HL Deb 21 March 1985 vol 461 cc645-6

3.14 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make money for civil defence, which is not taken up by Nuclear Free Zone local authorities, available to those authorities who have assumed full civil defence responsibilities.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, this is not a matter that we have to address at present. The money available for civil defence is provisionally allocated on the basis of a local authority's own estimates of its expenditure. The total of applications for grant aid is at present less than the voted money available, and grant aid is authorised for all eligible projects.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, will my noble friend agree that local authorities would now welcome the introduction of 100 per cent. grant aid outside the rate support grant for all local authority civil defence expenditure?

Lord Elton

My Lords, civil defence is a partnership between local authorities and central Government. At present, the authorities pay only a very small proportion of the cost of that partnership. To reduce it to nothing would make the partnership very unequal and we shall have to consider very carefully before deciding whether we should do so.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the shortage of demand in this area is indicative of the fact that local authorities as a whole have very little confidence in the fact that they are able to use that money usefully and in the provision of an effective civil defence service?

Lord Elton

My Lords, on the contrary, I think that it arises from an improvidence on the part of some local authorities who do not see as clearly as we do their duty to provide against risks which may in future fall upon their populations.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, in view of the triumphant outcome of the Labour Party's recent negotiations with the late President Chernenko in which he undertook to point some of his missiles in a different direction if we abandoned all our nuclear weapons, will the Government now look into the possibility of refining that position by asking Mr. Gorbachev if he will point his missiles even now away from the nuclear free local authority areas?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I doubt very much whether what the noble Lord suggests would have the result which lie implies it might have; and I think that the noble Lord shares that view.