war. Meanwhile a great deal is being done, and I will certainly give my noble friend the undertaking he has asked for.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, would it not be more moral and perhaps more sensible for the Government to devote the resources they are proposing to devote to Trident II, to providing the cities of this country with an effective anti-missile defence system such as exists in Moscow?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, that is a question which is ingenious but irrelevant.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, my noble friend spoke of "good progress", as if all counties and authorities were active in this direction. Can he say what action the Government propose to take where a county council such as Cumbria has brought all civil defence planning to an end?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the Government have hitherto succeeded in convincing local authorities to fulfil the requirements of civil defence legislation. If my noble friend has any information to the contrary, I know that my right honourable friend would be very glad to have it.