HL Deb 08 May 1987 vol 487 cc352-3

11.10 a.m.

Lord Renton

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, on the basis of the plans so far submitted under the planned programme for implementation, they are satisfied with the performance of local authorities in recruiting and training volunteers.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, much more undoubtedly needs to be done by most local authorities in accepting and training civil defence volunteers. The planned programme for implemention suggests that initial priority should be given to the completion of detailed operational plans. But as the programme develops we shall be giving increasing attention to the role of volunteers.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that much more realistic reply. Does he agree that those plans cannot be implemented without the help of a large number of volunteers, that some counties have hundreds of them and that other local authorities have none or too few? What steps will be taken to remind those local authorities which are failing to recruit and train volunteers, as they have a duty to do?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, there is a wide variation. One county had over 2,000 community-based volunteers and 20 counties had none. However, there was a total nationally of over 18,000 volunteers, and only three counties had no volunteer activity. Under the PP1 naturally we are progressing the volunteer question but, as I said, we are addressing other priorities first.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is it not the case that civil defence volunteers are chiefly to be found in rural areas and that there are hardly any in urban areas?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, I do not think that that pattern has been established.

Viscount Mersey

My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend is aware of the publication Protection from Radiation which is issued by the West Sussex County Council and which applies to urban as well as rural areas? Is he aware that many of us have volunteered and that we have been to Chichester on an assessment of residential buildings course for protection against radiation? It envisaged a truly horrendous scene, in our case a one megatonne bomb on Portsmouth and another on Gatwick. Can my noble friend tell us how many other county councils are as well prepared as West Sussex?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, I cannot of course this morning give exact figures on such matters, but I am pleased to hear about the preparations in West Sussex in which the noble Viscount has been involved.