HL Deb 04 December 1984 vol 457 cc1213-4

2.41 p.m.

Lord Renton

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they intend to develop the Civil Defence College, Easingwold, as the intellectual focus for the development of civil defence.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, Easingwold is already the focus for much of our civil defence work. It provides a place for the discussion of new ideas and the sharing of experiences, from which good practice can spread across the country. The Government will continue to give firm support and encouragement to that important work.

Lord Renton

My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for that satisfactory reply and ask him whether he will convey our best wishes to the new principal of Easingwold for the important work that he has carried out?

Can my noble friend say whether research will be part of the work of the college in future, and whether the staff, rather than being confined in an ivory tower, will go about the country, some of them, from time to time, in order to find out what is happening to civil defence with the local authorities?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the answer to the first part of my noble friend's supplementary question is yes, and with pleasure. As to the functions of the Civil Defence College, they will continue as before with the addition of the responsibility for volunteer matters to the principal, in pursuit of which he will be going about the country.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, will these intellectuals at the Civil Defence College explain to the people of Britain how the few people left alive in this country after a nuclear exchange could keep themselves warm under the permanent blanket of snow and ice that will envelop the United Kingdom in a nuclear winter?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I think we discussed hypothetical questions enough in the last Question on the Order Paper.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, will the noble Lord nevertheless agree that there is no intellectual basis for civil defence; and will he, in these circumstances, not lend his support to the idea that local authorities should not be forced to do something which they know to be entirely foolish and a waste of public money?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I do not accept that hypothesis and therefore I do not accept the question which flowed from it.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that civil defence is not confined to a study of the effects of a nuclear holocaust but that it should provide for every possible and more probable contingencies, such as a conventional war or even a continental war in which nuclear fall-out may have drifted over this country?

Lord Elton

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. He will observe that some noble Lords opposite always assume that the worst case is the only case worth considering.