§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, may I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Renton, on introducing a debate on this most important subject, and also thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for taking us through the Government's existing policy on Civil Defence. I am not entirely convinced that that policy is yet vigorous or comprehensive enough, especially in the context of whatever action needs to be taken to ensure that local authorities discharge their statutory obligations in the context of Civil Defence.
I shall be brief, as the debate is running late. I want to deal with two points only: they are the two points, I think, which lie at the heart of the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. First of all, there is the need for an intelligent and adequate Civil Defence 1102 policy, especially in the context of defence against military attack, including nuclear attack. I am going to concentrate on that rather than on the important question of peacetime disasters. Secondly, there is the role and responsibility of central Government in all matters affecting national security and the relevance of the attitudes of local authorities to this special problem.
First of all, on the need for an adequate home defence policy, I think that some of the doubt for the need for this springs from the famous period of confrontation which was known by some as "mutual assured destruction"—that is to say, the balance of terror—in which both sides believed that they could destroy the other. Out of that came the somewhat curious theory that to provide, in that context, protection for your civilian population was an act of provocation and might destabilise the balance of terror. I never regarded that as a specially convincing or intelligent argument; but that is less important than the fact that the Soviet Union never believed in the balance of terror anyway.
The Soviet Union has always believed, and has said in every strategic work that has been published in the Soviet Union, that nuclear weapons would be used in war. They have pursued in their nuclear strategy a war-fighting doctrine. They have built up throughout the 1970s a massive force of nuclear weapons, a force which is regarded by some experts in this field as giving them the capacity, if they should wish to exercise it, to launch a first nuclear strike against the United States of America and the West.
Whether the first-strike theory is valid or not, the fact remains that in the face of the build-up of Soviet nuclear forces in the 1970s there was an underlined and increased need for the West to maintain a deterrent against such an attack. Deterrence, as your Lordships will be well aware, is nothing new: deterrence is as old as military force. It requires the country which feels itself threatened to pose a credible defence against possible attack in the hope and the belief that that itself will deter a potential enemy from attacking. And an essential component of any deterrent posture is effective defence. That means not only conventional military defence but home defence as well; and no deterrent posture, whatever one's views may be about the validity of nuclear deterrence itself, makes sense unless it contains provisions for protecting the civilian population of your country.
If there is anyone who is still in doubt about that in this country, I can assure your Lordships that there is no one in doubt about it in the Soviet Union, because at the time the Soviet Union was building up its offensive forces in the 1970s it was also engaged in a quite remarkable programme of improvements in its Civil Defence arrangements. In 1972 when General Altunin assumed the responsibilities of Civil Defence in the Soviet Union from Marshal Chuikov, he immediately set about revolutionising the Civil Defence arrangements of the Soviet Union. Between 1972 and today there has been a very systematic and effective programme of Civil Defence in the Soviet Union which has involved plans for the evacuation of essential personnel, the hardening—that is to say, the protection—of important and strategic factory sites, the provision of emergency headquarters, not only for 1103 the central government but in the regions as well, and the provision of population shelters. And anyone who has travelled on that magnificent underground railway system in Moscow will have been impressed by the size and nature of the steel doors that are provided there. Furthermore, there has been behind all that a programme of intensive training of the great mass of the Soviet population in what to do and how to react in time of attack.
Perhaps, with the indulgence of the House, I might simply quote one brief statement from General Altunin, made as recently as 1978. After he had been engaged for five or six years on this programme, he said in a speech in February 1978:The main purpose of our Civil Defence is, together with the armed forces, to ensure the population's defence against mass destruction weapons and other means of attack from a likely opponent".He goes on:Nothing, no heartrending cries from idealogists of imperialism, no fabrications of the bourgeois propagandists, can distract us from solving this important task of State and of the whole people".Whatever may be our failings in this respect in the West, the Soviet Union understands the realities and the uses of military power; and if we in this country, and indeed in the United States of America, tend—as I think we do—to take our responsibilities for the protection of our civilian population too lightly, the Soviet Union does not.
I come now to the second point, which is the role of central Government in all matters affecting national security. Since the early 17th century when Thomas Hobbes wrote his monumental work The Leviathan, it has been a matter of accepted doctrine that the principal role of the sovereign state is to protect and ensure the security of its citizens. It is the primary role of Government. Beside it all else is secondary. Her Majesty's Government are, I think quite rightly, deeply concerned with the problems of national security, and when they have made their arrangements for ensuring our security they have usually made them in the classic centralised way. We have armies, we have navies, we have air forces, we have a central budget, we have now nuclear strike forces, and they are financed and controlled entirely by the central Government.
But I think that the Government have been right in the case of Civil Defence, home defence, to accept that the best way of arranging our Civil Defence is to decentralise it; to make it, for all kinds of administrative and other reasons, the responsibility of local authorities. But this is very largely where the Civil Defence arrangements of this country have broken down, because, as has already been said in this debate, many local authorities have simply refused to discharge their statutory duties in this respect, whereas we have already heard that the 1983 regulations set out, and set out very clearly and in great detail, what local authorities are required to do in the field of Civil Defence, not only in the field of planning but in the field of actual preparation as well.
Many local authorities, as we know, have simply declined to carry out their statutory duties. Many have implemented this lunatic concept of the nuclear-free zone. This has already been referred to and I shall not spend too much time on it, except to say that of course 1104 these local authorities are not nuclear-free zones, except in the sense that those who run them have abdicated the responsibility of providing a defence for the people of their authorities against any form of nuclear or conventional attack.
Local authorities, it seems to me—whatever else they may wish to do with their money or with their people—should not have foreign and defence policies of their own. These are the responsibility of central Government and if these polices and attitudes lead, as they may well do, to a miscalculation by a potential enemy, if a potential enemy believes that we are so ill-advised, ill-informed and ill-intentioned that we will not provide ourselves with a defence against attack, the possibility that they might attack by miscalculation is measurably increased.
I should like to know what these people are going to say when, if our deterrence fails because of weakness and lack of resolution, the bombs begin to fall on Greater London or on some of the municipalities of Wales. Are they going to emerge and say. "I am terribly sorry. There seems to have been some mistake. This is supposed to be a nuclear-free zone"? It will be somewhat late in the day then.
At this stage, perhaps I could just take a moment to refer to something which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said. I am not quite sure whether he was reflecting his own opinion or quoting from someone else, or even from himself, but I seem to think that he was reflecting a view that, in certain circumstances of all-out nuclear exchange, any attempt to provide a Civil Defence, a home defence capacity, was not only useless but probably misleading and immoral. If he was saying that, I must take the gravest issue with this.
There may be, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has said, many contingencies, many scenarios, ranging from the demonstration attack with a nuclear weapon, through conventional attack, through a limited nuclear exchange; and in certain circumstances, in certain scenarios, it has been calculated by people who have studied this matter with great care and closeness that the difference in the number of casualties in this country, even in the face of a substantial nuclear attack, if we have an effective defence system as against if we do not, may be as high as 16 million.
It seems to me that the insurance policy to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has referred is a premium well worth paying if it meant, in the tragic circumstance that our deterrence and our defence policies had failed and we were attacked, that we had taken precautions that would result in the lives of 16 million people being saved. It seems to me that to take that view—I am not suggesting that the noble Lord takes that view himself, but there are those who do—
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the noble Lord has very courteously allowed me to intervene. The point that I was trying to make was this. If it be a fact, as I believe it to be, and as others more knowledgeable than I am believe it to be, that a nuclear holocaust means, quite literally, the extermination of nations of peoples, then the sooner the truth be known and uttered by responsible statesmen the more chance we have of a sensible world seeing that nuclear weapons are destroyed.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I understand the point that the noble Lord is making. I return to my earlier point, that no one knows what would be the result of this or that nuclear scenario. I think it would be foolish if we simply assumed that there was only one scenario, which was universal holocaust and annihilation, and therefore took no action to deal with what might be lesser catastrophes.
That leads me to perhaps the one criticism that I would advance about the Government's attitude to these matters. Once the democratically elected Government of this country have made their views and their policies known about Civil Defence, there must be no argument from local authorities, and if there is argument about it then I believe that the Government have to be firm, resolute and even, if necessary, draconian. There can be no question of compromising with this issue. We cannot leave the defence of this country in time of war to people whose hearts and minds have become so enfeebled that they cannot see the need for protecting the citizens of their country when they are attacked by a hostile state.
Therefore, I think the least that we now have the right to expect from the Government is a clear and coherent policy in which there is the closest cooperation between central and local government in peacetime—not when the war starts, but now. In the contemporary strategic climate which I have described very briefly, it is no good assuming that there will be a comparatively leisurely pre-attack period, in which all the stoical qualities of the British people will be brought into play and we shall have plenty of time to prepare for the worst. There may not be that time, faced with the present Soviet military apparatus.
What we must now have in peacetime are comprehensive plans, centrally formulated and known to local authorities, for all matters such as control of movement, feeding, billeting, shelter, security and emergency powers and these plans have to be communicated clearly and unambiguously to the public. I hope, in passing, that in the information programme which the noble Lord outlined, we shall come out with something better than the pamphlet, Protect and Survive.
The important thing is that local authorities have a vital role to play. They cannot be expected to do so without guidance, but once they have had that guidance they must get on with the job. If they do not get on with the job, then whatever residual powers the Government have to do it for themselves must be exercised; and I suggest that there may even be more drastic measures to be taken against people who, for political ends of their own, are prepared to put at risk the lives of millions of people in this country.
Charles Bohlen, an American diplomat, once said, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there". I hope now that the Government do know where they are going on Civil Defence; we have had no Civil Defence worth the name since 1968. I hope the Government know where they are going; I hope they will make sure that other people know where they are going; and I hope they know that, if they do not go there, they may be in quite serious trouble.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Murton of Lindisfarne
My Lords, it is five years all but one month since I first took part in a debate on Civil Defence in your Lordships' House and, in fact, Civil Defence was on that occasion the subject of my maiden speech. I think that we are all deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for bringing hack before our eyes and ears again this very important subject. I am also very grateful to the Minister, my noble friend Lord Elton, for the comprehensive review which he has given us.
In terms of history, when one thinks back to 1968 and the question of putting Civil Defence on a "care and maintenance" basis, one feels that at that time it was probably a sensible thing to do in as much as there seemed to be some possibility of a nuclear balance of power. From that arose what I understand was called the concept of mutually assured destruction—an unpleasant phrase, and, when abbreviated to the word MAD, even more alarming. But I am not arguing that such a military assessment was wrong at that time; my concern is that such little thought was then given to the fact that the military balance could swing away from nuclear parity, as in fact I fear it has done over the past five years.
Time has gone by, but the fundamental decision as to how best to protect the civil population in the event of war is one that has to be squarely faced. Moreover, weapon technology continues to advance and the time may soon be here when in fact there is little difference in destructive power between the nuclear weapon and the so-called conventional weapon. The obvious factor in this equation is the astronomical cost of providing fully comprehensive protection to face a contingency which might never arise. It is attractive to think that it will not; but, my Lords, is it wise to think so?
The present compromise reached is best described in the pamphlet Protect and Survive, which was produced in May 1980 and which remains the standard work on the subject. It can best be summarised as "Stay put, and build an improvised fall-out room and inner refuge in your own home". Such a policy, as has already been stated, does not compare well with the long-term action taken to protect their populations by the two neutral countries of Switzerland and Sweden. We are told that the Swiss already have underground public and private shelters to contain four-fifths of the 6.5 million population and that by the year 2000 all will be covered, even allowing for an expanded population of more than seven million.
The Swedes have been building shelters since the end of the last war. There are what are called "shelter obligation authorities"—a good name which we might well accept—which cover 70 per cent. of the population. Denmark has had a shelter programme since 1950 for both private and public use, and the latter alone are said to be planned to cater for 25 per cent. of the people.
Lest it should be thought to be provocative to a potential aggressor should this country embark on a shelter programme, please let it be remembered that Russia has not ignored the problem of Civil Defence. I need say no more about this because the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has covered the matter most 1107 adequately and extremely well. May it suffice to say that I understand that in Russia compulsory annual training in Civil Defence involves some 50 million adults and young people. The disturbing fact is that as successive governments have adopted what I shall call, without I hope being offensive, a "softly, softly" approach to this very difficult problem, all the running has, I fear been left to those whose views at best confuse the public and at worst are very much more dangerous and are destructive of national morale.
I am thinking in this connection of the CND movement which now has, I understand, a membership of more than 100,000. It is a manifestation in political terms which may be mostly noisy and tiresome, but which may nevertheless harbour among its idealists and pacifists forces much more sinister.
What is one to make—this is some time back, and things might have improved—of the policy of an inner London borough whose deputy leader, when asked how many of the borough's staff were engaged on home defence planning, replied, "One". When asked how much his borough spent on home defence, he said, "Between £250 and £300 annually". He then volunteered the information that in his borough people were more interested in social security and new roads than in any bomb. He personally was for peace. At what price, my Lords? Any price?
The most fatuous of all exhortations which I have seen—again, it has been referred to tonight—is that conceived by the GLC, on all of whose vehicles is the message, "Make London nuclear free". That attitude of mind would make the proverbial ostrich jealous for his position as the most stupid of all created beings, if only he could read the message.
Regretfully I have to say that the present Government must take a higher profile over this important matter and also take a firmer line with any recalcitrant local authorities. I was much encouraged to hear my noble friend the Minister say that this indeed was to be the case.
The 1983 Civil Defence regulations contain powers for directing local authorities to prepare evacuation plans. I think that we should look back to 1938 when the assumptions at that time by the Home Office about the behaviour of the population under direct attack proved to be totally inaccurate when war came; and there are very many in your Lordships' House who were witness to the calm courage and the orderliness that was then displayed.
If hostilities were to occur, would not the most likely course be, at least in the early stages of a European war, that our ports and centres of communication would come under attack from conventional weapons? Most of us know from practical experience that limited evacuation in an orderly manner from target areas is quite feasible, and indeed such plans existed until 1968. I wonder in fact what plans there are at the present time.
And, my Lords, Civil Defence is not only concerned with war. As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has pointed out, there have been civil disasters—one in Canada, one in Bophal, and one in Italy. Nearest in our memories is the frightful tragedy last year in 1108 Bophal, where I understand 100,000 survivors had to be evacuated. So please let us not turn our backs on the possibility that, for one reason or another, evacuation might be appropriate in an emergency in this country. Let us have positive contingency planning of evacuation and reception areas.
I well know that the financial restraints of the past two decades have put into the background any thought of a comprehensive shelter policy. It is, however, little short of tragic in my view that, with so much commercial re-development taking place, successive British Governments have not followed the example of the Swiss and Swedish governments in whose countries it has been obligatory upon the owner of a new industrial or commercial building to provide a shelter at a cost shared between the owner and the state. For public shelters in Switzerland the local authorities pay 70 per cent. and central government the balance. I understand that rather similar powers were taken by Denmark in 1950.
I am not suggesting that there should suddenly be in the United Kingdom an enormous capital programme of public expenditure on bomb-proof shelters. Were I to suggest such a thing, I should be put to scorn and would probably be in severe trouble with my own party. Just to illustrate my point, to date the Swiss have spent £1.8 billion on shelters and still expend some £140 million annually. On the other hand, there is much that could be done and now should be done. The Government have the power to ask local authorities to identify buildings which could be used as public shelters, but I am told there has been some vagueness about specification and the numbers required. I hope my information is wrong, and shall be pleased to hear if that is so.
There should be earmarking of all underground transport systems, car parks, disused tunnels and basements of modem buildings for the protection of highway users. In residential areas, those houses which have cellars should also be earmarked. These planning precautions, so far as they are practicable, should not be confined to major urban areas but ought to include all localities, even in the countryside, which are perceived to be in a zone in danger from nuclear fallout. All these matters could be easily accomplished within the manpower establishment of local authorities as it exists at present, and I would suggest at comparatively small cost.
For the future, there should be a much more positive approach to the problem. I should like to see legislation which would require all new public buildings, factories, shops and blocks of residential flats to incorporate a shelter at a cost of not more than 5 per cent. of the total building, excluding the price of the land. If there cannot be a proportionate outright grant from the state towards the cost, then let there he at least an interest-free loan or a tax concession offered. It is sad to think that this opportunity was missed those 20 years ago.
The hard fact is that the official calculation on the basis of family units staying put in their homes with improvised shelters in a nuclear attack would be in the order of a 40 per cent. casualty figure overall. If, however, we have properly constructed bomb-proof shelters, the casualty figure would fall to 20 per cent. 1109 overall. Nobody can be certain about anything in such grim circumstances, but the general public will never have much faith in any policy which does not do all that is feasible to protect the individual.
I will end with a most solemn thought and question. If a nation has an adequate and efficient home defence in all its aspects, does not this knowledge, at a time of grave crisis, reinforce the will of a Government and enable them to take courageous, as opposed to appeasing, political decisions? As a nation we do not lack courage, but the quotation comes to mind:Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for introducing this important debate. He has drawn attention to the fact that, as at present conceived, Civil Defence in this country is an absurdity. The chaos stems from total confusion about the purposes of Civil Defence. At the beginning there was a pretence that Civil Defence could make a real contribution in protecting the population against the consequences of nuclear war. The purpose of that pretence was to persuade the population to accept Britain's participation in the nuclear war game. It was successful. Successive governments accepted—sometimes secretly, before they were discovered in one form or another—the hydrogen bomb, Britain's independent nuclear deterrent and the establishment of American nuclear bases in this country. So, as has been said, we have become an unsinkable aircraft-carrier attached to the United States of America and her military forces.
Those policies could not have been followed had it been widely appreciated at the time that there was no real defence against the weapons with which this country was arming itself; in particular, that there was no defence in a small country of our size and of our geographical position. It was only later, when we were thoroughly launched into the nuclear age and totally committed to it, that fatalism began to set in. People began to feel, "We are in it now, and there's nothing we can do".
Nearly 30 years ago I stood for election to the old London County Council for Stoke Newington and Hackney North. My election address contained a promise to get rid of the Civil Defence Corps (as it then was) on the grounds that it was part of the pretence to persuade people that nuclear war could be survived. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, may be interested to know—because we agree about this—that in the following LCC debate that I initiated I suggested in the wording of the motion itself, that the corps, instead of being abolished, should be converted into a civil emergency corps. I believe that proposal is precisely in accordance with at least one aspect of the noble Lord's remarks. That particular advice was not followed. I must say that that was not the only time in my career that my advice was not followed. Generally, those who have failed to follow my advice have been wrong, but there it is: in a democracy people have a right to be wrong as well as a right to be right.
Subsequently, Civil Defence was abolished in London. Later, after I entered the House of Commons 1110 in 1964, the Civil Defence Corps was abolished nationally. The actual words were "stood down", but it seemed to me to be pretty near abolition as far as I could judge. Certainly the corps was left no functions and no personnel—and that made it virtually nonexistent. But there was left behind a Civil Defence framework. Although it no longer had any manpower, it became almost a propaganda body; an organisation for officers without troops which had little function beyond pretending that it could carry out duties it had no means of fulfilling. It was this which helped to bring about the rebellion among local authorities.
Local authorities found themselves charged with the duty of pretending to provide protection which they had no means of providing; of erecting a framework without any substance and without any reality. It seemed to them—and I believe they were right—that they were employed and engaged to be part of a propaganda machine to keep the public quiet. But the removal of its own rank and file from Civil Defence was not followed by the banning of the bomb, as I freely admit I hoped it would be and advocated that it should be. Then we found ourselves in the present absurd situation, in which we are wholly committed to a weapon and are up to our eyebrows in a weapon which, on the other hand, we admit we cannot possibly survive if it is used against us.
Since the regional organisation of Civil Defence remained, however, they naturally began to search for some justification for their existence. People cannot be paid salaries for too long without beginning to wonder why they are getting that money. When the Conservatives returned to power in 1970, they strengthened the framework under the name of Home Defence and recreated a volunteer body of people to warn the rest of us of our nuclear fate—to give us advance warning, as it is called, though precisely what the purpose is of that advance warning is not entirely clear. Althouth we may be warned, it seems that there will be little if anything we can do, after we have received that warning, to escape almost inevitable doom.
Presumably, it is still hoped that there may be some people capable of being enthused about the bomb instead of the sad aceptance of forthcoming extinction, which is now becoming so widespread. I regret this widespread pessimism—to which I may have contributed to some degree, as much as anyone does—because I should like to see that pessimism directed towards an absolute determination for a tremendous growth of the CND and an absolute determination to rid this country, and eventually the world as a whole, of the threat of nuclear weapons. It is that direction in which we should move, as has been made abundantly clear from our own Front Bench by my noble friend Lord Mishcon.
Deprived of reality, the home defence assumptions have now turned upon themselves. Protection is out; it is no longer suggested that much is possible in that direction. Evacuation is out; it may well exist in the large spaces of the Soviet Union, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, suggested, but certainly no one is suggesting that bulk evacuation is possible here. But what is in are two words which are continually being used—"repression" and "mitigation". It is assumed that any attack will almost certainly be nuclear, 1111 although greater emphasis is placed on the need to plan for other eventualities. But the staff college assumptions—the assumptions of Sir Leslie Mayor—are nuclear assumptions. The other possibilities, in his mind, at any rate, are entirely secondary. Therefore, the staff college assumption is for a nuclear attack and, furthermore, a major nuclear attack. That is precisely the kind of attack which we can do very little about.
That is the nature of our dilemma. It is not an easy one. Substantial sums of money have been spent on creating an alternative subterranean government machine at all levels. There is an alternative government ready to take over in all parts of the country at national, regional and sub-regional levels. The emphasis is on penalty and punishment; on keeping the civil population—which is assumed to be in panic, and no doubt will be—under some form of effective control. I think that is understandable because, for example, the doctors have made it clear that healing will be impossible. Therefore, if one can do little to preserve the population, one must try to keep the remnants of it under some degree of control. The burial of the dead figures very substantially in the Home Office defence arrangements for the post-nuclear situation. Nothing much is said about the living or about the wounded, the injured. The concentration appears to be upon the dead.
The Royal Observer Corps (of which I was once a member when it was the Observer Corps before it became Royal) performed a most valuable task in the last war without which the Battle of Britain could not have been won. However, it is now mainly a warning service. If anyone wants to survive a nuclear attack and linger a little longer in the appalling conditions that would follow a major nuclear attack, I advise him to join the Royal Observer Corps because if he is in one of their units which are spread around the country, he will be able to survive underground in a bunker for a little longer. Personally. I would not envy him. I would not want to join the Royal Observer Corps today, even if I were young enough to do so.
In short, Civil Defence—home defence—can do little in a nuclear war. Those local authorities which are refusing to take part in what they regard as a farce are right. Let me say it again, and finally: our concentration should be on ridding the world of nuclear weapons, not on pretending that nuclear war is survivable.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I find I can agree—and it is a pleasant experience—with at least one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said in his speech. It is that not only the House, but also the country owes a great deal to my noble friend Lord Renton for raising this immensely important subject this afternoon. I add also that, as some of us know, my noble friend's concern with Civil Defence goes back many years. He did tremendous work, when he was a Home Office Minister, in trying to get that not always dynamic department—I hope my noble friend will not mind my saying that—a little more active in these matters. Over the years he has done much good work in drawing public attention to the needs of this very important topic.
1112 I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, is no longer here because I wanted to cast a bouquet at him. I was delighted at the adroitness with which he dragged into a debate on Civil Defence his wonderful King Charles's head of proportional representation. I confess that I am running a book with one of my noble friends on the number of occasions when Liberal spokesmen introduce PR in circumstances that are wholly irrelevant. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has put me one point up this afternoon.
I come at once to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, who I have known, of course, for many years; not least when we represented, in different interests, adjoining constituencies to the south-west of London. He will no doubt recall how good Conservative workers from my constituency time and again made tremendous invasions into his constituency, with a view to eliminating him, while workers from his constituency made comparable efforts to oust me; but both groups of workers were unsuccessful.
However, I hope the noble Lord will allow me to say that his speech really reveals the nakedness of the line he has been taking with enormous persistency at Question Time. It is—and his argument has been perfectly simple—that because in a full-scale nuclear attack there would be enormous casualties, which nobody in this House wants, it is useless to have Civil Defence for any purpose whatever. That is his argument. Indeed, he went on to say—I took down what he said—that Civil Defence was introduced merely as a pretence, to persuade people to accept Britain's participation in nuclear war.
Let us analyse that. How does the noble Lord think that the provision of Civil Defence here is going to affect the Russian decision whether to use the massive armoury of nuclear weapons which, at enormous expense and at great cost to the standard of life of the population, the Russians have been accumulating?
What the noble Lord means, of course, is that he wishes to see—he used his famous expression "Banning the bomb"—the British nuclear weapon eliminated. He knows perfectly well that gestures of the kind he means will not for one moment affect the Russian decision to build up an enormous armoury of these weapons and to use it if it suits their purpose. I see the noble Lord wishes to intervene and I shall give way to him in a moment, but perhaps he will allow me to finish this line of thought, which will no doubt facilitate his intervention.
If Britain strips itself deliberately of any means of mitigating, however modestly, the effect of a nuclear attack upon it, is that not much more an encouragement to an aggressor to use it than a deterrent? Does it not indeed go further? If we in this country are seen, and manifestly seen, not to be preparing any means of defence against a nuclear exchange, will not even the simplest of the old gentlemen who govern in the Kremlin come to the conclusion that we would be soft: we would never in fact, however provoked, however attacked, retaliate in kind? Surely that is the important consideration here. If the noble Lord wants to intervene I am at his disposal.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I do not think that I shall 1113 take up the time of the House by dealing with any of the points that he has made, except just to make one point. He is entitled to say what I said, but when he tells me what I mean by what I said, what he is really saying is what he thinks I mean by what I said. None of the things that he thinks that I mean by what I said are those things which I personally mean by what I said.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, that is the most beautiful crossword, but it does not get the noble Lord off the hook. I have quoted what he said. I have tried to the best of my ability to see whether there is any logic in it at all. I think that the House on the whole is inclined to take the view that there is not; that this is really arrant nonsense. The motive that actuates the noble Lord in putting this forward is a matter for him. But the idea that by stripping this country of any means of mitigating the effect of a nuclear attack we are in some mysterious way discouraging, rather than encouraging, a possible aggressor who has many of those weapons from using them really seems to pass from the realms of human logic into at least the outskirts of insanity.
The same applies to these famous nuclear-free zones. There is the wonderful self-delusion, the childish, "Let's pretend". Let us pretend that there is not a nuclear bomb. Let us pretend that it could never be dropped on us. That is what declaring an area (a borough) a nuclear-free zone involves. Let us try to visualise the scenario in the minds of those who say that which they think takes place in the Kremlin. There in the operations room are gathered the chiefs of staffs of the Russian forces, men who control enormous armies, an enormous air force, submarines and nuclear weapons, missiles of every sort—intercontinental, shorter range, and so on. They see them gathered round a map of the United Kingdom, saying—this is apparently the illusion—"Oh, well, you see, we can't bomb Sheffield because Councillor Blunkett has declared it a nuclear-free zone"!
Is that really realistic? Does the noble Lord—does anybody outside Colney Hatch asylum, or even inside—think that the Russian mentality is like that? It is sheer self-deceit, and it is very dangerous self-deceit. It is designed by some people who no doubt have the wish—if I may slightly alter the quotation—"Travailler pour le Roi de Russie."It is designed to appeal to people who are genuinely, as we all are, horrified by the prospect of nuclear bombardment and make them think that in some way it can be put into non-being, into non-existence, by declaring Sheffield, Cleveland or the Greater London Council area a nuclear-free zone. That is absolute nonsense. In my view, people who adopt that line are unfit for any measure of public responsibility. Even if the noble Lord is right that an all-out nuclear attack would leave very little surviving—and even that is far from proven—there are so many other contingencies for which Civil Defence is required that to concentrate on this is irrelevant.
It is the whole of the noble Lord's attitude that struck a reminiscent chord in my mind. We have seen all this attitude before, We saw it in the 1930s with the 1114 Peace Pledge Union—with the people who said that the bomber would always get through, we could not resist, it was useless to arm; we saw it with a Labour Party which as late as April 1939 voted against compulsory National Service, with the Hitler menace looming ever larger over Europe. I thought that I should get the noble Lord up on his feet—
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, if the noble Lord is endeavouring to state history to the House, will he kindly remember his colleagues who were appeasing in 1939 in regard to the very Herr Hitler he has just mentioned?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, the noble Lord knows that that is a travesty of the facts, and he knows that the fact that we had just sufficient arms to bring us through to ultimate victory was due to the Government of the day—still the National Government of the day, with Conservatives and, I am happy to say, many Liberals in it. Every measure that they put forward to increase the Air Force and to introduce, as I have said, compulsory military service only a few months before the outbreak of war, was opposed by those who then led the Labour Party—continually opposed. If they had had their way, we should either not have gone into the war then and been mopped up later on without difficulty by Hitler, or, alternatively, we should have gone in and been beaten. If the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, would wait a moment, I am dealing with his noble friend on the Front Bench. The less that members of the Labour Party decide to reminisce about their behaviour in the years preceding the war, or about anybody else's behaviour, the better for them, I think. Does the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, want to say something? No, he does not.
§ Lord Mishcon
But I do, my Lords. We must not continue this for too long. I only wish—and possibly it is a dream—that Sir Winston Churchill had been a Member of this House and at this time could echo his voice in the Chamber. He would not have been very happy, bearing in mind his attempts to convince his colleagues of what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has been saying.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am happy to hear any tribute to the greatest man I ever met, and, I am proud to say, served under, even from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. But the fact remains that Mr. Churchill, as he then was, rightly pressed the Government of the day to go far further in the matter of national defence. I am happy and proud to say that my father, as a Member of another place, supported him in that—a fact which has given me pride all through. The Labour Party hampered the admittedly less than adequate efforts that the Government of that day were making—and I am no defender of Mr. Neville Chamberlain and his activities. I think he made many mistakes. But at least he did something to provide us with just enough by way of defence, and the Labour Party did its best to stop him—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I promised to give way to the noble Lord, but I am not going to again—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, we have before been through the experience of those who say it is useless to provide for defence. Those of us who have lived through that before and seen the troubles that it brought on this country, do not, I think, want to see it repeated.
The provision of Civil Defence is to cope with every sort of possibility. There is the all-out nuclear defence attack that we have been talking about. Then there is the single nuclear bomb. Your Lordships will recall that the only time the bomb has been used in war was in Japan, when only two bombs were put down. If two bombs were put on this country, Civil Defence could do an immense amount to save life. Alternatively, it may be—and this is a rather horrifying thought, but your Lordships, I think, have to face it—that one day one of the international terrorist organisation, whether based in Russia, Libya, Cuba or wherever it may be, may place a nuclear weapon in some area in this country. If that were to happen, could not tremendous value be achieved by an effective Civil Defence service?
What about a chemical attack on this country—chemical warfare? It is well known that although we are not, as I understand it, making any preparations to undertake such a war, the Russians have spent a great deal of money on it. They might well use it, instead of a nuclear attack, in the hope that they would thereby avoid nuclear retaliation. Civil Defence could do a great deal in that contingency.
Or there is so-called conventional war. Some people in this country are apt to shrug off conventional war as if it were just an agreeable outdoor sport. Those of us who have lived through one—and there are one or two people in this House, including my noble friend Lord Stockton, who have lived through two—know that it is a very terrible thing and that great damage can be caused, as was caused in this country by ordinary bombing with high explosives by the Germans between 1940, when they started bombing, and the end of the war. In all these situations an effective Civil Defence organisation would be of priceless value.
Then we come to the final point, which I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Renton pressed, of making sure that the Civil Defence organisation is slotted into our preparation for general civil emergencies of whatever kind may arise. On this, I have a slight bone to pick with my noble friend and the Government. It was in our party's election manifesto at the last election that legislation would be introduced to amend the 1948 Act to enable the full apparatus of Civil Defence and the money spent on it to be used to deal with a civil emergency. With a subject of that importance, and now nearly two years into a Parliament. it really is not good enough to say, "Oh, well, if a Private Member's Bill comes forward, that would be a very nice way of doing it". The Government really must take responsibility for that legislation. As my noble friend Lord Renton rightly said, if there is pressure on Parliamentary time there are other measures now before us which are of considerably less significance and importance. If my noble friend wants an example, if he were to dump the 1116 Insolvency Bill, at any rate for this Session, I think he would probably bring about a great deal of relief in many quarters of the House and that would give ample time for this legislation, which is a measure of very great importance.
The only other thing I want to do is to echo something that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said in that absolutely magnificent speech of his, and it is this. We are dealing here with issues of national defence and with the protection of the lives, in certain contingencies, of millions of our fellow countrymen. If any public authority, any local authority, defies the law of Parliament, laid down by Parliament, as to its duties to make provision there, it becomes, I suggest to your Lordships. the duty of the Government to use every means and their fullest authority to ensure that that work is done. Even if it involved suspending that local authority and sending in a commissioner, I hope the Government would not hesitate. Parliament has placed this duty—and it is a major duty—upon the public authorities, but it is the duty of the Government and of nobody else to ensure that that duty is carried out, if not by those on whom it is imposed in the first place then by somebody else who will do it.
I hope that my noble friend, when she replies—and I know from experience that her replies are never lacking in vigour and precision—will indicate, first, that the Government are clear that a local authority which does not do its duty in this respect will be appropriately dealt with; and, secondly, that the Government will be introducing legislation to clear up the problem I mentioned as to the 1948 Act. We are discussing what in certain contingencies (not, I hope, likely, but no one can say they are impossible) could perhaps be the most important subject of all. Your Lordships' House, with its varied experience, speaks with very considerable authority, and I hope that the effect of this debate may be that something really effective will be done, and done quickly.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, it is by no means as a matter of form or as a matter of course that I wish to add my congratulations and expression of appreciation on the achievement of my noble friend Lord Renton in introducing this debate. I wish to say something else about that, and it is this. If I did not know him to be a man of almost infinite patience and good nature, I should suspect him of resentment at the introduction into this debate of three totally unnecessary Statements.
Practically everything that I had it in mind to say has been said, and said a great deal better than I should have said it. Therefore, I do not propose to repeat it. It has been said very largely by my noble friend who has just sat down, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. It has also been said by almost everybody else, though not quite.
At the risk of seeming to introduce a slightly harsh note into what is meant to be (so far, anyway) a benign discourse, may I strike a very slight note of disappointment at the word used at the conclusion of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon? The noble Lord speaks always with the greatest of courtesy and, the greatest of fluency. He very often argues with 1117 a considerable closeness, and totally unable to be misunderstood. He does not (to use a phrase that he himself used about the speech of another noble Lord who spoke earlier in the debate) lack certain subtlety at times. No doubt he knows the value of having the last word—the tag, the pay-off. I cannot imagine any competent barrister who is not aware of this. not least one like the noble Lord himself. It seems to me a pity that the last word he used in his speech this afternoon was "holocaust". It is a pity that he should leave in some minds, I think, a suspicion that he regarded the ultimate fate of this country, if war should break out, as a nuclear holocaust. It is a pity because, if I may say so without impertinence, preceding this there was so much to be admired in the course of his speech.
I think it is a pity also because his noble friend who was sitting quite close beside him—I seem to recollect that there was a noble Lord sitting there—may have picked up this word and have heard nothing else. I do not think that noble Lord is here any more. I mean the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. He has managed to get through this debate without apparently listening to a single speech. That is a very unusual feat. Apart from that, the noble Lord does not appear to have read the terms of the debate as written on the Order Paper. I need hardly read those words out to your Lordships. They refer to,the duty of central Government and of local authorities to deal with peacetime emergencies, and to provide Civil Defence in case of conventional, biological, chemical or nuclear attack",and so on. The noble Lord did not notice any of that. He spoke of nothing but full-scale nuclear attack, which, according to him, is what the Government actually expect (and expect nothing else) and is what we are proposing to defend ourselves against.
What the Government have said recently in their latest emergency services note from the Home Office is:The United Kingdom must be prepared for a period of conventional war in Europe, but a war of this kind would probably last only a matter of weeks at most. It would not necessarily escalate into nuclear exchange because efforts to bring it to an end might be successful at the conventional stage",and so on. The next paragraph begins with the words:It is expected that the main threat to the United Kingdom would be from conventional air attacks".That is quite a long way from the total holocaust envisaged by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and by his noble friend Lord Mishcon.
I do not know from where the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, got this idea, but he also said that there is no defence against the weapons with which this country is arming itself—the bomb, the machine gun and the main battle-tank. I join my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter in wondering what on earth one can say about such a man as the noble Lord. To be quite candid, I think that my noble friend was a little hard on the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. There was my noble friend standing up and, in his beautifully-delivered manner, trying to find logic in what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, had said. We have known the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for a long time now, and nobody seriously expects to find any logic at all in anything he says; it is unreasonable. Above all, it is unreasonable when it comes to what my noble friend (or I think it 1118 may have been the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont) described as the "lunatic concept of the nuclear-free zone".
I saw the words "Nuclear-Free Zone" not long ago in London written on the side of a railway bridge under which I was driving. They appeared to have been written by a man hanging by his ankles from the parapet, using a brush dipped in tar and held between his teeth. I wondered for a minute what the words "nuclear-free zone" were intended to mean. Had they been written perhaps by the mayor of the borough in an off-duty moment after dinner? I pondered upon what was the point of this curious graffito. What was it supposed to mean? I pulled myself up and realised, of course, that it means and is meant to mean nothing. It indicates an attitude of mind. I cannot help feeling that an attitude of mind that can express itself in this curious scrawl of meaningless words tends to verge upon the woolly.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is not here. I shall, however, say these things whether he is here or not. That is his fault, not mine. We should not take seriously anything that people of his persuasion say. But, my Lords. such remarks are taken seriously. They are, in fact, dangerous. It is all very well for us to sit here and laugh because we can see what is funny, silly and stupid. But there is a great danger. Many people actually take such remarks seriously. It is quite wrong for anyone to get up and talk in this manner. Whatever I might say in a rather frivolous manner, the fact is that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, knows perfectly well what he is talking about and he has no right to do it.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, took exception to a remark made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter which I cannot repeat verbatim. It was to do with what he thought he had said or what was going on in his mind when he said it and that kind of thing. I recall some remarks that he made on 31st January in this Chamber. In a supplementary question addressed to my noble friend Lord Elton, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, asked:My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, having been to Leningrad, I found that they had made no preparations whatsoever for Civil Defence, taking the view that no civil defence was possible in the nuclear age?I shall not say what I think the noble Lord meant in saying that. I prefer not to do so. It is very disagreeable. Does the noble Lord mean us to suppose that there is no civil defence to be found in Leningrad, which has the reputation of having the most advanced civil defence on earth? Is he telling us that he walked round Leningrad with his head in the air and happened not to notice it? Does he really believe that it is not there? Or is he simply trying to pull the wool over our eyes and pretend that things are not as they are? I ask the questions. I leave them floating in the air. I should also like to quote, for the guidance of noble Lords who wish to work it out, the next sentence of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. He asked:Would it not be better if the noble Lord were to take a similar view?"—[Official Report, 31/1/85; col. 741.]The noble Lord is using the argument that he did not see any civil defence arrangements in Leningrad in order to persuade the Government not to have them here. That is enough of that!
1119 I heartily applaud, as did my noble friend just now, the expressed intention of the Government of legislating to bring the provisions of the Civil Defence Act into a wider field so that the provisions contained in the Act can be used for the protection of the country and its people in times of peace. I am a little worried about the timescale envisaged in the circular issued by the Home Office, which states that plans must be capable of being implemented at seven days' notice. I should like to know from my noble friend Lady Trumpington when she replies what is the biggest and most elaborate plan that can be put into effect in that time. Can you organise, for instance, an entire auxiliary fire service? This short-time scale is a little disquieting. If services are to be provided at seven days' notice, those involved must be trained, organised and actually in being, ready to go into practice.
With that question and that proviso, I hope that the debate will be an encouragement to the Government to produce legislation of their own and to forget any idea of leaving it to private Members. Private Members depend on the Government for their safety and protection, and I hope that the Government will not be backward.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for bringing forward this important subject. I should like to say a few words on the subject of food and agriculture in relation to Civil Defence. Although my waistcoat is not of such a gallant hue as that of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, I incline to agree with him that, probably, one of these days, the human race will blow itself to bits. All traditional cosmology tends to this view. Indeed, it may be a fitting end to the selfish and greedy society we live in. If, in the immortal words of that poet and philosopher Tom Lehrer, "We all go together when we go", there is no problem. But Civil Defence is, I think, concerned with a different scenario. The object of Civil Defence is to minimise human suffering and to save lives in a lesser disaster.
In the case of agriculture, localised disasters, even on the scale of the accident at Bhopal, are not very significant because activity in agriculture is so widespread. Similarly, disasters which are limited in time are not likely to affect agriculture too seriously. They might have a serious effect on intensive livestock units and dairies where the failure of electricity supplies could have an immediate effect, but in any case many such organisations have standby generators. It is, however, perhaps worth noting that even a short-term disaster could affect urban food supplies if there was no fuel for transport.
A shortage of electric power, fuel or transport would begin to hit agriculture within a week or two. Farming today uses an immense amount of power as well as many other inputs such as fertilisers and agrochemicals which come from outside the farm. Farmers need to think ahead and to be guided as to what they could do under circumstances of the cut-off of supplies from the outside world for a matter of weeks or even months. Dairy units would be particularly hard hit. A shortage of fuel at some critical 1120 seeding time or harvest might be very serious for the arable farmer.
The real problem would arise if food were to begin to run out in the cities, if the water supplies were to become polluted or if an epidemic disease were to break out among the urban population. Then, Civil Defence plans would become of paramount importance. Unless people were evacuated in an orderly fashion, they would just pour out into the countryside. Not only would they need to be evacuated but also they would have to be taught to survive in the countryside without destroying its capacity to produce food.
In any emergency situation where food could not be produced for a period of time, food stocks become critical. In contrast to some continental countries, a large proportion of the crops produced on British farms are stored on the farm. And since United Kingdom farms now meet over 60 per cent. of domestic food consumption, very active measures would have to be taken at short notice to identify foodstocks on farms, to protect them from pollution, looting, pilfering and profiteering, and to requisition and distribute them.
Professor Mellanby has shown us that Britain can feed herself but only if we turn over to a more or less vegetarian diet. In the context of any serious disaster in this country, supplies of food grain and other staple foods would be needed for human consumption and all livestock except those which feed off grass and fodder crops, and perhaps a breeding nucleus, would have to be slaughtered. Arrangements would have to be made for these slaughtered animals to be eaten as food or to be disposed of for hygiene reasons. If the nation's food supplies stored on farms are looted or polluted, then terrible and unnecessary starvation could follow. There would also be a need for dissemination of information and training for farmers and others as to how to produce food under conditions of limited or non-existent fuel and other inputs. Seed stocks must be preserved, and so must a nucleus of livestock for breeding.
A limited nuclear disaster would give rise to these kinds of conditions, but in a more extreme form. Inputs of power, fuel, fertilisers and agro-chemicals would probably be cut off for an indefinite period. There would be no transport or communications. Risk of pollution to food stocks on farms would be greatly increased because of the radiation hazard. Above all, the length of period during which people and nucleus livestock would have to be supplied from existing food stocks would be much longer. It has been suggested that two or three weeks in a fall-out shelter might be followed by a nuclear winter of up to three months or more; and after that there would be the time required to grow the next crop.
To make provision for these conditions is infinitely more difficult than to do so for a more limited disaster. Some effort ought to be made to provide a series of nuclear "Noah's Arks" for breeding stock and seed, and, above all, for instruction to farmers on what to do and how to grow crops without any of the inputs to which they are accustomed in modern farming. In my view, we in your Lordships' House have an obligation to satisfy ourselves that the Government have made adequate contingency plans 1121 to cope with these and other possible disaster situations.
What do we know of the present position? Responsibility for food and agriculture rests with the Ministry of Agriculture. Its most recent booklet on the subject, entitled, Home Defence and the Farmer, was published in 1958 and is out of print. A new booklet, entitled, Civil Defence and the Farmer, has been waiting in the wings for almost four years. It was on the brink of publication last year but has now been withdrawn again for further consideration. This scarcely inspires confidence. Are the Government for some reason afraid to publish it?
There are some hints of intended action in a Home Office draft consolidated circular to local authorities on emergency planning, dated last year. This circular is in the Library. It refers mainly to what will be done at some unspecified future date. How soon may we expect action? Plans outlined in this document envisage a centralised organisation and largely ignore the need to train people now at grass-roots level. Let us remember the Boy Scout motto: "Be prepared".
It appears that the plans include the appointment of farm wardens in each region to organise farmers, but it is envisaged that these wardens would only be appointed when the disaster starts. This is patently absurd. Wardens ought to be appointed immediately and trained so that there will be available a nucleus of people who know what they are talking about and what they are expected to do in an emergency. I submit that at the present time the Government's plans for Civil Defence in respect of food and agriculture lack credibility. I should like to ask the Government to make a clear statement of policy and to give a timetable for action. If this information is considered to be too sensitive for publication then surely a Select Committee should be appointed to look into the matter and to report back to your Lordships.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, noble Lords on all sides of your Lordships' House would of course wish to pay tribute to the courage, efficiency and dedication of the regular emergency services and the voluntary organisations. All noble Lords who have spoken—with an important qualification raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney; I am glad to see the noble Lord in his place—have welcomed the firm declaration of intent by the Government: Civil Defence is what we need and Civil Defence is what we must have.
But that is not the question arising in this debate. The questions arising in this debate concern the means of implementation of that declaration of intent. In that context, do we not have to ask ourselves: having regard to the scale of the problem, are these services adequate? Ought further immediate appointments in various spheres to be made? Ought there to be an overriding system of direct co-ordination and control which lies within the exclusive province of central Government? Is the existing system adequate or effective to ensure first of all that local authorities have adequate funds, and, secondly, that when they have them they use them for the purposes for which they are intended? Ought the Government to devise and maintain a new structure for the effective organisation 1122 of Civil Defence on a regional basis, and is the dissemination of information to the public about Civil Defence adequate?
Such were the matters which I should have raised at the outset, but, having heard speeches from your Lordships—in particular the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—it would be not only otiose but tedious to detain your Lordships in regard to such matters, however important they may be, and I do not propose to do so. However, it is plain (is it not?) that we cannot just continue as we are and say, "Some local authorities have done very little or nothing. Some local authorities are not taking their grant. Some further action may be required by central Government if the local authorities fail to take appropriate action". We cannot go on like that, can we? The Government must take an urgent initiative to direct, to co-ordinate and to fund. On this railway there is no next train that calls at the station. We owe this urgent initiative, in the name of humanity, to the next generation, and even (dare one say it?) perhaps to our own.
The Motion which my noble friend Lord Renton has moved has, I am sure, done the Government a signal service. It is well conceived. It is particularly well conceived because it recognises a fact which seldom seems to have been recognised: that the emergency against which we have to prepare may arise as a result of armed conflict in the public international law sense, as a result of a domestic catastrophe, or as a result of the intrusion of a weapon by mistake, without any hostile intent at all.
As we debate tonight, there are now, whatever they have been before, no neat categories of emergency such as enabled the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney—I am afraid he has gone now, but I shall refer to him in his absence—to mock the Government policy as an absurdity. Both central Government and local authorities, each within their own respective sphere, have to direct, plan, co-ordinate and organise on the basis that there is no longer a division of category of emergency. Why?—because in the aftermath of such an emergency communities may well be isolated for three weeks or more without any police presence or without any system of criminal justice. Therefore, I, as a lawyer, shall select the aspect of law and order and confine my speech to it.
However, I listened with the greatest possible interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, on the aspect affecting agriculture. In one's own small way one has to look at the problems which one understands, and to anticipate them. It is not enough for Her Majesty's Government to say, as they have been saying, that law and order are the responsibility of Government and the police, and shall remain so. The question is: how shall short-term, temporary delegation of such responsibility operate in such circumstances?
What sort of structure shall the Government devise and maintain to preserve law and order in one or more of the stricken isolated communities? How shall the temporary and lawful delegation of authority be achieved? What sort of direction and co-ordination will be given by the Government? What will be the role of the local authorities? What steps will be taken by Government to ensure, within the province of Government, adequate training, instruction, field 1123 exercises, training in police duties and training in the administration of justice? What provision will be made as to identification of the lawful authority to carry out such duties?
We understand that when the Civil Defence Regulations 1983 are fully implemented there will be about 200,000 Civil Defence volunteers. But will that be sufficient? How will they be disposed? Will they be sufficient at all events to man the main cities as well as the country areas? One asks these questions because one does not know the answers. But the point surely is that we should all know the answers and fully understand how this emergency system will work. Hence the importance of this debate as an exercise in public relations between the Government and the people.
The fact that Her Majesty's Government have only signed, but not yet ratified, the two additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention, which was opened for signature in December 1977, concerning Civil Defence workers is perhaps neither here nor there in view of the situation which we face today. Those provisions strictly relate to armed conflict as defined in public international law, and, as my noble friend Lord Elton said, we cannot preclude war.
The prospect of perfect or near-perfect defences is negligibly low. Some warheads will always get through, whether by accident or design, and any warhead would cause immeasurable damage. There can be no effective defence of our cities as we move into a new dimension far more dangerous than nuclear deterrence.
As to the warning system, to which my noble friend Lord Renton referred, with the leave of the House perhaps I may quote from the marvellous speech of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, last week on the debate on the Strategic Defence Initiative. On 30th January, at col. 697, the noble Lord said:The stand-off environment of mutual nuclear deterrence is infinitely safer than what would happen if we entrusted our security to an automatically-operating imperfect complex of artificial satellites, lasers and computers, in which there was neither place nor time for the exercise of human judgment".Can there be little doubt that we are about to enter this new dimension? Is this not the reason why the USSR has returned to the negotiating table? If that is so, does not this call for an urgent and comprehensive reappraisal of the type of structure that we must both devise and maintain to cope with, at all events, the maintenance of law and order in isolated and stricken communities?
In conclusion, may I say that although, of course, this is not the occasion on which to seek to condescend to any form of detail—only to deal with matters of broad principle—I would wish to use any occasion to try to help the unemployed. Let us think of those 1.2 million long-term unemployed, 60 per cent. of whom have no manual skills. I wonder whether some of these people could be employed on Civil Defence to cope with all categories of emergency in context with the maintenance of law and order until normal procedures could be restored. Could they be employed on terms and conditions of service which include not only instruction and training, but also practical field exercises in all three types of emergency? Perhaps we 1124 should think again; perhaps all Civil Defence volunteers should be put on an employment basis—full-time or part-time—until the age of 60.
All too soon the "hot line" will become an irrelevance for there shall be, to quote the words of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman:neither place nor time for the exercise of human judgment".I support the suggestion made by other noble Lords that Her Majesty's Government should introduce their own legislation.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, because he has said that we should each look at the problems that we understand. I shall attempt to do that. As a general practitioner I have a special responsibility, not only to treat my patients to the best of my ability should they be involved in a disaster, but also to scrutinise plans for medical care following disasters and to try to make constructive comments on them.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who is a great humanitarian, for calling attention to the need for planning for emergencies. Although I apologise for missing the beginning of the debate, I have read the noble Lord's useful introductory speech. He referred, as did several other noble Lords, to the Bhopal disaster. It reminds us of the potential for disaster which is a risk which we bear as a price for industrial development. In spite of greater attention being paid to safety, we certainly bear some risks in this country. Less than 30 miles from here is the biggest complex in Europe of oil refineries and liquid storage tanks of highly toxic substances, such as hydrogen fluoride and ammonium nitrate. This complex is on Canvey Island. An explosion of ammonium nitrate caused 550 deaths in Texas in 1947: and the Health and Safety Executive's second report on Canvey Island realistically estimated risk up to a level of 18,000 casualties, about half of which would be deaths and half injuries.
The accident and emergency units of even the best equipped hospitals in the country—in any country—are stretched to the limit by an accident which causes only 40 to 50 serious injuries. If any noble Lord or noble Baroness doubts this, he or she should ask to see the major accident plan which any hospital with a consultant casualty surgeon must draw up, and that is what will be found. Our preparations for major accidents are woefully inadequate for an industrial nation in an age of rapid transport and of terrorism. One constructive recommendation made by the Central Committee for Hospital Medical Services of the BMA was that the DHSS should fund training and practice for the public in major accident procedures.
There is also a need for improved quality of care even in the case of less severe emergencies. At present our hard-pressed casualty surgeons and nurses attend almost exclusively to the injured person. The more dire his state the less time will there be for the distraught spouse, parents or children. Planned care for close relatives at such crises can prevent later nervous disorder. It is a growing practice in the United States to have one specially trained nurse allocated to the relatives, yet to my knowledge this is only provided 1125 to any significant degree at one hospital in this country, the Leeds General Infirmary.
At the terrorist bombing in Regents Park in 1982 children saw bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets literally blown to pieces, and those children received no trained help. The benefit, for children especially, of skilled help at the right time can be enormous, but with present stringencies on the NHS children who lose parents or witness carnage will forgo this.
Turning to the need to protect the population from conventional high explosives in time of war, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is surely right to emphasise the duty of central Government and of local authorities to provide this, bearing in mind that with evacuation from major target areas it was so successful in the last war; but with the speed that events move now, is evacuation feasible? Present day conventional military weapons are more lethal than they were, but we must be mindful of the steady rise in the ratio of civilian to military casualties in this century from one civilian to 20 soldiers killed in World War I to one to one—that is, equality—in the last war and 20 to one in the Vietnam war, as the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has pointed out. Any failure of Government not only to plan but also to provide a realistic shelter programme against conventional high explosives would be either a dereliction of duty or a tacit assumption that any conventional war would rapidly lead to nuclear war, an assumption with which many military experts agree.
Do we see here a change in Government policy rather than mere backsliding? If so, the Government should state it. Ministers have the benefit of scientific studies on the limitation of casualties, and it would not be reprehensible should they decide that the policy of 40 years ago could not work today. At present, the Government really only pay lip service to Civil Defence. If, on the basis of expert advice, they assess that Civil Defence measures would afford a significant degree of protection to the population, they should put their money where their mouths are.
Plans cost little, but they also protect little. A realistic shelter policy would be enormously expensive, but it might be worthwhile. The Swiss seem to think so. However, in my view adequate major accident provision for civil disasters, which we still do not have, comes first. We get a measure of probable military casualty figures from the United States construction and plans for construction of 15 contingency military hospitals in Britain, with a total of some 8,000 beds, as well as many other hospitals in NATO countries. Many people are unaware of these plans, but I have seen the United States congressional record in which the plans for them are discussed.
These hospitals are being built on the assessment that military casualties would build up faster than they could be evacuated to the United States. The first of these hospitals is already equipped to receive patients. Some of these hospitals might well survive a limited strike against Britain. Will planners know the conditions under which these beds might be available for injured British servicemen, or even injured civilians?
I gave notice to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that I 1126 was going to ask this question, and I shall be interested to hear what the noble Baroness who has to reply to the debate says in answer to it. Many people find it highly disturbing that these hospitals are to be built here. They might feel a little easier in their minds if they felt that British casualties might be helped by their presence in time of war.
In the last few years, with the growing public concern about nuclear war, doctors have often declared themselves sceptical of Government Civil Defence planning. They have equally often been berated for indulging in politics. A doctor's duty, we are told, is to care for his patients, not to reason why. But is it not within the ambit of their professional duty to their patients that many doctors have turned their endeavours to the reduction of risks which could lead to a nuclear war?
The British Medical Association's Board of Science and Education, after taking evidence from the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Security and many specialists, delivered its report on the medical effects of nuclear war, which was endorsed by the association in 1983, nearly two years ago. The report found serious errors in the Home Office's estimates of injuries and fatalities from nuclear explosions due to confusion between the effects of conventional and nuclear explosions, and, believe it or not, a failure to include burn injuries in the estimates. The report recommended that the health service requirements for conventional war be separated from those for nuclear war and that planning for nuclear war should concentrate on problem-solving skills since the massive number of casualties would rapidly exhaust the largest stockpiles of drugs and equipment.
After studying this report, and a shorter, simpler one prepared by the Royal College of Nursing (which reached similar conclusions), the Department of Health and Social Services issued a revised circular for consultation with the BMA and the RCN. This circular separates conventional from nuclear war. However, both the BMA and the RCN recognised serious inadequacies in the circular and the Home Office strategic assumptions which accompany it. In particular, it does not give any assessment of likely numbers and types of casualties which would follow a nuclear attack, and it does not give advice on what resources should be provided by health authorities.
The circular justifies planning for nuclear casualties on the presumption that a "demonstration" bomb might be used, or some areas of the country might escape devastation. Clearly this may well occur, and planning for these eventualities is desirable; but health authorities need to know the likely scale of casualties and what resources should be devoted to contingency plans.
In a recent issue of the Health and Social Services Journal emergency planning officers are quoted as implying that they are not expected to plan anything which would involve substantial expenditure. No wonder Civil Defence planning is, to say the least, in a state of some confusion. I believe that the British Medical Association is presently discussing the new draft circular with the DHSS, and I hope that a clear, rational document will soon be produced.
Since the draft circular was written the nuclear winter hypothesis has been shown to have a real basis 1127 by the committee of investigation of the American National Academy of Sciences. The possibility of a nuclear winter should be assimilated into advice on the consequences of a major nuclear war, since health authorities would need to know the likely duration of the extreme Siberian cold. Nuclear winter makes it vital that, while nobody claims to be able to disinvent nuclear weapons, we at least try to return to deterrence at levels of explosive yield below those which would have such a catastrophic effect.
In trying to comprehend the devastating effects of nuclear weapons we are stopped far short of reality by the limits of the human mind. Either we envisage explosions comparable merely to those of World War Two or we brandish numbers for explosive yield which rapidly become too large to comprehend.
T. S. Eliot once wrote:Human kind cannot bear very much reality".Our ex-servicemen who witnessed the tests in Australia and the South Pacific have no such difficulty. Some were at close quarters to 23 nuclear explosions, increasing from the kilotonne to the megatonne range and coming in rapid succession as the atmospheric test ban treaty approached. These men, like Hiroshima survivors, have difficulty not in imagining destruction but in imagining survival.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Renton on introducing for debate this subject which raises to many issues of vital national importance and is timely to the point of urgency. Such urgency is illustrated by this headline, which appeared not long ago in a Lancashire evening newspaper. I quote:Bolton Town Council last night decided to take no action over the fact that its one nuclear fall-out shelter had been destroyed by vandals".It is because of attitudes and decisions such as these that my brief contribution to this debate will join those of other members of your Lordships' House in offering wholehearted support to the Government in promoting and developing policies for the Civil Defence of the nation in the event of war.
While also supporting very strongly any policy which provides for peacetime emergencies, my concern will be with Civil Defence, because there is a serious danger that members of the public may be influenced by the negative attitudes of many vociferous pressure groups and even by those of some of the teachers in our schools. Also, to the extent that local authorities are defaulting in their obligations, Civil Defence should become the responsibility of national government, because it is an essential part of the moral basis of the Western strategic position.
NATO is built on the twin premises of defence and deterrence. Civil Defence is, as its name implies, essentially defensive. There is nothing offensive about it. It is also a crucial counterpart to military defence, especially in a conventional war, for, however good and well-equipped the armed forces may be, their effectiveness is drastically reduced by a civilian population which is defenceless.
Effective civilian defence is also an important ingredient in deterrence. Although one approach to 1128 deterrence in the past may have favoured mutual vulnerability of populations as essential ingredients of the balance of terror, that argument has now been superseded by the fact that other nations are taking Civil Defence seriously. If Britain leaves herself asymmetrically vulnerable, this diminishes the policy of effective deterrence.
Therefore in maintaining our NATO philosophy of defence and deterrence it is crucial to consider what other nations are doing by way of Civil Defence. As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has already made clear, the Soviet Union has well-established policies starting with the training of every school pupil from the age of eight in Civil Defence matters. Every factory, hospital, institute and farm has to have a Civil Defence programme. There is also systematic training for industrial workers, with well-established techniques for ensuring that factories can start producing goods again very soon after a nuclear explosion, except, of course, in the case of a direct hit.
This quotation from the official in charge of Civil Defence in the town of Lvov contrasts starkly with the attitude of Bolton City Council that I quoted earlier. Speaking on Lvov radio in December 1981, he said that in 1982 the emphasis in the town of Lvov would be on:the practical training of the population in ways to protect themselves against weapons of mass destruction … there should not be a single installation in Lvov without a Civil Defence Training point".Given such developments in the Soviet Union, it is surely irrational and dangerous to fail to develop a national policy for a coherent system of Civil Defence in this country.
Such an argument ought to appeal even to those who advocate unilateral nuclear disarmament. CND campaigners often accept retention of conventional arms as an alternative to nuclear weaponry. They should, therefore, be prepared to support appropriate Civil Defence measures. But instead and all too often they are prominent in decrying Civil Defence as pointless because they argue that if war occurs it will inevitably be nuclear and will result in all-out destruction.
That argument is fallacious on at least two grounds: first, because it is arrogantly confident in its prediction of the form which any war will take, and, secondly, because it fails to consider any contingency other than total annihilation.
The first argument which assumes that any future war will inevitably see the use of nuclear weapons is mere assertion and ignores the fact—which has already been mentioned in the debate—that although all the major powers which possess nuclear weapons have been involved in military conflicts since 1945 not one has used those weapons. History is littered with examples of people who were convinced that impending war could take only one form. For example, prior to the First World War military commentators were almost at one in failing to predict that the war would consist of a static war of attrition. The dread of a war involving aerial bombardment, which haunted so many writers in the 1930s, proved to be more accurate although not the whole story. Their dire predictions resemble much current writing about 1129 the likely effects of a nuclear holocaust. There were these words of Bertrand Russell:London for several days will be one vast raving bedlam, the hospitals will be stormed, traffic will cease, the homeless will shriek for help, the city will be a pandemonium".Without in any way devaluing the horrors of the London blitz and while recognising that a nuclear war would be horror of a different order of magnitude, the points need to be made that war does not necessarily lead to total destruction; that it is possible to envisage warfare below the all-out strategic nuclear level; that societies may be more resilient than could be imagined and that such forecasts of horror in no way exonerate a Government from doing their utmost to prepare as effectively as possible for all eventualities; and to try to ensure some protection against any kind of attack which might be envisaged and some means of succour and support for those who may survive.
This leads to my conclusion, based upon a constructive example—in contrast to the negativism and irresponsibility of policies often associated with so-called nuclear-free zones. I refer to a publication of the Royal College of Nursing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has already referred. It is entitled Nuclear War Civil Defence Planning: The Implications for Nursing. It is sober reading. Critical of the current under-provision of Civil Defence facilities, it offers as a case study an analysis of the effects on health care provisions of a one megatonne airburst over Bristol. But it is exemplary in its willingness to confront possibilities, in the practical information it provides concerning the conditions and requirements of survivors, and in the challenge it poses for government to give a lead in developing a comprehensive policy of Civil Defence.
So I finish by adding my own support to this position but not as a counsel of despair, rather as the only rational and responsible way forward in a world in which we are inevitably set within a sea of troubles. By opposing we may not end them, but we can at least minimise them.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, my thanks go to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for giving us this opportunity to debate the most interesting and very undervalued subject of Civil Defence and the responsibilities of central and local authorities for it. I shall concentrate my contribution mainly on Civil Defence in London with only general reference elsewhere. I wish to illustrate how, in spite of the law, the hard Left has successfully thwarted the intentions of Parliament for nearly four years and is continuing to do so.
First, let us have a look at the GLC Left-wing tactics. The story of the GLC and its irresponsible attitude towards Civil Defence is an object lesson of how a politically motivated and obstructive local authority can drag its feet if it wants to do so. Following the May 1981 GLC election, and within 24 hours of their coming to power, the socialists stopped all Civil Defence planning. They claimed a mandate from the electorate, but by no stretch of the imagination could this irresponsible action be claimed to have the endorsement of Londoners. It did not appear in the 1130 general public manifesto at all. They also had an internal, only technically public document manifesto, their Plan for Action, and in that the GLC socialist intentions towards Civil Defence were a mere 12 words out of 1½ million words. And they were concealed not under the heading of "Public Safety" but under the heading of "Finance".
Within three months of the election three senior Lef-wing GLC members were staging a well publicised visitation to the Minister of State at the Home Office, putting the case for removing the GLC's statutory obligations for Civil Defence. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, earlier said that some local authorities did not feel that they wanted to undertake things. This is not a question of whether you felt that you wanted to undertake it; this was a statutory obligation; and those same authorities that did not feel that they wished to undertake the statutory obligations undertook all sorts of things that had no relevance at all to their duties and responsibilities.
Now, when the GLC is facing abolition, the whole story of Civil Defence is changing. They are now claiming that it is a very important, strategic, local government function. In fact, it is being used as one of the reasons why the GLC should continue. When they got a dusty answer from the Minister they changed their tactics. They appointed a Civil Defence adviser, Mr. Duncan Campbell, a journalist with the New Statesman, who had been convicted at the Old Bailey in 1978 for an offence under Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act. At the time of his appointment he was just completing five years' research for his 500-page anti-Civil Defence book called, War Plan, U.K.
His appointment as a GLC Civil Defence adviser was compared at the time by some of the more popular dailies with making the "Yorkshire Ripper" resident warden at the Chiswick Refuge for Battered Wives. No one was surprised about the effect of Mr. Campbell's advice. From the day he was appointed—and I might add that he is a co-opted member of the General Services and Fire Brigade Committee, with full voting rights—the GLC carried out no Civil Defence planning whatsoever. The GLC socialists were pleased that their cynical obstruction and so-called creative interpretation of the 1974 regulations defeated the whole purpose of those regulations and brought Civil Defence in London to a halt. Indeed, the Government had to produce new regulations in 1983 and they became law in December 1983. Here we are now, 14 months on, and what has the GLC done in the way of defence? Nothing at all.
This is no reflection upon the officers of the GLC in the emergency planning division, who under very difficult circumstances have continued doing their best for Londoners within the constraints imposed upon them. While protesting, of course, that they have every intention of obeying the law, the GLC then told the Government that unfortunately they could do nothing because the planning assumptions issued by the Home Office were not sufficiently clear. They would, therefore, commission their own study, at a cost of over £400,000 to London ratepayers. This, indeed, was one of those elements of expenditure that they rushed through in great haste to prevent it from being cut. It was a wasteful expenditure. I say "wasteful" because this whole study is an entirely bogus exercise 1131 designed to ensure that Civil Defence inactivity continues. As the leading light of this commission, the GLC found a retired US Navy admiral, Noel Gaylor. He is quoted in the October 1983 issue of the American Journal of Civil Defence as saying that civil defence is bad policy, has no military utility and is wasteful.
Since 1981 this charade has been orchestrated only one mile from the Home Office, the responsible department of state, and only 500 yards from this Parliament whose intentions are being so blatantly thwarted. What can be going on in the other Civil Defence planning authorities more remotely situated and less visible to us? I would say the short answer is, not a lot. I have before me here a very recent Home Office survey dated 21st January 1985 conducted to see what is happening nationwide as a result of the 1983 regulations. Of the 54 local authorities concerned, plans of some kind exist in 45; only four local authorities say they have, or shortly will have Civil Defence plans in accordance with the 1982 regulations; 41 authorities have old plans based on the obsolete 1974 regulations, and, of these, 24 claim that they are updating them. My calculations make this 17 local authorities say they have, or shortly will have, Civil Defence plans in accordance with the 1982 total is 26 authorities who are defaulting on their responsibilities. That is almost half. My noble friend Lord Elton was technically correct when he said here today (and also earlier in answer to a Question in this House on 25th January) that no authority is refusing to carry out its Civil Defence duties. In this case, refusal means nothing. These 26 authorities have not formally refused but the effect is exactly the same. By sheer inactivity there is no need to refuse.
But this Motion is not only to draw attention to the duties of local authorities. It is also to bring up the matter of the duties of central Government. There is clearly more that the Government can do. I believe that there should be an inspectorate of Civil Defence. I was interested in the Minister's statement earlier that they were to have a Civil Defence adviser, but I would go further and suggest an inspectorate similar to that under Section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947, so that someone would actually go round and see what is being done.
While this would stop backsliding, it would not go to the root of the reasons for the hostility with which the socialist local authorities view Civil Defence. They have done great damage by misleading and confusing genuine people—even exploiting them. People have real concern over nuclear issues and this has been exploited. I was amused at the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, mentioning how confused were people. Confusion of the public, he mentioned; and I think that he has done so much to help it.
The Government's defence strategy rests on the principle of deterrence and the effectiveness of that deterrence rests, in turn, upon its credibility. No potential aggressor would believe in our own response to attack if our own actions show that we do not even believe in the possibility of attack. The problem for those of us who want to see an effective Civil Defence is how to encourage support for this activity while rebutting the argument that Civil Defence is in some 1132 way provocative. It is not provocative, and the facts speak for themselves.
We have heard mentioned in this debate the massive programmes in the Soviet Union. True, there have been massive programmes organised in the United States after the 1950 Federal Civil Defence Act and flowing from the United States national shelter plan commenced after the 1961 Berlin crisis. But these acts of Civil Defence have not been considered provocative by the Soviet Union; nor has Civil Defence in the Soviet Union been considered provocative by the United States.
Peace movements, of whatever period and for whatever motives, have always had an over-developed conception of what constitutes "provocation". The late Lord Noel-Baker—well known, of course, to Members of this House as a leading pacifist—wrote in the 1930s:the existence of the Royal Air Force obviously creates the danger which they are supposed to guard against; if it did not exist the danger would be non-existent".The best definition of Civil Defence that I have read comes from my noble friend Lord Elton in a speech he made to your Lordships' House on 23rd June 1982 at col. 1099. It bears repeating. He said:Civil Defence is an entirely peaceable activity designed solely to save lives and make those lives liveable under extremely difficult conditions It is conducted without weapons and without malice, and by many it is conducted without any reward … It is a pre-arranged organisation of unarmed, non-combatant civilians to rescue, succour and protect our unarmed, non-combatant compatriots".This is the message we have to get across. We have to change attitudes, so that people will appreciate that Civil Defence is not provocative, but is very practical and essential. I believe that this, together with further regulations to introduce an inspectorate, would do much to improve the positon.
§ 7.32 p.m.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton
My Lords, I may say that we have just listened to two very powerful speeches from two noble Baronesses, and before I begin my speech I should like to congratulate them. I should also like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Renton on raising this subject. I think that it is high time it was raised. The last time I took part in a debate on Civil Defence was in 1968; and I shall come to that later.
My sole qualification for speaking on this subject is that for three years prior to 1968 I was involved in Civil Defence and I was trained, if that is the right word, as a member of a headquarters section in the town of Castle Douglas, in south-west Scotland. What follows is a cautionary tale. There were about six of us and we assembled every Wednesday evening during winter in the town hall. We were in the town hall because there was no headquarters building, though we were continually assured that such a building would shortly be provided. There was a large and genial gentleman who, from memory, was dressed in a sort of boiler suit—the kind that your Lordships will recall, if you were in the Army, were worn by sergeant majors in the PT Corps, who used to lecture us for about two hours on fall-out situation reports and other things connected with Civil Defence. We then received our pay from Her Majesty's Government, which was a cup of tea and three biscuits.
1133 As I said, we were being trained to become a headquarters section. After a while I realised, to my terror and consternation, that I was, for some reason possibly connected with my Membership of your Lordships' House, being singled out to assume the office of controller. We even held an exercise on Sunday when, for the purposes of the exercise, I was the controller. I do not remember a great deal about it, which is probably just as well. For a considerable part of the day I was rushed about by some very cheerful young men from the Territorial Army, who communicated by intercom with other cheerful young men in the Territorial Army. It seemed to me very efficient, but I do not think it can have been, because we drove right through the centre of Annan, which was supposed to have received a direct hit, and I think that had that been reality we would probably all have been dead.
We ended the day in the county town of Kirkcudbright. My principal memory of that was of the WRVS who were very busy dealing with refugees from Glasgow. They were actually feeding some people, although I do not know who they were; I think they were probably locals who had heard that a free meal was available. In Kirkcudbright I received a rather rude but probably perfectly justified note from the head of the WRVS, asking me—if I remember rightly—what on earth I thought I was doing. My Lords, I did not know, and I do not remember my answer. But the WRVS did know what they were doing, and in that they were alone. I have always had a very high opinion of them ever since.
In 1968 the Labour Government got rid of Civil Defence and there was a debate in your Lordships' House in which I took part, on 27th March, when we were told that the international situation no longer warranted maintaining such an organisation. The theory was that the Soviet Union would be good enough to give us at least three months' warning. That, we were informed, gave plenty of time to organise. Apparently, NATO ministers had agreed in 1967 to the following: that we should receive timely, and possibly prolonged, warning of any change in the political situation that might make a war in Europe more likely.
I hope that the present Government are still not acting on that absurdly complacent assumption. I do not myself know how long it would take for the Soviet Union to mobilise and launch an all-out attack on this country or on the West, but by no stretch of the imagination can I think it would be as long as three months; and from what I have read and heard, and from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, today, the USSR is in a highly organised state of readiness and could attack with very little notice.
I do not think, in relation to Civil Defence, that Her Majesty's Government should plan on the assumption that the possibility of war in Europe is remote, because that is not what Civil Defence is about. It seems to me that the whole basis of Civil Defence ought to be, first, that such a war is possible; secondly, that the warning may be very short indeed; and, thirdly, that the Civil Defence organisation, as a consequence, ought to be in a high state of readiness at all times.
1134 So I would ask Her Majesty's Government the following questions. As it is probable that most inner-city areas would be devastated by an all-out attack, are there any plans to have some organisation in place in remote and rural areas to deal with refugees? My noble friend Lord Elton said there was no such place, but I cannot believe that there can be no remote area in the whole of the United Kingdom which could not be prepared for this.
Also, are there plans for fall-out shelters in those areas? Are there emergency stocks of food and, if so, does anyone know where they are? At this point I cannot help but refer to a pamphlet I obtained from the Printed Paper Office, entitled Civil Defence and Why We Need It. I quote:Most senior Ministers, Government officials and Service chiefs would have to remain at their desks and take their chance like anyone else".My Lords, I was going to say that if their desks were here or in Whitehall, they would be of even less use to everyone than they are already. That would be unkind; but they would be likely to be dead, and someone else would have to know where the stocks of food and so on were.
I have read this pamphlet and I can only say that I find it very depressing. It is like some of the things that one got in the Army a long time ago. We are told that to revive the old Civil Defence Corps would be too costly. Can my noble friend give an estimate of how much it would cost? The old corps was manned mostly by volunteers, who were not paid. All I got, as I have told your Lordships, for the undistinguished part that I played was a cup of tea and three biscuits per session; and, as in your Lordships' House, I had to turn up to collect that. It cannot have cost the Government very much, compared to its value.
I do not see that we would need all that many full-time people. I tried to discover how much the Government saved in 1968 by getting rid of the Civil Defence Corps. I cannot find a definite figure, but it does not seem to have been much more than £3 or £4 million, and that does not seem too much to pay for a centrally organised corps with the authority and drive which is needed to ensure that an efficient and coordinated Civil Defence is operational in all areas of the United Kingdom.
It seems to me that the present plans which we have heard of here are too muddled, too theoretical and too much based on the a priori assumption that they will not be needed anyway. Everyone hopes that he will not be needed, but the whole point of making any plans at all is that we ought to act on the assumption that people will be needed. If the time comes for action, it will be far too late for post mortems about why we had backed the wrong horse.
It also seems to me—and other noble Lords have taken up this point—that far too much emphasis is being placed on local government co-operation. We know quite well that there are local authorities which have no intention of co-operating. Some authorities, including the GLC, seem to imagine that when a nuclear rocket is about to land it will observe a notice saying "Nuclear-free zone" and will change course and devastate a Tory area instead. Government wrangling with Labour local authorities—and I do not mean to blame the Government in saying this, because 1135 in my view the fault is that of the local authorities—should not be allowed to obstruct the essential task of organising Civil Defence. This is a very good reason for reconstituting the old Civil Defence Corps. Finally, it is my view that successive Governments have been grossly negligent in their Civil Defence preparations and organisation, and I hope that this Government will break out of this complacency as effectively in this area as they have in others.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Lord Gainford
My Lords, I join in this debate to give full support to my noble friend Lord Renton. Also I speak as someone who has had Civil Defence experience. I want to mention a part of that service which I hope the Government will be able to revive before long and which I hope has not been forgotten, even though it has not been mentioned.
I am very disappointed by the attitude that is taken by the GLC, because for 20 years I was an employee of theirs and of the former LCC at County Hall, and a little over 20 years ago their attitude was not only different but quite exemplary. During my early years of service in County Hall, notices went around the departments asking for volunteers for the County Hall unit of the Industrial Civil Defence Service. My noble friend Lord Renton mentioned what industry could do, and that service or corps was a subsidiary of the Civil Defence Corps.
The service enabled offices and factories to have their own units, so that they had men and women trained and ready for any national emergency. A certain time each week was allowed to the volunteers, of whom I became one, for training sessions which were both theoretical and practical. From time to time, there would be a practical exercise. One site for this was in Esher, where a series of buildings was constructed to look like part of a town damaged in an air raid. I was assigned to the rescue squad and the lessons that I had there were infinitely valuable because, in addition to the theory of what to do in the case of a nuclear attack, the work of rescuing people was such that it could be applied to any accident.
I went through various stages, getting up to what is known as heavy rescue, where I had fun learning how to work an acetylene cutter. All this experience has made me regret the discontinuance of Civil Defence training. I learned a lot and I should have liked to go on refresher courses, because although I can remember much of what I was taught I might find my knowledge somewhat rusty if I were now suddenly involved in helping at an accident. Our training gave us great help and encouragement because we were taught a lot about nuclear warfare, particularly how to combat the fear of it and how to relieve people's worries about what might happen. For example, I found it extremely interesting to learn how much shelter from radiation could be got from the ordinary person's house, particularly if the house had a basement.
We also learned about the co-operation of another service which has not been mentioned—except by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and I am very grateful that he mentioned it—the Royal Observer Corps, which could supply information about the degree of 1136 radiation in each area. I was an airman in the war with the ground staff of the Royal Air Force and I learned a lot about the Royal Observer Corps because I married a lady who was a member of it then. If the Royal Observer Corps could also be encouraged into reactivation, the community would enjoy it.
As regards the protection of buildings, it is a pity that the building in which your Lordships' House is enclosed is probably so near a direct target. But when I was down below trying to find the shooting gallery, I noticed the thickness of the walls and cellars and how much protection a building like this could provide. Critics of our Civil Defence say that the devastation would be so terrible that the service would be useless, but the service could prepare. You never know where a bomb will hit. Preparation would be no good if there was a direct hit from a bullet, a shell or a bomb. But it is vital to establish a controlling authority where the survivors are, which can try to get people well again so that they can lead a totally useful life.
Ever since men began fighting each other, the fear of war has lurked in people's minds. Today it is fear of what will happen to a whole city if it is hit. Way back, it was fear of what would happen in the area where a battle might be fought. The peasant living where a battle was fought knew that, whichever side won, he would be the loser. Again, whichever city is hit the survivors know that they will have to struggle hard to get back to any form of normality.
As regards the possibility of employment in Civil Defence, so many people who are unemployed, particularly young people, could be encouraged to volunteer so as to do something useful, learn how to tackle the job and have an interest. I remember a clerihew: the chief difference between men and boys is the cost of their toys. We men have our interests of hobbies which we jump into with childish delight. Perhaps Civil Defence will have a very ardent recruit if a man can be taught how to help his community through his hobby and interest.
For example, there is the kind of person who is often referred to in a rather sneering way, but who could be immensely useful in restoring civilisation—the radio ham. The radio ham probably has his own supply of electricity. Communication will be vital and a man or a woman with a battery and a portable radio set which could communicate would be of extreme value. I hope that the Government will be able to show how such people could be helped to be prepared. I fully support my noble friends Lord Elton and Lady Trumpington and I have intimated my readiness to play my part. Any action taken by Government or Parliament to get Civil Defence out of the hole of abeyance into which it has, unfortunately, had to creep will get my full support.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Renton for initiating this debate. Last Saturday, I found myself in an extreme situation; a two megatonne bomb had just exploded over Napton and had destroyed the city. It had destroyed a large part of the county of Naptonshire. I was actually at the Civil Defence College at Easingwold and with me were some 80 elected representatives of local authorities. We were trying to deal with this nightmare, 1137 which was fortunately hypothetical. They came from all over the country; from Warwick, Dover, Manchester and Merseyside. They came from nuclear-free zones. They were of every political persuasion and they were all pulling together. This was a point made very well earlier on by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew—when it comes to the crunch everyone, even CND, is going to get out and try to save lives.
Indeed, the aims of the Civil Defence College are simply spelt out; first, to maximise the number of people surviving an attack, whatever that attack might be; and, secondly, to enhance the chances of their continued survival in the long term. There are no politics at Easingwold; there is just a sense of duty and compassion. During the question time period at the college the issue of the nuclear winter arose. I learnt to my surprise that, after a really horrendous attack, a nuclear winter is by no means certain and that there could equally be a nuclear greenhouse effect. Both, of course, would be quite awful but it would be quite foolish of the Civil Defence College to make any contingency planning for a fall in temperature when there could indeed be a rise in temperature. Either would be catastrophic, but the whole point of Civil Defence is to minimise the catastrophe; and even in the worst catastrophe imaginable, as has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, Civil Defence could save perhaps 15 million people.
As for life not being worth living after the bomb, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney stated, that is fine for him; that is an individual decision; but it is not fine for a councillor to decide that on behalf of his electorate. It is not fine for him to say, "I know that after the bomb has dropped life will not be worth living. Therefore you will not live."
At the college in Napton we were in real Armageddon territory. They put you into that very catastrophic situation because they argue that if you are prepared for a very major disaster you can also equally well deal with the second worst type of attack, the third worst, the fourth worst and so on—down through a spectrum of nuclear attack, through chemical attack, conventional attack and even to a civil disaster such as Flixborough.
I must confess that I was rather heartened by what I found at the Civil Defence College. We are better prepared than I had thought. I did not know, for instance, that we had a good British Telecom emergency network. I did not know anything about the wartime broadcasting service with its 80 modules. I did not know anything about the food stockpiles.
The principal of the college is Mr. Bettridge. He is pleased that the numbers attending his courses have risen from about 1,300 a year in 1974 to 3,200 a year today. Despite the fact that he has three times as many courses on now as then, there is still a waiting list. But there is no room for complacency. There used to be four Civil Defence Colleges, not just one. The courses used to run for a month; now they run for two and a half days. I believe there are 30,000 people in this country who have had some training on how to deal with a national disaster—that is about one in 1,500 of us. I noticed, however, that my noble friend Lord Renton put the figure even lower, at, I think, 17,000.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, what I said was that there are now 17,000 volunteers. That is in addition to those who are more fully involved.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, as the noble Viscount has given way, perhaps he would not mind sitting down for a moment longer while I ask him this question. How many bombs fell on Napton on the day he was on duty?
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, the thinking was regional. The country is broken down into regions in the event of the ultimate catastrophe—a massive nuclear war. Our concern was to do the best we could for Naptonshire. That is very much what is envisaged in a massive catastrophe—each region trying to do the best it can for that region.
I mentioned the figure of 30,000 trained people in the country, which I thought was too few. If I were to suggest to the Government that they should reopen some of the Civil Defence Colleges—perhaps the one at Sunningdale—that might be a little extreme, but I do have some practical suggestions which would greatly increase the effectiveness of Easingwold, because Easingwold has been criticised.
It is said for, instance, that the Easingwold tutors are too dogmatic; that they are "all mouth and no ears"; and that this stems from their military origins. The pay at Easingwold is not very good and it seems to me almost essential to have another source of income. That accounts for the high proportion of retired servicemen who, of course, have military pensions. So if the Government want to attract tutors from all walks of life they should increase the salaries at Easingwold.
It is also said that the tutors are insular; that they would benefit from secondment to local authorities to see how they really work. For that, you need a surplus of tutors. At the moment they are three men short at the college. They cannot spare one man away for a single day. Therefore I say that Easingwold needs more tutors.
A further benefit to Easingwold would be secondment the other way round—firemen, policemen and military men seconded to the college. Above all, there is need for the secondment of Home Office scientists with knowledge of radioactive fall-out. That would cost little or nothing, and surely the Government could do something about that.
The reason that there is need for so much expertise among tutors is that the people attending the courses from all walks of life are bright and ask expert 1139 questions. The principal, Mr. Bettridge, listed for me the many fields in which each tutor has to be expert. There are nine such fields, the workings of local government; other Ministries and what they are doing; emergency planning; stress; transition to war; effects of nuclear weapons; effects of chemical weapons; effects of conventional weapons including fire storms; and effects of speznaz troops. Therefore my suggestion to Government is that there should be a larger, better qualified, better paid, tutorial staff at Easingwold. There is money to do this, I suppose, from the shortfall in expenditure by some local authorities, which stands at £2 million. My information is—and I hope the Government will correct me here—that a cut of 5 per cent. is proposed at Easingwold.
When I went to Easingwold I thought that the whole issue was rather political. I honestly think that the debate in this House has been a shade too political and not humanitarian enough. I certainly left finding the issue compassionate. In Civil Defence, compassion means co-ordination; that is, co-ordination between the military, the fire service, the police and ambulancemen. One example quoted to me of bad co-ordination—this rather worried me—was the Aberfan disaster where, I was told, there had been no proper co-ordination for the first seven hours. Civil Defence is certainly just as much about collapsing spoil heaps as it is about H bombs. Surely government do have a duty to increase expenditure at the one training college we have left and not to cut it. I hope that I shall be proved wrong, so to speak, about that cut. My information is that the Government are proposing a cut of 5 per cent. I would say to noble Lords in all parts of the House, and hope they agree, that whatever one's views on defence policy may be, the argument for an effective Civil Defence policy is morally overwhelming.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Renton on both initiating this debate and getting a pretty good statement out of my noble friend the Minister. Some of us may consider that the Minister could have said a little more in some respects, but on the whole he made a very good and comprehensive statement. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend also on the tremendous pressure he has been keeping up on the Government for the whole of the past five years, to persuade them to think seriously about Civil Defence. The fact that we reached the 1983 regulation was in large part due to the efforts of my noble friend Lord Renton.
I must add that I am concerned about a point which many noble Lords have raised: that so many well-meaning people, such as local councillors, doctors and possibly even the majority of supporters of CND—perhaps even including the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney—have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into thinking that Civil Defence is synonymous with full scale thermonuclear attack. They have been hoodwinked also into thinking that to encourage reasonable preparations for peacetime emergencies and for Civil Defence in war somehow condones the use of nuclear weapons by our side.
1140 I believe that such hoodwinking has been cleverly initiated by the Soviets and by their fellow travellers in this country. I shall not say any more about that point at this stage because I hope that we will be debating it in the not too distant future. However, if any noble Lord had doubts about this aspect, he had only to listen to what my noble friend Lady Gardner had to say about the activities of the present Administration of the Greater London Council. Suffice it to say now that the provision of plans and trained volunteers for civil emergencies in peace and war are necessary, whether or not a full-scale nuclear war is ever fought. As has been said, particularly by my noble friend Lord Renton, but also by others, such a war is far and away the most unlikely disaster to which mankind might be subjected.
I propose to concentrate my remarks on the need for trained volunteers to be available at all times to supplement the skills of the police forces, fire brigades, ambulance services, the medical services of the NHS, and the full-time staff of the county emergency planning officers. After the Munich crisis in 1938, when the Government initiated the enrolment of ARP volunteers—and I must mention in passing that some 1middot;4 million people were enrolled, which gives some idea of the number which ideally might be required—they were able to draw on a large number of men and women who only 20 years before had been accustomed to wartime discipline and training.
In 1968 when, most regrettably, the Civil Defence Corps was stood down, for reasons of economy, the Government of the day could even then feel that in the 10 years or so ahead of them, if their forecast of emergencies was proved to be wrong, they, too, could call upon at least a hard core of people who had experience of discipline and training in wartime or in National Service. The vital problem now is that such persons are dwindling to an unacceptable minimum; certainly, such persons as are physically active and able to do some of the heavy jobs—not to mention those who can think more quickly than perhaps can many of us in your Lordships' House.
I believe it to be vital to recreate a strong backbone of volunteers in all parts of the country before the necessary expertise is lost. By expertise, I do not mean just having expert skills, but also being accustomed to discipline and training. If one has not been used to such discipline and training—and this I have noticed in my own children—it is something that one does not understand. This is a very important aspect.
In 1968, former Civil Defence Corps workers in some local authority areas banded together to form independent volunteer units. As we have heard from several noble Lords, more recently and in total contradistinction, there are now local authorities which have gone completely the other way and have endeavoured to stamp out, as far as one can see, all vestige of Civil Defence volunteers. They have even adopted the ridiculous stance of declaring their areas to be nuclear-free zones. I shall not enlarge on why that is so ridiculous, because the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has already explained it very clearly.
As was mentioned by my noble friends Lord Renton and the Minister, a particularly good model of how best to organise emergency volunteers is to be found in 1141 that practised in Devon. The adoption of their practices by other local authorities has been encouraged positively by the Government appointed co-ordinator of volunteer effort in Civil Defence. It has that blessing as well. In Devon the emergency volunteers have a constitution giving them the right to elect their own officers and to administer themselves. The county council retains overall and training control, appoints certain key persons, and accepts responsibility for funding and insurance. That arrangement has been wholly successful. The Devon emergency volunteers have regained their enthusiasm and pride, and the council has gained a remarkably cost-effective Civil Defence capability. Above all, the experience of training and discipline necessary in a volunteer emergency force has not been lost by default.
In 1983 the Government issued regulations requiring local authorities, among other things, to recruit, organise and train Civil Defence volunteers. As my noble friend the Minister has indicated, response has been very patchy. I had some figures to quote to indicate just how patchy, but my noble friend Lady Gardner produced even better figures in that they were more accurate and more up to date. Suffice it to say that it is quite appalling the number of local authorities which are just thinking about those requirements. I do not mean only those local authorities which are taking the rather extraordinary action of declaring nuclear-free zones and which have been hoodwinked into believing that Civil Defence is a wrong thing to do; there are others as well. It is very important that this particular requirement should continue to be pressed for by the Government. I shall say more about that in a moment.
I should mention at this point that it was suggested by my noble friend Lady Cox and by another Member of your Lordships' House that it may be a good thing if Civil Defence at local level was all centralised and run from the centre. Like the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I do not agree with that, certainly in relation to the volunteer force; it must be a county affair. Perhaps I misunderstood my noble friend; perhaps she was talking about other matters—
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to intervene. I was making the point that where local authorities have defaulted the responsibility for making sure that they do not continue to default should be with national Government—not that Civil Defence should be centrally co-ordinated.
§ Lord Mottistone
When they are defaulting, my Lords, yes; but the Government might appoint a special person to do that, though at local level.
§ Lord Mottistone
Yes, my Lords, that is important.
As has been explained by many noble Lords, especially by my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Elton, there is a whole range of emergencies in peace and in various possible types of war, with full-scale nuclear attack being the least likely, to which the local authority voters may be subjected. Under most 1142 emergencies some people will be killed and others gravely wounded, but many will survive. The recent chemical disaster at Bhopal in India, which has been mentioned, is a good example. Another example is Hiroshima, which I visited in February 1946 and where I was able to see what had happened.
As has been said clearly by many noble Lords, the very least the local authority can do for its citizens is to have in being a trained and disciplined force ready and willing to take emergency action and to give guidance to helpless survivors. All local authorities must, without delay, respond to this need and stop fussing about whether or not it has any bearing on the likelihood of a full-scale nuclear war, which it will not. I welcome the Government's determination in this respect and trust that they have the will and the enthusiasm to give effect to that determination.
I agree with those noble Lords who said that there comes a point at which it is not fair to the citizens, the voters, people in local authority areas, to be left without this potential help in the event of a disaster, which may occur in peace or war, just because they have a blinkered administration running them locally. The Government must step in at an appropriate time. If they are in doubt as to the appropriate time I would say it is not later than the autumn of 1985. Thus I implore all local authorities to take the necessary action to implement the regulations which they have been charged to put into effect and which (as a final point that was in fact made earlier) are heavily grant-aided by central Government. They are in some respects 100 per cent. grant-aided, so these local authorities have no excuse on financial grounds for not doing their duty by the country in the way that we all expect.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Earl Cathcart
My Lords, I must start by apologising for not being able to be present at the start of this debate. I therefore failed to hear the opening speech by my noble friend Lord Renton and the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. I must also say how grateful we are to my noble friend Lord Renton for giving us this opportunity to debate this sometimes overlooked and often misunderstood subject of Civil Defence.
A great deal of what I had intended to say has been admirably said by many other speakers, and it is getting late, but I am particularly glad that the Motion we are debating so clearly includes peacetime emergencies. Living, as we do, in a temperate climate we are inclined to assume that a national disaster, when our normal public services might be overwhelmed or exhausted, will never happen to us here. Many noble Lords have already referred to the frightful disaster of Bhopal, and the point has been made that the unexpected can happen. It is common sense to make sound plans and preparations.
It is unfortunate that Civil Defence has been given a bad name by the CND, which, in its natural horror of nuclear warfare (a horror which, of course, we all share with it), argues that since the use of nuclear weapons will eventually lead to the total destruction of mankind—the holocaust argument—it is no good wasting time or money in trying to survive. If the horror of war ever came back to these islands it could 1143 take many different forms, as my noble friend the Minister said in his opening speech. But whatever form it takes the resultant suffering among the civilian population could be alleviated by sound preparations and training.
In particular, one must emphasise the fearful suffering which would occur if these islands were ever subjected to a chemical and biological attack. These fearful weapons, which we do not possess but which are manufactured and stockpiled by the Soviets, while resulting in no damage to property would inflict untold horror on our civilian population and, of course, on our armed forces. However, we are not discussing how to prevent war occurring but how to protect ourselves in the event of war. Civil Defence would not prevent chaos and casualties, but with proper planning and training much of the suffering could be reduced and many lives saved.
In the rest of my speech I want to emphasise two aspects in particular: the co-ordination of Civil Defence planning, and training. First, the coordination of Civil Defence planning at central Government is made much more difficult by the enormous number of agencies and Government departments involved. Therefore, it was particularly good to hear my noble friend the Minister say that a central planning committee is being set up designed to embrace all Government departments and to coordinate all details into a centralised strategy. I fancy that this new committee will be replacing the former Cabinet Committee, which met only spasmodically and then only to deal with particular issues.
It was good also to hear that not only will this central strategy be disseminated down but that it will also be monitored to ensure that proper action is being taken at all levels. Besides the large number of Government departments involved there is also a very large number of agencies. They have been named by so many noble Lords that I shall not go into them—the police, fire services, transport, food supplies, ambulance services, and so on. None of those agencies can expect to do its task in a severe emergency or war without a very considerable backup of volunteers. At present it seems to me that, with a certain few exceptions, these agencies are attempting to produce their own plans within their own scope and without sufficient coordination. Almost certainly there is a need for a level of group co-ordination between central Government and the local authorities. The Home Office's pilot scheme for a level of regional co-ordination is to be greatly welcomed. I believe that we shall hear the result of that at the end of this year.
I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, or my noble friend Lord Mottistone that the Government were right to decentralise Civil Defence planning and action to local authorities. I feel that up till now over-decentralisation down to local authority areas, without adequate guidance, has been a cause of much of the trouble and doubt that has occurred at the lower levels. I feel that if Civil Defence strategy is fully implemented at Whitehall level, to be co-ordinated by this Civil Defence planning at regional level, if it is to be put into effect, it will give a much greater encouragement and guidance to the local authorities.
1144 This leads me to the important subject of training. I was particularly glad, again, to hear my noble friend the Minister stress the importance which the Government attach to the training and exercising of volunteers and the new impetus they intend to put into that training of volunteers. The urgent need for new and comprehensive Civil Defence training manuals is well known, and I hope that the Minister's promise that these will shortly be available will be strictly honoured.
Perhaps the area where training and practice in peacetime is most urgently needed is the manning of Civil Defence headquarters or command posts. There will need to be many of these at all levels right down to village and town level, and even districts within a town, manned day and night, to control, administer and maintain the flow of the normal requirements of life, to deal with casualties, clear roads, and so on. Many of the staff at the small headquarters, or even the large ones, will be volunteers. Anyone who has worked in a command post at a busy time will know what an enormously difficult task it is and that with training enormous improvements can be made. I believe that that is one of the main aspects of training that we need.
I should like to end on a more positive and possibly more cheerful note by drawing your Lordships' attention to the responsible and positive actions of two famous and caring volunteer organisations which have given full support to the national plans for Civil Defence. Although I am involved in a very modest way with one of those organisations, I should like to try to outline the combined efforts of both organisations, which work together in a spirit of harmony and close co-operation.
I refer to the Red Cross and the St. John's Ambulance Brigade, which between them have a large number of volunteers deployed all over the country highly trained in first aid, basic life-saving and nursing skills. Those two organisations, working in close cooperation, formed in 1980 their joint emergency committees to support Civil Defence at both national and county levels.
Their role, for which their peacetime voluntary work and training make them ideally suited, is to form on mobilisation medical reception centres for service casualties at ports and airfields and to staff hospital trains and rehabilitation centres. Furthermore, they would be able to support the National Health Service by setting up and manning first-aid posts in hundreds of towns and villages throughout the country to receive casualties from enemy action so that those people can receive initial treatment before evacuation to hospital or discharge back to their own homes.
The voluntary auxiliary support which those two great organisations can provide would apply to an emergency in peace or war alike and to any form of attack, conventional, chemical, biological or nuclear, which might unhappily assail us. The training and preparation for that task since 1980 has been considerable. A large number of individuals from both organisations have attended four-day courses at the National Civil Defence College at Easingwold in Yorkshire, which we heard about from my noble friend. During the same period, over 100 combined St. John's Ambulance/Red Cross exercises have taken place in conjunction with the Territorial Army, the 1145 police, the Women's Royal Voluntary Service, the National Health Service and also some local authorities. Those exercises have been devised by the Joint National Committee of those two organisations, and I think that it is a remarkable tribute to their dedication and initiative.
As far as I can find out, the cost of this training at local level is met by the Home Office, while the secretarial, printing and postage costs of the national committee of those two organisations are met, for some reason, by the Department of Health and Social Security. Perhaps this is an example of the lack of co-ordination leading to confusion—which I referred to earlier—at the national level of Civil Defence planning.
What I have described is the private enterprise efforts of those two voluntary organisations, which specialise in first aid and nursing. But in an emergency there are needed elsewhere many other skills and services which can be provided by volunteers, supervised by professionals. What we must ensure is that there is proper co-ordination and planning at Government level down to regional and local government so that that enormous potential effort is not wasted.
Finally, I must say a word, as so many noble Lords have done already, about those local councils which fail to do their duty. It is utterly irresponsible for any local authority to dodge its responsibilities in this matter, in my opinion. Those which declare themselves a nuclear-free zone in total isolation, and as a result opt out of all emergency planning, are only marginally worse than those which do nothing. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter referred to the idea of local nuclear-free zones as childish. I would use a like simile. I would liken it to the childish games of "Touch" or "Catch-me-if-you-can", but played in a confined space; or like a child playing hide-and-seek by taking cover behind an inadequate tree and thinking that he really is hiding.
§ 8.25 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to say a few words in this debate. I should particularly like to thank my noble friend Lord Renton, who has given me the privilege of serving on his Committee. He has introduced a wonderful debate today and has attracted many people to join in.
I wish to make a couple of points. I wish to discuss the question of research and development and to find out how much money is actually being spent on R & D. I should like to see more academic research. We want to know about the wider aspects of Civil Defence. I suggest that such research would be complemented by our NATO partners. They already have programmes of this kind, and we should bring ourselves into line with other members of NATO. Our NATO partners also involve their academic institutions in Civil Defence research.
What are the kind of things that they research? They include options for economic Civil Defence programmes, the viability of a long-term shelter programme, measures to protect the civilian population from aspects of chemical warfare and the value of limited evacuation. Is there a stay-put policy 1146 in the Government in regard to spending money on having academics brought into this work? Also there seems to be a great shortage of leaflets. Only about 750,000 leaflets are on hand. I come from Wiltshire, and I am glad to say that I have also worked in Devon, where we have very good organisations, as has been mentioned by one or two noble Lords. I should like to know whether more literature is available.
At the present time no research is sponsored at universities. Does the noble Baroness consider that the 1983 regulations for local authorities are sufficient to attract recruits and to train and exercise volunteers? Has the Home Office made an estimate of the numbers in areas where people are at the greatest risk and considered to where they might be evacuated?
As previous speakers have said practically everything that I had thought of saying, I end with only one suggestion. Forty years have now passed since the end of the war. I suggest that in this year in celebrating the ending of the war in Europe we try to make it a civilian occasion. Many cities, towns and villages are twinned with others in Europe. Is it possible to invite representatives from the twinned areas to attend the many memorial services that will be held in Great Britain? That would promote a real feeling of friendship. It should be remembered that in the 1939 to 1945 war, as well as the 26 million service people who were killed, 24 million civilians were killed. The courage of the civilians and the splendid support that they gave the military should never be forgotten. I should very much like it if we could do something to include the civilian population in the celebrations this coming year.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, like other speakers in this debate, I want to begin by acknowledging the debt that we owe to the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Lord Renton is not merely a noble Lord, but, as far as I am concerned, he is also a noble friend. In another place over a number of years, he has joined with me, or I with him, in projects which we in common saw as serving the best interests not only of our constituents but also of the nation. I refer particularly to the national heritage aspects of our work.
Therefore, I listened very carefully to what he had to say. As other noble Lords have said, this is not merely a topic for debate tonight: it is a subject which the noble Lord has pursued, I think to the benefit and advantage of this House. Also, as my noble friend Lord Mishcon has said, he has pursued it certainly to the benefit of the nation, because, owing to the publicity we received earlier today, many more people will understand the importance that this House attaches to the topic. Therefore we are very grateful indeed.
The words of the Motion on the Order Paper are well understood. I certainly appreciate the care that was taken by the noble Lord in trying to maximise the support—if there were a vote—for the genesis of the whole raison d'être of the Motion. Various people have used bits of it to their advantage. That is, of course in the way of debate. I should also like to draw the following to the attention of the House. I want to use it to illustrate the sympathy that I have with the noble Lord in his Motion. I should like to draw 1147 attention to his response to the question of the Civil Defence Act 1948, on 14th January.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, in an intervention on a question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Murton, who is in his place, as I would expect, and who made an earlier contribution on this matter:My Lords, is my noble friend aware that peace-time emergencies are occurring on an ever-increasing scale and that the people responsible for dealing with them are also responsible for civil defence?Therefore, in preparing for this debate with the responsibility of responding on behalf of these Benches, I immediately began fully to understand that we can see a great deal of common accord. I refer particularly to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. In making a point, he wanted to stress that when one talks in terms of Civil Defence, it is not merely a one-issue, one-happening event.
I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, is not in his place. Again, I saw a great deal of sense in the way he illustrated the fact that preparations that might ostensibly be for one purpose can nevertheless be fully utilised for a great many purposes. The most terrible event at which these preparations are aimed might be the event for which people say we are not prepared to be prepared. However, as we have gone through the debate, we have had many illustrations of our dependence upon being ready. One of the noble Lords earlier reminded us of the Boy Scouts' motto "Be prepared".
My noble friend Lord Mishcon apologised for not being able to be here at this time. I want not only to recognise the value of his contribution to this debate, but also to use one or two of the points that he made and to re-emphasise them. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, who is to reply, may very well take the view that there is insufficient time to give way in her winding-up speech. Therefore, I think it is right that at this time we read the questions that we may be asking later, in order to provide her with an opportunity of giving some of the answers.
One of the points that my noble friend Lord Mishcon made was on the need for co-ordination, the need to look at the responsibility, if not nationally and if with some reluctance locally, perhaps to get some major regional responsibility. These are interesting points. They illustrated the sadness of the abolition situation. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, pointed out that when abolition does take place arrangements are to be made. I want the House to listen to what the Government say will be the situation after abolition of the metropolitan county councils. This is what is said:Under the police and fire services, who will run the fire service? In future, the service will be run by joint fire authorities made up of elected councillors".That is elected councillors from this council, from that council and from the other council. In other words, it will be a joint board.
Thee are some people in this House, with more experience than myself—and I have some experience—who will agree that a joint board of councillors of different political persuasions and, in the way of things, of different geographical imperatives is, if not a receipe for continual quarrelling, a most unsatisfactory way of trying to reach the maximum 1148 agreement. So I think the Government have to address themselves to the question as to whether that is the answer to, of all things, the need to maximise and strengthen Civil Defence.
Then, on Civil Defence itself, the document says:What will happen to Civil Defence? Most of the MCC's responsibilities will be taken over by the metropolitan districts".Therefore, the London districts—that is, the London councils—will have the responsibility devolved upon them. I think the Government have a responsibility to treat this question seriously. When abolition takes place, will these responsibilities be left to joint boards in some cases or to the London boards in others—in which case, I cannot see that as being a very happy situation?
Then my noble friend raised the point about the 75 per cent., and the 25 per cent. He was chided about not having made reference to the number of events that could be 100 per cent. grant-aided. I have not checked it, but I think the record will show that what he said was that he had here a number of items that ranked for 100 per cent., which of course he will have available. I have them here, too. They are as follows: Provision and maintenance of Civil Defence communications; training of staff and their participation in training exercise; repayment of expenses etc.
Reference has also been made to the commitment in the Conservative manifesto. It was not my Manifesto but again I can subscribe to the premise upon which it rests. I will read it to you:We propose to amend the Civil Defence Act 1948, to enable civil defence funds to be used in safeguarding peacetime emergencies …".I can see common ground, not only politically, but from the point of view of reception by the populace, to realise that inevitably most of the disasters will be of civil emergency kinds—thank goodness, terrible as they are. They will realise the nonsense of having prepared machinery and paraphernalia which is, as it were, cocooned for the ultimate of a war situation.
That was the Conservative commitment. Yet 1983 has gone by and nothing was done. Nineteen eighty-four has gone by and nothing was done. More than one member has asked the Government about this. The Minister has said well, of course, it is possible for it to be done by private legislation. The House must judge the seriousness of the Government and their ability to put their money where their mouths are, in saying in this context that we cannot afford a slot. I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who said that if he had to find a slot, there was some legislation which he would get rid of to facilitate this. I am sure that it was the abolition of the GLC he had in mind; that he would not wish to proceed with that legislation—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I believe the noble Lord does not wish to misrepresent me. He knows that I regard that measure, which will take a great deal of time, as being quite irrelevant to this issue. Something much smaller could go. I did actually, I thought, make a constructive suggestion—the Insolvency Bill.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, we come to the realm of priorities. Some people attach more importance than others to Civil Defence. Some people attach more importance to spending public money, 1149 ratepayers' money, on Civil Defence, as opposed to housing, roads, or something of that kind. The Government have made their priority pretty clear in this matter. Civil Defence has not a high priority. If they cannot find the time or the money, the Minister must answer for that here in the debate tonight.
We have had a number of calls for compulsion if councils do not carry out statutory provisions. Again, Members of this House are more selective. There are other statutory provisions that are not complied with, but I cannot recall Members opposite saying that unless they are complied with we should send in commissioners, as one noble Lord said, and so on. The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was not proceeded with for very good reasons. At one time there were hundreds of councils involved, but the figure gradually came down. There are provisions in housing and in education, and in the provision of assistance and homes for the elderly. There is a shortfall in maintaining the statutory provision on a range of issues.
This Government are not inexperienced in telling local councillors what to do. Local councillors have been elected on a manifesto. People choose to interpret manifestos, after they are elected, in certain ways. This Government are a champion of that approach. I say simply that one needs to be very careful before saying to the Government, when they have got their act together, that on Civil Defence there is no argument. It was, I believe, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who said that there should be no argument in regard to a certain level of compliance by the autumn of 1985. If the Government wish for ever to persist in their confrontation with local government, as they have done, in my view, over the last four or five years, that is the road down which they should go.
The Government have to come to terms with the art of trying to persuade not merely local councillors but those who elect local councillors that they are right in this matter. I do not believe that they are. I am, however, prepared to acknowledge that they may be. There has to be persuasion in that way.
I plead in aid a body that is not my favourite, the London Boroughs Association—not the Association of Labour Authorities, but the London Boroughs Association. This is what that association tells me in respect of Civil Defence and emergency planning. It wrote recently to the Minister saying:individual boroughs, in order to fulfil the proposed new statutory duties, will probably require to appoint additional staff".The association speaks from experience. If we are making a political point, it is not mine. It refers to the need for additional staff. As the Minister knows, if there is anything that the Government are proud of, it is their manpower-watch exercise—to cut, to cut and to cut. There is not a single department in any council that cannot wring its hands over what the Government have done to staffing levels. I am not arguing about efficiency or cost. What the councils say is that if they are to fulfil what the Government want them to do, the question of staff arises.
The letter goes on to say:the Association firmly and strongly believes that all expenditure on civil defence finance incurred by Boroughs, whether for control rooms or equipment, should qualify for 100 per cent. grant-aid".1150 It adds that the association has yet to give a formal view on the training of volunteers but again registers its concern at the apparent increased demands placed upon local authority resources.
Time presses, my Lords, but there is an enormous number of responsibilities laid upon councils already. There has been reference to the kind of disasters that could occur. Quite apart from the argument about Civil Defence preparations which some councils are not prepared to undertake, there is an enormous range of activities. Yet this Government—and, indeed, I suspect, every Government, including mine—do not seem to appreciate the weight of extra money that is laid upon councils as a result of legislation passed here in Parliament.
There has been reference to some backsliding councils. I should like to mention Enfield. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, entertained the House with remarks based on her experience at the GLC. She is more knowledgeable than anyone here about the GLC because she serves upon it—
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I did not say that I was more knowledgeable than anyone else.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I am prepared to say so. I say that, ipso facto, if you are a member of the GLC you must be more knowledgeable of the activities of the GLC. The noble Baroness also has the honour, the privilege and the pleasure to represent Southgate, which is part of the London borough of Enfield. There has been mention of councils failing to carry out their duties. The sad fact for Enfield is that it wants, I believe, to carry out its duty. The civic centre was built in 1961. In 1971 plans were created in order to equip the basement for the kind of purpose we are discussing. Last year, in the light of the new remit, the Enfield Council met to discuss a plan—this was all published in the newspapers—to equip the basement for a sum in the region of £100,000. Told that it would get £75,000 from the Government, which meant that it had to find £25,000, it was unable to find that amount. You have to believe that, with a budget ranging between £20 million and £30 million, it is impossible to find £25,000! I applaud Enfield's priorities. It spent the money on something else, which I believe might have been more worthwhile.
However, the dilemma for councils is that so long as grant-aiding leaves something for a council to find, and so long as they have the responsibilities and the priorities that are theirs, there will be difficulties of this kind. It may be that the situation has changed. I am describing what was the situation last year. I am aware that these matters are reviewed. A properly equipped basement of the civic centre at Enfield could serve to meet emergencies such as a motoring disaster on the M25. Enfield is also near Stansted Airport. Whatever happens about the airport, disasters could occur. Enfield also has a small arms factory within its boundaries. Disasters could happen there. There is a good case beyond the political argument for having a command centre, a place which could co-ordinate the hospital services and others.
We live in troubled times. In a perfect world, we would not need to make plans of this kind we are discussing. The peacetime emergencies that have been 1151 mentioned are real. They are here; they are horrific. I can see enormous common ground enabling the Government to re-orientate their policies in order to convince councils, councillors and the people that there is a real need to be ready. In this way they could project the matter properly, although discussion will be required, and also finance it.
The Motion calls for certain action from central and local government. The duty for which it calls is clear. It wants a review; it wants action; it wants money; it wants plans. Above all, it wants appreciation that we need to be ready for the kind of disasters mentioned in it. The Government's response has been criticised from all sides. Nor have local authorities escaped criticism. In my view, so long as the Government pay so little attention to the decline in relations between central and local government we cannot look forward to what has been asked for by more than one noble Lord—a national response to potential national disasters.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, we are most grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for giving the House the opportunity to discuss Civil Defence in all its aspects. I echo tributes paid by my noble friend Lord Mottistone and also by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, in what, if I may say so, was a very statesmanlike speech. As my noble friend Lord Elton indicated, the Government fully accept the need for emergency planning both in peacetime and wartime. His speech made clear that we are actively encouraging local authorities to discharge their statutory duties and assisting them by making appropriate funds available.
My noble friend spoke of improvements in training and the enhancement of the capacity of the United Kingdom warning and monitoring organisation by seeking ways to improve co-ordination both of contingency arrangements on the ground and at Government level, by improved consultation arrangements and by keeping the public informed of what is being done. All of this is an on-going process and a very great improvement on the poor situation which we as a Government inherited. In fact, my noble friend's speech was so comprehensive that he greatly eased my task. However, I shall now attempt to deal with individual points raised by noble Lords, and I shall of course write to any noble Lord whose question I omit to answer.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in a splendid speech, argued that Civil Defence is necessary to make military defence, and that makes credible the prospect of military retaliation. I shall not answer that assertion except to say categorically that that is not the reason we are creating a credible Civil Defence cover for the whole of this country. Our motive is the simple, humanitarian one of giving protection and succour to our people in the event of war of any kind. If I can go on to consider another aspect of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—really this is the most important point in the feelings of many noble Lords; I quote my noble friend Lady Cox, my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, and many other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Graham of 1152 Edmonton—I have to say that effective Civil Defence must be a partnership. This is because central Government cannot command the detail and local government cannot command the sheer scope of all that is needed.
This affects my reply to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and others who want central Government to pay 100 per cent. of all Civil Defence expenditure. We believe that if this partnership is to be real and motivated on both sides some local authority contribution from local government is essential; otherwise partnership will dwindle into dependency. We ask for only 25 per cent. of only a part of the total, and additional expenditure is disregarded for grant abatement purposes. It is not very much and it ought not to stop any local authority from doing its duty; and duty it is, and every local authority knows that it is a duty, because we have told them so. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—and, as I have said, he is not alone—wants us now to force them to do that duty in full. We prefer to begin with persuasion and help, in the way my noble friend Lord Elton has described, but we do intend—mark my words—to keep in reserve our statutory position of formal direction and our default powers. We do not wish to use them, but they are there if we have to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, made his usual robust speech. He is entitled to his views on the present programme of legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, also made this point about the manifesto. I can assure both of them that we have every intention of fulfilling our manifesto pledge with regard to amending the Civil Defence Act 1948.
In regard to the evacuation of port areas against conventional attack, and shelter and evacuation policy generally, my noble friend Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, my noble friend Lord Belhaven and my noble friend Lady Vickers asked about central planning for evacuation against such an attack. The effects of conventional attack are limited, and any evacuation required can be dealt with locally. The sort of area bombing of civilian populations that we saw in the blitz would serve no purpose in modern circumstances. In a nuclear attack a very large number of people would be at risk from fall-out, not from blast. As my noble friend said earlier from this Box, we do not know either where any bombs would be aimed or where they would fall; nor do we know which way the wind would carry the radioactive dust cloud which fall-out would cause to descend on the countryside, and no part of the country can therefore be called safe. Our plans are therefore diverted to advising and assisting people to use and improve the protection already afforded by their own homes. The Home Office issues guidance to help people to do this, including shelter designs. Further guidance is in preparation. For those whose houses are unsuitable, local authorities have a responsibility to identify buildings suitable for public shelter, and guidance to help them is to be issued shortly.
My noble friend Lord Murton's final point was about the distinction between casualty rates with and without purpose-built shelters. There can be no clear-cut answer to the numbers, or the effectiveness, of such shelters. It would depend entirely on the pattern and 1153 scale of an attack, the weather, and other such factors which cannot be predicted.
My noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery reminded us that the plans which the Government are requiring local authorities to make will have to be put into action in not more than seven days. He asked what could be done in so little time. Arrangements for feeding and housing those made homeless, the setting up of communications and the opening of emergency shelters are all examples of things which, if proper planning and proper training has been done, should take only 48 hours. The extra five days could be used to improve the basic provision made in those first few vital days. The total level of preparation that could be achieved, in whatever time is available, will, I must repeat, depend on what has been done not only centrally but by local authorities to plan, to prepare, to provide and to train.
The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, in a most interesting speech, asked me for some information about the farmer. I apologise for the brevity of my reply. I shall write to him if he wishes. The text has been prepared by MAFF officials and is substantially complete. It needs to take account of the latest work by Home Office scientists on the blast and radiation effects of nuclear weapons. This is expected to be ready in the spring, when the MAFF booklet will be finalised.
I have listened to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway and those of my noble friend Lord Gainford about employing the unemployed and paying all those involved in Civil Defence work. I do not think my noble friends would expect me to answer in this debate those very interesting speculations, but I shall see that my right honourable and learned friend is made aware of them.
My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway also asked about the role of the police and about law and order. As I said in the House in answer to a Question on 12th December, responsibility for the enforcement of law and order in wartime will remain with the police. We are considering, with the police, how information can usefully be made available to volunteers about police wartime duties and the maintenance of law and order. Guidance on the police role is included in the new consolidated circular to local authorities. They of course have no direct responsibilities for law and order. The police will of course aim to respond as quickly as possible to law and order problems wherever they occur, in urban or rural areas, as they do in peacetime. I cannot predict how effectively they will be able to perform their duties but we should expect the law-abiding citizens—the vast majority—to take a commensurate approach.
If I may return to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I would say that he is so right, when no one knows what the scenario will be. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, during his speech asked me many questions which anticipate that scenario. I could not give him answers just like that. However, the noble Lord did ask me about the United States contingency military hospitals. I am very grateful to him for advance notice of his question. The answer I have is that the United States contingency military hospitals are designed for use by military personnel and will be financed, 1154 equipped and manned by the United States Government for this purpose. They would not come under direct United Kingdom national control, but their use would be based on joint plans set out in close consultation with the Department of Health and Social Security and the Home Office.
My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes of course said it all in her knowledgeable and amusing comments on the machinations of the GLC. With regard to the £475,000 study on Civil Defence which she mentioned, the GLC has submitted a renewed application for grant aid in respect of this study, which is being considered. My noble friend referred to the recent survey and the plans made by local authorities. The Government have responded to this by asking local authorities to complete the plans required by the 1983 regulations by the end of this year and to submit them to the Home Office. The new Civil Defence adviser, who was appointed last October, will help local authorities in this work and at the same time monitor progress. We do not believe that an inspectorate is necessary at the present time.
The noble Lord, Lord Belhaven, asked about stocks of food. As part of its plans, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food does indeed maintain strategic stockpiles of flour, sugar and other foods for use after a nuclear attack. Those stockpiles are dispersed across the country, although their locations are not made known in peacetime.
My noble friend Lord Gainford raised the question of amateur radio hams. The Home Office encourages local authorities to involve amateurs who form part of Raynet in their planning for communications, as well as other radio networks in the area.
My noble friend Lord Mersey referred to his visit to the Civil Defence College. He is right to acknowledge the excellent work done by the college. The staff are drawn from both the military and other walks of life, and the Home Office has no evidence that the pay is inadequate to attract the right quality of staff No cut in the resources available to the college is planned at present.
My noble friend—I cannot remember which noble friend—commented on the possibility of a biological-chemical attack. Perhaps someone will confess to this?
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I might just as well tell your Lordships that we have no chemical or biological weapons and that the Government are playing a leading part at the conference on disarmament at Geneva to achieve a comprehensive, verifiable ban on the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Although we do not regard their use as likely, this cannot be completely ruled out—particularly against military targets. We are, therefore, actively considering how the present warning arrangements could be used for the detection and warning of the danger presented by chemical weapons and what protective measures might be taken.
My noble friend Lady Vickers asked me questions about research, particularly research on Civil Defence, which takes place largely within the scientific research 1155 and development branch of the Home Office. This branch has a complement of 13 people and I shall write to my noble friend with the financial details. My noble friend also asked about leaflets. The Home Office has produced a number of booklets on Civil Defence and my noble friends have mentioned some of these, which are being revised, including Protect and Survive, and they will be re-issued later this year. We do not keep a record of leaflets issued locally.
The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, asked me what would take place after the abolition of the GLC. The Government are confident that new arrangements to be made for Civil Defence in the GLC area and in the areas of the metropolitan counties following abolition will provide a sound basis on which to build. But we shall watch carefully how the work progresses.
I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Mottistone in his desire for a strong body of volunteers. Those of us who are old enough to remember the last war will recall Dad's Army and the ARP. Those among us who were not then alive may smile, but when the chips were down both of those voluntary groups played a vital part by fulfilling the role allotted to them.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has said that Civil Defence is unnecessary. I am absolutely sure that he is wrong. Just as the Home Guard, because it was a trained unit, was important—and I realise that today's weapons are very different—so the same criterion applies to Civil Defence. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said—and I heard him—that Civil Defence can do little in war; that those authorities who do nothing are right. That is a disgraceful philosophy, thoroughly impractical, and a pessimistic view, and one with which the Government could never agree. The first duty of a Government is to keep the peace. Our policies for defence and for multilateral disarmament from a position of strength have helped keep the peace in Europe for almost 40 years, and should continue to do so. In this uncertain—
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, if my noble friend does not wish to give way, she is entitled not to. The noble Lord must not hold her up from making her speech if she will not give way.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
Very well, my Lords; I accept the noble Lord's ruling, but I think I am entitled to say—
§ Lord Denham
No, my Lords, the noble Lord is not entitled to say if my noble friend will not give way.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, as I was saying, our policies for defence and for multilateral disarmament from a position of strength have helped to keep the peace in Europe for almost 40 years, and should continue to do so. In this uncertain world there should be no argument about the need for Civil Defence in case defence policy were to break down. Much has already been done, but much remains to be done, as it always willl. If there is to be a Civil Defence, it should be effective, and that is the aim of this Government.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, as the mover of this debate a long time ago may I say, rather boldly perhaps, that I think that it has achieved its purposes. The first purpose was to enable as many noble Lords and noble Baronesses as possible in all parts of the House to give us the benefit of their experience, their judgment and their expertise, and I am so grateful to all of them who have done so.
Secondly, I must confess that a purpose of the debate was to try to achieve a consensus across the Floor of the House, and that has been achieved to, I think, a reasonable and good extent. I was very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, for making his position clear as the all-party approach. If I may say so, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, was quite unequivocally in favour of that approach.
At this late hour your Lordships will not expect me to say very much. but I think that I should quickly draw attention to some conclusions which must be drawn from this debate. The first is that the all-hazards approach appears to be generally acceptable. There is the one exception of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and we understand his lonely position. But that has been accepted. Secondly, the Government's position has been clearly stated: they wish to go on improving Civil Defence; and we have been given in some detail an indication of the ways in which they intend to do so.
Thirdly, I must point out to my noble friend Lady Trumpington—I am so grateful to her, as I am to my noble friend Lord Elton, for the trouble that they took to go into considerable detail—that Lord Elton's statement about the unfeasibility of evacuation plans in the event of a possible nuclear attack is something about which the Government will have to think again. In the way that he stated it, and my noble friend lady Trumpington stated it, I rather have the fear that the Government do not even intend to have plans for evacuation in the event of a conventional attack, and that would of course be quite inconsistent.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I rather hesitate to ask my noble friend to give way, since I did not give way to somebody else. However, I think that that is a question of law and order taking over, as they always do with evacuation.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, with deep respect, that is an entirely separate issue. I must leave that as it is. I shall not take up further time.
The crux of this debate has really been seen to be the part to be played in future by local authorities. A number of speakers—in all parts of the House, it is fair to say—have rather indicated that this depends upon finance. Well, it must depend upon finance to some extent, but let us remember that there are some local authorities already playing a very full part on the basis of the present financial arrangements. I would hope that all local authorities will come round to that point of view. But if we find that we do not get enough volunteers on the basis of the present financial arrangements, then the Government will indeed have to think again. That, I believe, is one of the major lessons from this debate.
The Government will wish to study everything that has been said and to take it on board; and I hope that they will do so. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.