§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In doing so I have to ask the kind indulgence of the House, for I have a heavy cold and it may be difficult from time to time for me to make myself heard with my customary vigour. I do not think hon. Members often have to ask me to speak up in the House and I hope, if I should fall short in any way this afternoon, that they will extend to me their kindness.
One of the first things I had to do as Home Secretary in 1945 was to introduce and afterwards to move the Second Reading of a Bill to suspend the various Civil Defence Acts that had previously been in operation. Perhaps at the time it might have seemed appropriate that the Second Reading of that Bill was moved on Guy Fawkes day. I made it plain then that I should have preferred, had I thought it possible, not merely to suspend, but to repeal the Acts, but that, in the state of the world as it then was, no one could contemplate the repeal of the Acts. It is quite clear, also, today that it would be impossible now to repeal them, and I am therefore bringing before the House a Measure which will revive Civil Defence powers in the country and make arrangements for their future discharge.
By the end of 1947, we had carried our researches into the various Civil Defence problems to such a stage that it was thought right that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister should announce, on 19th November, 1947, that the new Civil Defence organisation would consist partly of civilian static and mobile services, and partly of military mobile columns, trained in civil defence duties; that the civilian static and mobile defence services would as far as practicable be attached to and developed from ordinary civilian services, such as the police, fire, medical and health services; that the military mobile columns would provide a reserve for reinforcements of local services, where necessary; 1087 that recruiting for the civilian services would be on a part-time voluntary basis, and that details of the scheme must await the results of discussions with representative associations of local authorities in England and Scotland. My right hon. Friend added that provision would later be made for dispersal, shelter, and every essential element in an overall plan for Civil Defence in the light of the studies which were being made of the possibilities and requirements.
A somewhat fuller outline of these proposals was sent by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself to the associations of local authorities on both sides of the Border and we invited the comments of the local authority associations on our proposals. An additional reason for treating the proposals at that stage as provisional, was that it was then contemplated that the central planning organisation should be strengthened in order that fuller and more systematic study might be given to the details of the proposals. This has since been done and the measures which have been taken have already been described in the course of Debates on Civil Defence in Parliament.
Among the main features of the new organisation are the appointment of a Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff and the appointment of a chief scientific adviser. The Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff comprises representatives of the Ministry of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff, as well as of all the Civil Departments concerned. It has been set up under the direction of Major-General S. F. Irwin and is centred in the Home Office. At this stage I would like to pay a tribute to the energy, the skill and the tact which Major-General Irwin has displayed as the head of this Joint Planning Staff and to the value of the reports I have received and the advice which has been tendered. The Joint Planning Staff has been continuously at work under his chairmanship since the spring. For the purpose of co-ordinating administration and policy, there are also committees of senior officials and ministers, respectively.
These arrangements ensure that, on the one hand, there is active working co-operation between the various civil Departments and on the other hand, that there is constant and active 1088 contact between Civil Defence planning and active Defence planning. The Minister of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff are represented at all levels, and I am happy to say that there is great cordiality between those who are planning Civil Defence and those who are responsible for active Defence in the arrangements that it is necessary for us to make one with the other.
Secondly, Dr. E. T. Paris, formerly Principal Director of Scientific Research (Defence) in the Ministry of Supply, was transferred to the Home Office in the Spring as Chief Scientific Adviser and this appointment has, again, proved most valuable. Scientific problems thrown up in planning Civil Defence measures are numerous, and not the least difficult are those connected with the planning of measures to mitigate the effects of "mass destruction" weapons of all kinds, atomic, biological and chemical. It is one of the responsibilities of the Chief Scientific Adviser to see that the researches necessary for the solution of these problems are properly formulated and that arrangements are made for them to be put in hand by departments or organisations best equipped for dealing with them. A comprehensive list of research requirements has been completed and research is in progress in many directions.
Another important responsibility is the assessment in detail of the probable effects of air attacks with new weapons in terms of damage, casualties and destruction to services. That is in relating factual information—of which a great deal is available, and more is becoming available—to planning. This work, commonly described as operational research, is progressing in close collaboration with the Departments concerned, such as the Ministries of Works, Transport, Food and Health. The Chief Scientific Adviser has been made a member of the Ministry of Supply Scientific Advisory Council and in that and other ways is able to obtain scientific advice over a wide range of subjects.
It became clear at an early date that it would be useful to establish close working contacts between these two separate parts of the national Civil Defence organisation—the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff and the Chief Scientific Adviser, and the local authorities associations. These associations, after consideration of our provisional proposals, asked, in the first 1089 instance, to have an opportunity of discussing them at officer level and, accordingly, meetings were arranged by the Home Office and the Scottish Office and agreement was reached as to setting up standing machinery for consultative purposes and good progress has since been made in such consultations. It is not necessary, and I do not think it will he desirable at this stage, to make any detailed report on the progress of these discussions, partly because there are still one or two points of organisation and policy which require further joint study, and partly because the results will, in due course, have to be embodied in regulations which will be submitted to Parliament for approval.
There are, however, two general points which I desire to emphasise at this stage. There is no intention of handing over responsibility for Civil Defence to military control. The plans envisage that the services required for Civil Defence shall be maintained and organised by the local authorities or by Civil Departments, as the case may be, and that these services should be backed up by military columns, subject to their being available. This will require an appropriate organisation to secure liaison between the civil and military authorities, but it is well understood that if military formations are called in they will come in to assist and not to assume control of the civilian services.
Secondly, in the event of any future major war, it is certain that the operational and organisational responsibilities in the sphere of Civil Defence falling upon the central Government will be greater than in the war of 1939–45. It is equally certain that very large and important responsibilities will remain for local authorities. Co-operation and partnership between the central Government and the local authorities will be necessary on the same lines as before, though no doubt with considerable adjustments of detail.
It is satisfactory to be able to report that on one point which proved very troublesome in 1936–37, an amicable settlement has been reached. I recollect being led in those days by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council as representing the London County Council, and coming myself as a representative of the County Councils Association, to conferences presided over by the right hon. Gentleman who was then 1090 Home Secretary, now Lord Templewood, and later by the right hon. Gentleman who was then Lord Privy Seal, and who I understand is to speak after me this afternoon, to discuss in detail the financial arrangements. I think that I shall not be saying anything that will not be confirmed by the right hon. Gentleman when I say that on those occasions no settlement was reached prior to the outbreak of hostilities. I recollect, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will also recollect, that in the early days of the war, when he was Home Secretary, and had to defend himself one evening in the House against a charge that there had been a breach of faith, I, as one who had been present at the meetings, defended him from that charge made by some of my hon. Friends who had not been at those meetings. I am happy to say that on this occasion we have managed to reach a settlement on the question of the financial relationship between the Exchequer and the local authority. I will give the details of that arrangement when I deal with Clause 3.
Civil defence does not, of course, affect only Government Departments and local authorities. Among others with an important part to play are public utility undertakings and industrial employers and employees. It is intended, in due course, to make appropriate arrangements for bringing them into consultation also. The general purpose of the Bill is to enable us to take the first steps towards bringing the planning which I have described to the test of action. If it is not yet possible to forecast all the measures to be taken it can at least be said that the. Bill itself is a first step in this direction, and that it affords a starting point for further progressive steps which we intend to take with all convenient speed, consistent with efficiency.
The chief object of the Bill is to provide a new statutory basis for Civil Defence. As a result of the suspending Act of 1945, there are at present no statutory obligations upon any authorities to make Civil Defence preparations. The Bill provides for the creation of new obligations and is intended to form part of the permanent legislative structure of the defence system of the country. Its purpose is to cover the preparation of Civil Defence measures in time of peace. It would need to be supplemented in 1091 various directions in the event of war. It does not attempt to prescribe the details of the preparations to be made, but it provides flexible machinery for progressive adjustments.
All experience of defence shows the necessity for such adaptibility. In the recent war, for example, this country had a varied experience of hostile attack. Some manifestations of attack—high explosive and incendiary bombs—were also experienced by our enemies, and on a much heavier scale than we ourselves experienced. One form of attack, the atom bomb, was experienced, for the first time, by the Japanese and by the Japanese alone. Another form, the flying bomb and the rocket, was experienced by us and to some small extent by some of our Allies on the Continent, and not by our enemies. Our experience of those weapons is a good example of the need for adaptability. They brought with them new trials for the civilian population, who did not know at any time of the day or night when they might receive these unwelcome visitations. They created new organisational problems for the Civil Defence services and taxed to the full the ingenuity of those responsible for our active defences. The credit due to the civil population and to the Civil Defence services for the way they dealt with these difficulties is generally recognised.
It is perhaps worth emphasising that if the active defences had proved less efficient, certainly in dealing with the flying bombs, the strain on the civil side would have been immensely increased. Accounts of the work of the anti-aircraft gunners and the Royal Air Force were given in the despatch of General Sir Frederick Pile published in 1947 and in the report of Air Chief Marshal Sir Roderic Hill, published last month. I would commend to the attention of hon. Members a leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" of 21st October, 1948, in which Sir Roderic Hill's report was carefully analysed, and the limited amount of knowledge that we had acquired by the end of the war of the way to deal with the rockets was made the subject of very careful comment.
I now turn to the Clauses of the Bill, the first two of which confer functions 1092 and impose duties upon Ministers and local authorities respectively. The first Clause gives the central Government power to take suitable steps for the purposes of Civil Defence. This is given a wide meaning by the definition which will be found in Clause 9 (1). By reason of this definition Clause 1 authorises the Government to prepare any measures not amounting to actual combat for affording defence against any form of attack by a foreign Power, or for mitigating the effect of any such attack. Accordingly, the Clause will cover not only preparations which past experience and present knowledge show to be appropriate, but any others that may prove to be necessary to meet future developments now unforeseeable.
It is intended that Governmental responsibility for the new Civil Defence organisation shall be shared, as in the 1939–45 war, by the Ministers whose peace-time functions are analogous to those which the organisation would have to discharge in time of war. The designation of these Ministers for the purpose of Clause 1 will be effected by Orders in Council under Clause 9 (2). In addition, Clause 1 (2) enables a designated Minister to make arrangements for the exercise of his functions by another Minister. Unless and until some other Minister is designated, responsibility under Clause 1 rests on the Secretary of State. The Clause also provides in particular for those measures which must inevitably form part of the Civil Defence preparations. So far as Civil Defence services are concerned, it is necessary to provide for the establishment, training, equipment and maintenance of the local mobile forces and the local static forces which, with the military mobile columns, will constitute the Civil Defence service personnel of the future.
The local mobile services will be operated and controlled in war on a national basis. They are virtually the successors of the Civil Defence reserve of about 6,000 who were maintained under central control during the 1939–45 war. Under Clause 1 (1, c) central Departments will be able to give instructions and advice to the public on Civil Defence matters and provide them with suitable equipment such as respirators 1093 which, on the last occasion, were distributed on a national responsibility. Subsection (1, d) will enable central Departments to acquire and accumulate reserve stocks of plant, materials and commodities which would be needed in the event of war—medical stores and equipment, for instance, by the Ministry of Health; food by the Ministry of Food; plant and materials for the maintenance of roads and bridges by the Ministry of Transport; prefabricated shelters by the Home Office.
In a similar way, any other stores that can best be provided centrally would be the responsibility of the Department which, in peace-time, covers that particular service. Under Subsection (1, e) the central Department will themselves be able to provide buildings for Civil Defence purposes. For instance, it might be thought better for the Ministry of Works to bear direct responsibility for the carrying out of major engineering works such as the construction of large tunnel shelters, if and when it was felt desirable that such construction should take place.
Clause 2 deals with the functions of local and police authorities. For the purpose of facilitating the allocation of functions between Ministers, on the one hand, and local and police authorities, on the other, which, from time to time, may be necessary and desirable, this Clause is framed so as to empower designated Ministers to prescribe by regulations the functions to be exercised by local authorities and police authorities for the purposes enumerated in Clause 1. It is intended that the static forces shall be recruited, trained and equipped by local authorities. Local authorities will be clothed with the necessary powers by conferring suitable functions on them by regulations made under Clause 2 (1). Local authorities can also be empowered by regulation to train and equip for purposes of Civil Defence members of existing forces and services—for example, the police, fire, medical and health services whose peace-time functions would have to be enlarged in war-time to cover Civil Defence activities.
Where expedient, functions can be made partly the responsibility of a Minister under Clause 1 and partly the responsibility of local or police authorities under Clause 2 (1). For 1094 example, in the field of advice and instruction to the public, action could be taken either by a central department in respect of the country as a whole or, as regards a particular locality, by the appropriate local authority by virtue of regulations made under Clause 2. Clause 1 (1, d) will enable central Departments to obtain and house under their own control reserves of materials, plant and equipment while, under powers conferred on them by regulations, local authorities will be able themselves to set up stores of such articles as may be deemed suitable for local custody and storage.
Under Clause 2 (2, b) local and police authorities can be empowered to set up committees to which as agents could be delegated Civil Defence functions enjoyed by the delegating authorities. Both under this Bill and under the Local Government Act of 1933 it will be possible for joint committees to be set up where that is the desirable form of local administration, Clause 2 (2, c) is a default provision enabling a local or police authority which fails properly to discharge its Civil Defence functions to be superseded in the exercise of those functions by the designated Minister or by some other authority or persons at the expense of the defaulting authority.
The primary purpose of Subsection (2, d) is to give power to deal with cases where it may be necessary to construct a shelter or Civil Defence building or otherwise develop land in a manner that would be out of accord with the requirements of the law relating to town planning. I firmly intend to see that that power is as little used as possible, because I do not want to see the arrangements that are made under town planning for the orderly development of towns and cities and for the preservation of the countryside unnecessarily interfered with for the purposes of this Measure. However, on occasion there may exist in the periphery of some inhabited or target area requirements that may make it necessary for this power to be exercised.
Before the regulations are made under Clause 2, the fullest consultation will take place with the local authority associations. I have already had an opportunity of meeting them and I am glad to say that the spirit evinced was one which showed that co-operation could be expected in the most ready manner from them, always providing of course that they had an 1095 opportunity of expressing their views at a time when the regulations were still in a fluid state.
Clause 3 is an important one, dealing with the grants towards the expenses of local and police authorities. There was a long series of negotiations on the last occasion, and, steadily, the contribution from central funds to the cost of civil defence grew. There were, of course, some authorities who had been particularly energetic in the early stages, and who felt a sense of grievance when, towards the end, people who had been slack in providing the services found that they were getting a higher grant than their more energetic neighbours.
It seemed to be a kind of reversal of the policy enshrined in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, and those who turned up with their lamps unfilled were given the benefit of State oil with which to participate in the final banquet of a Government grant, while those who had provided their own oil found that they had not, at any time, as much oil as their more foolish sisters. I was a member of the Government which made the final arrangements, and, while I had no great personal responsibility for them, I am bound to recognise that the force of circumstances compelled the Government of the day to make those arrangements, but I am quite sure that no one will deny that they did cause great dissatisfaction.
Therefore, we have endeavoured to arrive at a basis, so far as peace-time expenditure is concerned, which will not call for any revision. I think I can state quite briefly what the arrangement is. Any expenditure on major capital works required by the directions of the designated Minister for the Government's general plan of Civil Defence will be reimbursed. This will include, for example, the cost of any air-raid shelter programme. It is intended also to include the cost of any major equipment or appliances authorised by the designated Minister to be provided as a reserve against the event of war. Such equipment could, and, in certain circumstances, will, be provided centrally. It may be better to arrange it that way. It may be that it will be better to have a central pool from which the apparatus or equipment can be sent out to the place where it appears likely to be needed, and, 1096 if it is not so centrally provided, if the necessary approval has been obtained before the purchase was made, the cost of making the purchase will be reimbursed.
Other expenditure in peace-time will follow the most generous principle that was in force at the end of the 1939–45 war, with this additional proviso, that all expenditure which is incurred for the peace-time provision of Civil Defence services will rank for grant at the rate of 75 per cent. There are some items, other than those which I have mentioned, which ranked for grant at 100 per cent. at the end of the last war, and which will continue to rank at 100 per cent., while everything else will rank at 75 per cent. for all areas and all purposes; that is, the provision of the kind of equipment that is necessary for the ordinary discharge of the peace-time services of the authority, where it can be established, with the prior approval of the Minister, that it is required, not for the ordinary running of the local authority's services, but for preparations for the event of war. Water authorities are brought into the same position as local authorities for the purpose of these grants. A large number of water authorities are local authorities, but, where they are not, they will be treated as local authorities for the purpose of this Clause.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
Would the Minister explain one point? He said that the minimum grant to local authorities would be 75 per cent. If that is so, is there not a mistake in line 26, where it is stated that the grants shall be not more than three-quarters of the expenses? Should it not be not less than three-quarters?
§ Mr. Ede
No, Sir. I thank the hon. Member for giving me the opportunity of making the explanation. There will be a flat rate grant of 75 per cent., subject to the efficient discharge by the local authority of its duties under the Act, but, if there should be an inadequate discharge of those duties under the Act, it will be possible for the Minister, as is usual in these cases of Government grants, to pay less than 75 per cent. in order to bring home to the local authority a sense of the extent to which it has fallen below the necessary standard.
§ Mr. Ede
The Minister concerned. This is a very common practice. Indeed, I got into some trouble myself in this House in connection with a police grant some two years ago. The Minister of Education and the predecessors of the Minister of Health have on occasions exercised this power, and it is the normal way in which the local authorities are reminded. For the well-behaved local authority, there will be a standard grant of 75 per cent., but I regret that I used words which might not have placed the right emphasis on the respective powers of the Treasury and the local authorities in this matter.
Clause 5 deals with the Civil Defence obligations of constables, firemen and members of Civil Defence forces and services. Subsection (1) makes it the duty of policemen and firemen, and, if so provided by regulations, other categories of members mentioned in Clause 1 (1, b), who undergo Civil Defence training. In the case of the uniformed services, this will avoid any doubt whether, for the purpose of a proper disciplinary code, orders given in connection with Civil Defence activities can properly be regarded as lawful orders. I believe there were some questions in the early days on the last occasion whether some of the orders given with regard to these matters could be regarded as lawful orders within the disciplinary code, and it is desirable that there should be no doubt in the matter, so that a person responsible for enforcing discipline and a person expected to obey orders shall know exactly what is required of them.
As regards Subsection 5 (2), it is not proposed to make enrolment in the Civil Defence forces compulsory in peace-time or to compel the public to receive instruction in Civil Defence. We shall place our reliance on voluntary recruitment. But in view of some representations which have been made to us with regard to difficulties that occurred in the earlier days of the former Civil Defence organisation, we feel it desirable that persons who volunteer to become part of the organisation shall have brought home to them the fact that they are undertaking a serious obligation, and that, if they fail properly to attend for training, that they are hindering and deterring the other members of the organisation who are more keen.
I have, of course, seen numerous illustrations in the papers by cartoonists 1098 indicating the ease with which persons will fall into default in this matter. It is not intended that a person shall be required to attend every lecture or every demonstration that is given. But I think it is reasonable that persons who undertake this duty should attend such a proportion of the lectures and demonstrations as will enable them to become efficient members of the team that is being established. It is now nearly 50 years since I joined the volunteers. I recollect that in those days one had to attend 40 drills in the first year, and 20 drills in every subsequent year. If the volunteer failed to put in these attendances and to attend for his camp and for his rifle practice, he was liable, in those days, to a penalty of, I think, £2. Of course, that was £2 prior even to the Boer War.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, I would like to ask him whether members can resign, as it were, to avoid court-martial, or what happens?
§ Mr. Ede
I think I might have been allowed to finish what I was saying; I am always quite willing to give way at an appropriate time. This is a voluntary service, and, unless the regulations specify otherwise, a person who wishes to resign will be able to do so. I have no doubt that there will also be power vested in the enrolling authority to request the resignation of a person who is regarded as unsuitable. If we take the ordinary person who enlists in this service, we have the right to expect that such a person shall take the necessary steps to become an efficient member of a volunteer team. It is not right that some members of the team should be put in the position that they were in prior to 1939 of going round day after day imploring people to come along for a drill, a practice or a demonstration and getting a very poor response to their efforts. I know that in certain quarters there is some feeling about this matter. I am quite willing to hear discussions on it in Committee, but what I want to ensure is that the keen men—and women—who are willing to play their part at some sacrifice of their leisure time shall not be hindered in attaining efficiency by the less laudable behaviour of others who slack. Clause 6——
§ Mr. Keeling
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but he did not deal with Clause 4. I think he was just about to deal with it when I interrupted him about Clause 3.
§ Mr. Ede
Clause 4 (1) enables, in accordance with the provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, the compulsory acquisition of land required by Ministers, local authorities and police authorities for discharging their Civil Defence functions. Subsection (2) authorises the construction of shelters in, under, or over highways. Paragraph (b) of the proviso to Subsection (2) provides a safeguard against obstruction of the highway to an unreasonable extent by the erection of a shelter; and Subsection (3) gives a power of entry upon land for the purpose of the discharge of functions exercisable under the Bill. But this Clause does not give power to anyone, either the Minister or the local authority, to erect any defence works on private land. Unless an arrangement can be made voluntarily in that direction, the land will either have to be acquired compulsorily or the work will not be able to proceed.
Clause 6 provides a saving for the existing Acts relating to Civil Defence, and its main purpose is to enable suitable provisions to be made for Civil Defence by industry, commerce, and public utility undertakings. The Clause takes the form, firstly, of substituting a regulation making power for that given by the Civil Defence (Suspension of Powers) Act, 1945, to revive the relevant provisions of the Civil Defence Acts which were suspended by the Act I have just mentioned. Secondly, it provides for the resuscitation, with adaptations, of such of the provisions of the Acts of 1937 and 1939 as were spent before the Act of 1945 was passed. Thirdly, it enables the enactment, extension or repeal of the provisions of the Acts of 1937 and 1939 whether brought out of suspense by regulations or whether they are otherwise in force, and the substitution of other provisions for any so repealed.
1100 There was an elaborate provision under the Finance Acts by which a grant was paid to private undertakings which provided shelters and other civil defence works out of their own revenue. I am authorised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say this with regard to the revived powers. Clause 6 gives the Government power to revive, with the necessary adaptations, the grant provisions of the 1939 Act. Hon. Members may recall that under the authority of that Act grants were made towards expenditure on air-raid shelters, and were calculated by applying the standard rate of Income Tax for 1939–40 to so much of the approved expenditure as was of a capital nature, and not deductible for Income Tax purposes.
Since that time, extensive provision has been made for taxation relief in respect of expenditure on capital assets, and this development may render it unnecessary to revive some of the grant provisions of the 1939 Act. But, before expenditure is undertaken in this direction, there will be negotiations between the representatives on both sides of industry, the Treasury and the designated Ministers to arrive at a suitable basis for the calculation of future grants made under this Bill. No negotiations have yet taken place with industry on this matter, but I have been in touch with them, and I hope that as soon as the Bill becomes law we may be able to start those negotiations.
Clause 8 deals with the question of regulations. It will be observed that all regulations to be made under this Bill will require the affirmative assent of the House. We shall start drafting these regulations at once, and by requiring that they shall have the affirmative procedure of this House applied to them we give the assurance that they will be definitely brought to the notice of hon. Members. It is intended to make progress as rapidly as possible after the Bill has been passed. Consideration has already been given to matters requiring to be dealt with by the regulations. It is hoped that, after the passing of the Bill, it will not be long before the more important of the regulations are ready for submission to Parliament.
It is intended in the first instance to concentrate chiefly on the building of an organisation with a nucleus of specialised 1101 instructors. It is not at present contemplated that any appeal shall be made to the public for volunteers until this groundwork has been adequately performed. It will be the responsibility of the Government to provide schools for the training of instructors.
The two Home Office training centres at Easingwold and Falfield, which were in operation before, have been used until recently as police training centres. The school at Easingwold has been given up by the police in the summer, and the necessary work of the re-adaptation of the premises and the construction of a rescue training ground will be shortly completed. The school at Falfield will shortly be given up by the police, and arrangements are in hand for bringing it into use again as a school for Civil Defence. Preparations are also being made for an additional school at a later date in Scotland which, it is hoped, will also be available for the training of instructors from Northern Ireland. It may be found necessary at a later date to add to these schools. The training branch of the Home Office has been engaged for some time in preparing a new series of Civil Defence handbooks and pamphlets, and this work will be completed as soon as possible.
In moving the Second Reading of the Air Raid Precautions Act, 1937, the Home Secretary of the day, after emphasising that the main purpose of the Bill was to enable provision to be made to protect civilisation from the danger of a knockout blow, concluded by expressing the hope that we should see the time when a Home Secretary would come to the House and be able to say that owing to the world having once again regained its sanity, the time had come to repeal the provisions of the Act on the grounds that they had ceased to be necessary. That was a hope in 1937. Is there anyone who believes that it is possible to say that the realisation of that hope could be fulfilled this afternoon? I hope it will be possible in the future, but I should not be doing my duty if I allowed anyone to believe that it was possible for a moment this afternoon to realise that hope. It may be perhaps one of the saddest commentaries on the failure of human beings to learn by experience that that should be the case.
1102 These are the provisions that we bring before the House. The speed at which active construction can be undertaken under this Bill will, of course, depend in any event on the resources that are available and the other claims that will be made on such resources. We have to be very careful that we do not allow ourselves to be defeated without a single shot being fired through devoting to this too much of our resources that are required for other purposes. We shall endeavour as opportunity occurs to see that such provision as is possible in the circumstances shall be made, but do not let us think that if we should be involved in trouble our salvation will come through the efficiency of passive defence. We were saved from the rockets not by passive defence. or even by active defence, but by the capture by the Allied Forces of the bases from which the rockets were fired at us.
While it is the duty of the Government to ensure that such protection as can be afforded shall be afforded to the people, it would be quite wrong to lull anyone into the belief that by the provision of the most elaborate defences of this kind we were doing anything to secure victory in a future conflict. Therefore, I hope that the House will agree that this Measure shall go forward, so that we can immediately take the necessary steps that will enable us successfully, as time and opportunity afford, to deal with the situation that will confront us.
This is a Bill that is admittedly flexible, because we feel that in facing the problems of new weapons it is desirable that adaptations shall be made from time to time with as little administrative difficulty as possible. I regret that it should be necessary in this year of grace still to have to talk in the terms that I have had to use during the last few minutes, but I believe we should not be doing our duty to the country or to those causes which we uphold in the world, and which will always have to look to us for major support in time of conflict, if we did not ask the House to enact this Bill as part of the defence legislation of the country.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Sir John Anderson (Scottish Universities)
In rising to continue the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill, my mind naturally goes back to 1939 when it fell to me to introduce and pilot through the House a Civil Defence 1103 Bill which was discussed upon the Floor of the House for no less than ten weeks, an unhappy augury. Then as now the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary and I sat on opposite sides of the House. It may be permissible for me to assume that he knows more about the subject of Civil Defence today than he did then, and others will be at liberty to assume that I know less.
I do not think there will be any doubt in any quarter of the House that the Government are right to make fresh provision for Civil Defence, but the Bill that we have before us presents only a framework, only a skeleton, and, I would say, a rather bare skeleton at that. The right hon. Gentleman said he would give details of the organisation proposed in the course of his speech. He told us that a planning organisation had come into existence and was hard at work. He referred to the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff and to the functions of Major-General Irwin. He told us of the appointment of a scientific adviser. But to speak of planning is not the same thing as the production of a plan, and I am sure that many hon. Members, certainly on this side of the House and, perhaps, opposite, share my feeling that now, when there has been talk of Civil Defence under the conditions of the present day for nearly two years, it is time that we had more details of what the Government have in mind, or what they may be expected to have in mind, than have been vouchsafed to us in the Bill or in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I shall have something more to say on that point as I go along.
The first impression that was made on my mind in reading this Bill—and it has been strongly confirmed by what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman—is that the Government's approach to this problem of Civil Defence is somewhat different today from what it was at the time of previous Debates in this Parliament. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the Government's approach today is much closer to the structure of Civil Defence as it developed in the last war than was indicated in previous speeches. Indeed, I do not think it would be unfair to say that a considerable part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was really a description of the Civil Defence organisation as it had developed in the latter 1104 part of the last war. I shall be very glad if that proves to be the case. It seems to me that whereas in previous Debates more stress was laid on mobile columns, civil and military, and particularly military, now the stress is laid—as I think rightly—on local organisation. We have been told—I think today for the first time-that the local static forces are to be the responsibility of the local authorities. We have been told also that when the military mobile columns come into play, they will be there to assist and not to control. As I indicated in a previous Debate, that is, in my view, the right relationship; indeed; I think the only possible relationship.
Let me now refer to something that was said—I think by the right hon. Gentleman—in moving the Second Reading in 1945 of the Bill which suspended the Acts of 1937 and 1939. He said in the course of that speech that if any radical alteration in the whole system of civil defence were found to be necessary or advisable, the Government would not attempt to proceed by way of orders, which was what was contemplated for bringing into operation by the 1945 Bill the provisions of the Acts of 1937 and 1939, but would come to Parliament with new proposals. The Government have come to Parliament with new proposals. It is, I think, permissible to ask, Are they really contemplating such a radical alteration in the whole system of Civil Defence? I really do not think they are. There may be a difference of emphasis, but I do not think there is any radical alteration, or any intention to make a radical alteration, disclosed either in this Bill or in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, so far as we can gather from the Bill and the speech, in what the Government are proposing to us. In my view, Civil Defence is essentially organised self-help. That is the principle which I think we should do well always to keep clearly in mind—organised self-help: the organisation of the community for its own protection.
There are many points in this Bill in regard to which I think we ought to have much more information. I will give some details. I was glad to note the proposal to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and which is contained in Clause 1, that there should be a distribution of Ministerial responsibility at the 1105 centre. However, I want to call attention to what I think is an ambiguity in the Bill itself. Clause 1 (2) provides that:The designated Minister may make arrangements whereby any of his functions under this section are, to such extent as may be provided …, exercised on his behalf by another Minister.That, taken by itself, appears to me to imply the delegation by the designated Minister, whoever he may be, to certain of his colleagues, without derogation from his own responsibilities. However, when we come to the definition Clause, Clause 9 (2), we find this:The expression 'the designated Minister' means such Minister, or such Ministers acting jointly, as may be designated by Order in Council, and different Ministers may be designated for different purposes or different provisions of this Act.It seems to me that those two provisions in Clause 1 and in the definition Clause raise a very serious question, as to what is really contemplated in regard to Ministerial responsibility at the centre. I am myself in favour of distribution of responsibility, but only subject to real and effective co-ordination. Let me in that connection, if I am not taking up too much of the time of the House, read from the speech made by the present Lord President of the Council on the Civil Defence Bill, 1939. He said—and I entirely agree: I agreed then and I agree now—I take it that, even today, the Minister,that is, myself—in his co-ordinating capacity, will be in a position to secure respect for his will; because the House will expect that, taking this administration as a whole, there shall be one Minister—and that Minister the Lord Privy Seal—substantially responsible for the general lines, not necessarily the details, of policy as it proceeds."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT. 4th April, 1939; Vol. 345, c. 2658.]Does that or does it not represent the attitude of the Government today? Is that how they intend to interpret this Bill when it becomes an Act? I hope I have made my point clear. I do regard it as of the most vital importance that, while functions in relation to Civil Defence should be allocated to those Ministers and to those Departments whose normal duties make it appropriate for them to discharge the particular functions in question, there should be one Minister, one member of the Government, responsible in a general way, though he may have his particular responsibilities, for 1106 co-ordination over the whole field. Is that what is contemplated? I am sure that we would all like to know.
Pursuing the matter a little further in detail, is it contemplated that there should be a designated Minister of Civil Defence? If so, what will be his relationship to the Home Secretary? Is it contemplated that he should be the Home Secretary—that the functions of Home Secretary and Minister of Civil Defence should be associated in the person of one Minister—as was the case throughout the last war? Although there was criticism from time to time of that arrangement, mainly on the ground that it seemed to impose an unduly heavy burden on one Minister, I think that it was absolutely essential. If that is contemplated, is there any intention of relieving the designated Minister by the device, for example, of providing him with an additional Under-Secretary who will specialise in Civil Defence? I think that will be well worthy of consideration.
Finally, what is to be the relationship of the designated Minister to the Minister of Defence? That is a very important question. I can quite understand that it would be considered inappropriate that the Minister of Defence should be charged with primary responsibility for Civil Defence. Is he, or is he not, to have a co-ordinating function? We were told that Civil Defence was associated with a joint planning organisation, and that there were happy relations and everything was going on well. I think that we ought to have a perfectly clear statement as to whether or not Civil Defence is to be included to any degree in the responsibilities of the Minister of Defence.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)
As I am to reply, I should like to be quite clear about what the right hon. Gentleman is now asking. He seems to be riding two horses. Does he suggest that the Minister of Defence should be responsible to Parliament for Civil Defence? In that case, what did he mean by his previous question as to whether there was to be another Parliamentary Secretary attached, presumably, to the Home Secretary?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am not laying down a doctrine. I am asking questions, and I may, incidentally, indicate my own view on this matter, if it would be of interest to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I have made it quite clear that I take the view that there should be one Minister of Civil Defence having a co-ordinating responsibility for the whole field of Civil Defence. I was going on to say that I would think it quite wrong if the Minister of Defence were charged with responsibility for Civil Defence to the exclusion in any degree of the responsibility of the designated Minister. I would think that quite wrong. After all, there are associated with the Minister of Defence three Ministers of Cabinet rank—the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty—and his functions do not derogate from the administrative responsibility of those Ministers. It is from that point of view that I am asking the question. I do not myself—others may disagree with me—take the view that Civil Defence, with all its implications impinging on the life of the community and the duties of local authorities, should be made in any way the responsibility of the Minister of Defence, but I think there should be a very complete arrangement for co-ordination.
Today, as it happens, I attended the opening of an exhibition organised by the Central Office of Information on behalf of His Majesty's Government. The title of it was, "The Spare Time for Britain Exhibition," and the purpose of the exhibition was to emphasise the importance of getting support for the measures that are being taken to supplement the Defence Services. There was not a word said in that connection about Civil Defence. I should have thought that in any activity of that kind the importance of Civil Defence and the claims which Civil Defence is likely to make on the population could not have been entirely left out of account.
I remember that when I was made responsible for Civil Defence in November, 1938, I was also made responsible for voluntary recruitment —"Voluntary National Service," as it was called, over the whole field, including the Defence Services. I would merely say that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, if they accept the view which I have ventured to express in regard to the respective responsibility of these Ministers, should, nevertheless, see to it that there is the 1108 most complete co-ordination in practice between the Minister of Defence and the Minister responsible for Civil Defence, the designated Minister. Just as the work of the Minister of Defence ranges over the field of the three Departmental Ministers—if I may call them that without offence—so the designated Minister of Civil Defence will operate over the field of a number of Ministers whose work should be effectively co-ordinated.
§ Mr. Ede
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the care with which he has elaborated this matter. The word "coordination" was suggested to me for use in regard to some of these functions, but co-ordination has a very unhappy memory for me and therefore I deliberately substituted "co-operation" and "contact" in the phrases that I used. I accept, in the main, the view which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. The Committee of Ministers, on which all the people who will be designated sit, is, as it was in his day, presided over by the Home Secretary. In fact, when I was first asked to go there as a junior Minister, I was asked to go to the "tank." I was told that it got its name because the Lord Privy Seal, when he was preparing this work, was in charge of it. So I went to see the seal in his tank.
I appreciate the necessity of having one Minister of Civil Defence who will be, as it were, the chief designated Minister, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that things like evacuation were the special responsibility of a Minister and only came to his Ministry on report or when they impinged on the work of other Ministries, so that all concerned might know that adequate steps were being taken. I also accept what the right hon. Gentleman says about the relationship between the Minister of Defence and whoever may be what I call the presiding designated Minister. Clearly, he must report to the Minister of Defence as a member of the Committee.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think there is much difference between us. On a matter of historical accuracy, the word "tank" derived from a cartoon in "Punch" in which the Lord Privy Seal was seen disporting himself in a pool of water.
The wording of the Bill may want looking at again because there may be 1109 some inconsistency, at any rate on the surface, between Clause 1 and the definition Clause. That is a matter of detail. To go on—and I have a number of other points to make, but I do not wish to take up too much time—am I right in assuming that it is contemplated by the Government that there should be a regional organisation directly responsible to the Government, covering the whole country, somewhat, if not entirely, on the lines of what we had in the last war?
If so, may I further ask, because this is a connected point, what are the local units of control that are contemplated? The right hon. Gentleman, with his very wide knowledge of local government, will realise at once the sort of question which naturally comes to one's mind. We have the local authorities—the county councils, the large county boroughs, the non-county boroughs and the rural and urban districts. Has consideration been given to the local foci of responsibility which have to be established? Can we continue to treat all local authorites of defined status—county boroughs and counties, that is to say—as on entirely the same footing for this purpose? Or will local authority boundaries have to be disregarded to some extent, quite apart from the regional organisation, of course, which is not based strictly on local authority boundaries?
Further questions are connected with that same point. Can we be told what is the chain of command contemplated—this is a very important point—in actual operations, from the central Government to the regional organisations, perhaps to a district organisation, then to the local authorities and then to the Civil Defence units? It is a matter of primary importance on which the positon ought to be clearly defined from the outset. Otherwise, if it is not clearly defined, misapprehension may arise, dissatisfaction may be caused and the susceptibilities of local authorities may be wounded if subsequently some arrangement is laid down which conflicts with what had been assumed to be the contemplated arrangement.
Again, in the same connection, I have a very important point to raise. Has any conclusion been reached as to the competent authority to call the mobile forces, whether civil or military, into 1110 action? That is a matter of absolutely vital importance. There ought to be a decision on that matter at quite an early stage. On that decision depends the extent of responsibility that the services immediately under the local authorities are to undertake. I am trying to be entirely helpful in these comments. I put this as a matter of primary importance on which we ought to have information. In this matter of the mobile forces one has to distinguish between forces and services. The services are static while the forces are, in their essence, mobile. What we have been told rather implies local authority units as the units of control. Whether that is right I should be inclined to question.
We have been told also, and this I heartily welcome, that the military forces, when they come in, will come in to help, not to control, if they are available—we have been told "if they are available" and I am sure that that is a necessary qualification because they will not always be available. The right hon. Gentleman has very wisely reminded us that the requirements of active defence will have to be considered all the time. That means that they will come in in the traditional way to the aid of the civil power, but with an important qualification. In the ordinary way, when a military organisation is brought in to aid the civil power, the military organisation takes control. I think I am right in saying that the police then come under the control of the military organisation. If that is to be departed from, it ought to be made absolutely clear from the outset, because the whole work of the organisation depends upon a clear appreciation of these matters.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The right hon. Gentleman must not be too hasty in this matter. If there is serious civil disturbance for any reason—it may be on account of bombing—and the magistrate calls on the military forces to come along in aid of the police, then the position under the law as it is today is that the military forces take charge. That is an important point If 1111 the intention is—and I think it is right—that the military forces should not take charge, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, although I think he was a little hasty—he said that the military force will come under the civil authorities, but I do not think it can—then the military force will be at the disposal of the civil authorities. If that is to be the position, then it has to be made absolutely clear from the outset, and any necessary modifications of the Manual of Military Law, or whatever it might be, will have to be made.
There is one other point in that connection. The responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman extends in a way to Northern Ireland. He must remember that in Northern Ireland the military forces are the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government while the Civil Defence organisation will be a responsibility of the local Government. It will be quite impossible there to bring the military forces under the control of the local authority.
§ Mr. Ede
The right hon. Gentleman gave the example of the magistrate calling in the military forces. That, of course, is in the case of riot and is not a movement under the Bill or for the purpose of Civil Defence. Really, it is a bit tough that the right hon. Gentleman, complains that I have not done or said certain things, and when I say them, he reproves me for being hasty.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The right hon. Gentleman is too old a bird to be caught like that. He may claim sympathy on account of his throat or for some other reason, but he is not in any danger of being led up the garden path by me. The right hon. Gentleman would do well to look at this matter again. It is not only in the case of riot, but in any form of civil commotion or situation which is beyond the power of the police to deal with, that the military can be brought in. I am not trying to make difficulties or to be controversial, but I think that the matter requires further consideration.
I pass on to a different subject matter on which I wish to raise some questions. I think they are very important. What is to be the status of the static services? I pass away now from the mobile forces What is to be the status of those services. 1112 apart from the police and the fire services, which presumably will have their own auxiliaries as in the last war? What is to be the exact position of the other units of Civil Defence? Are the wardens, casualty parties, staffs of first-aid posts, decontamination squads, demolition parties, and people responsible for rest centres to be separate organisations as they were at the outset in the last war? They grew up separately, each in its own way. Are they to be separate units entirely, or are they all to be regarded as part of one Civil Defence organisation? That is very important.
It is very important that there should be a recognised Civil Defence service which embraces all those activities. I think it goes to the root of the question of status, which is also very important. I do not know whether it is in the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman that when the warden service was organised—it was one of the first services to be organised—side by side with the police, awkward questions arose in regard to status, and that until later on, when we settled officer grades for the wardens and gave them a uniform, the wardens suffered very definitely, it is not unfair to say, from an inferiority complex. We do not want that position now. We want to be quite sure that we start without that very real psychological disadvantage.
I should like to see everything possible done to encourage members of the Civil Defence service to have what the Scots call a good conceit of themselves. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be in agreement with me on this point, that in so far as different units may operate under the control of separate Ministerial authority, they should nevertheless be encouraged to regard themselves as part of one new Civil Defence service. It may be that it would be found convenient to have a certain interchangeability of duty between one part of the service and another. It was found very valuable, important and useful in the last war. However, we were at a disadvantage in trying to bring that about by reason of the fact that the different units had been organised independently.
Again, has the right hon. Gentleman given consideration to the status of fire watching in relation to Civil Defence? Fire watchers had an entirely different origin from the other Civil Defence 1113 formations. Fire watching began as a duty laid upon the occupier of a factory or business premises. It was not a personal duty put on the individual who had to function, but a duty on the occupier or the employer, and that conception was extended to include residents in particular localities under a scheme of most extraordinary complexity. There were two fire watching orders, one for factory and business premises and one for the ordinary civilians, and they were, I think, the most complicated and difficult instruments of Government I have ever come across. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he and his planners, who are working so hard, as he told us, are considering that question. It is very important, and it may be more important under the conditions we have to envisage today than it was in the last war. In that connection I ask whether compulsion is contemplated in the case of lire watching and, if so, whether only in that case. It was in the last war, I think, the only instance where compulsion was applied in the sphere of Civil Defence.
I was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman had been more successful than he obviously thinks I was in settling financial relations between local authorities and the Government. In the particular case which I think he had in mind when he nobly intervened to save me from embarrassment, the real difficulty, if my recollection serves, arose in the case of local education authorities. The trouble was that there were statutory grants differing from authority to authority. The principle had been laid down that expenditure by local education authorities on Civil Defence, on the protection of school children, should attract the appropriate grant for that authority. They wanted a uniform grant, and in the end their persistence was rewarded. They benefited by changes of a domestic nature in the constitution of the Government, and they got it.
I would like also to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can tell us to what extent, if at all, it is proposed to make use of the voluntary organisations of Civil Defence workers which sprang up during the last war and have been continued with great public spirit ever since, and which are, in certain localities at any rate, very strong. I hope very much that the fullest possible use, at any rate 1114 in consultation, will be made of those organisations.
I should like to say one word on a matter which the right hon. Gentleman recognised, and rightly recognised, may prove controversial. I refer to the proposal to impose penalties on Civil Defence volunteers who, in the opinion of some superior authority, are found lacking in their duty. There is, of course, a logical argument, which the right hon. Gentleman made clear, by which such a provision can be supported, but I think it is bad psychology. It is contrary to the whole conception of Civil Defence and citizen service—what I call organised self-help. While in war it would be absolutely essential to be certain that people who were undertaking responsibilities would discharge them and there would have to be penalties analogous to those under the Army Act for failure, I think that on the whole it would be better not to try anything of the kind at this formative preliminary stage.
There is another question of a very far-reaching nature. What all of us have primarily in our minds when we approach the subject of Civil Defence, is attack from the air. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, in the latter stages of the last war, the duties of the Civil Defence authorities were extended to cover measures in the face of invasion, and very elaborate and somewhat controversial instructions were drawn up and issued as to what should be done if and when the enemy turned up in a particular locality either in force or in scattered groups. I note that the definition of Civil Defence in this Bill appears to be wide enough to cover what I call anti-invasion measures of a precautionary and protective nature, not those of an aggressive nature which are excluded by the terms of the definition. I should like to know whether I am right in supposing that the instructions which will be prepared and used in the course of the recruitment and organisation of Civil Defence units will cover such anti-invasion measures.
I would like to suggest—there must be some notes of criticism—to the right hon. Gentleman that the definition of Civil Defence in the Bill goes a little wide. It would seem to me to be wide enough to cover, for example, radar or the duties of the Observer Corps, both of them entirely non-aggressive but not primarily 1115 serving the purposes of Civil Defence. I do not think that is intended. The wording ought perhaps to be altered to make it clear that radar and the services of the Observer Corps are not covered. I think the wording is wide enough to cover what used to be called passive defence, which was really Civil Defence carried out by members of the Fighting Services. Again, I assume that that is not intended. This is a Committee point, but I suggest that the definition needs to be looked at in that connection.
One last word on Clause 6. I have deliberately left it to the last. As I have already said, the Civil Defence Bill with which I was concerned was discussed over a long period of time Clause by Clause and almost line by line. I wonder very much what the right hon. Gentleman and his associates then would have said if I had sought to include in that Bill anything like the very sweeping legislative powers which are included in Clause 6. The Clause gives power, in bringing back into operation the Acts of 1937 and 1939, to make such adaptations as may be specified in the regulations. Under Clause 6 a regulation may:Amend, extend or repeal any of the provisions of the said Acts, whether in force by virtue of regulations … or otherwise; may substitute other provisions"—without qualification—… for any of the provisions so repealed.I suppose the only condition will be that the other provisions should be properly within the definition of the title "Civil Defence." I am old enough to remember the controversy about what was called the "Henry VIII Clause" in the National Insurance Act, 1911, but that was not a patch on this. Henry VIII never conceived anything like this legislation by decree of the widest possible kind. It is perfectly true that the regulations are subject to Affirmative Resolution by both Houses of Parliament but they cannot be amended, and I feel justified in saying that before this House is asked to grant to the Minister powers so sweeping and so indefinite as those contemplated by Clause 6, we ought to have much more information as to what it is really intended to do by these regulations. It is the one serious ground on which I criticise a Bill with which otherwise I find myself, subject to the observations I have already offered, in very general 1116 agreement. The attitude of my right hon. and hon. Friends to the Bill in Committee and at a later stage must be determined by what the Minister may have to tell us on that point.
I have quite deliberately said nothing by way of comment on the right hon. Gentleman's reference to modern forms of warfare. I am not at all disposed to dogmatise on that subject in this connection. I think we have to do the best we can on what we know now, and leave what we do not know to the future. I feel justified in saying that in my judgment there is no danger whatever of this country being involved in the near future in a war which would involve the use of the atomic bomb, and if and when that time does come—and I am very far from saying it ever will come—no one now living can say to what point the atomic bomb will by that time have been developed. And so we must just wait and see. But I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman's research organisations are working hard on all those problems, and that as soon as there is information which can usefully and safely be given to this House on that subject it will be given, although I do not ask for it now. I make no further comment than that.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Upton)
I am very pleased to be able to take part in this all-important Debate on this very important Bill, because I happen to represent a part of East London, Upton, West Ham, which suffered devastation during the war, if not more severe than, certainly as severe as any other part of the country. We all welcome this Bill, and particularly those of us who have the honour and privilege of representing blitzed areas, as we realise that this Bill is really essential. I have one criticism to make, which I am sure will also be made by other Members representing blitzed areas, in regard to the financial reimbursement to local authorities. My right hon. Friend went to some lengths to explain that he has obtained agreement on this question of financial reimbursement, but he did not explain with whom he has made the agreement. I am assuming that the agreement was made with the various associations representing the local authorities.
I understand that, under Clause 3, 25 per cent. or more of some of the Civil Defence expenditure will have to be 1117 borne by the local authorities. I want, on behalf of my local borough council, the County Borough of West Ham, as well as on behalf of my constituents, irrespective of their political complexion, to protest strongly against local authorities having to find any of this money for Civil Defence purposes. It is my view, and it is a view which is held by many others, particularly by those in blitzed areas and by my local council, that Civil Defence should be a national responsibility in all respects, and particularly in regard to finance.
The Army, Navy and Air Force expenditure comes from the national Exchequer, and it is our view that the whole cost of this Measure should also be borne out of Exchequer funds, and that no part should have to come out of the small purses of the local authorities. Can it be argued that, in the case of an area of great military and strategic importance which has to be specially protected, the local people should have to bear any of the costs involved? I believe that the whole of the costs should be borne nationally; otherwise it is very unfair to many constituencies.
Take, for example, my own area of West Ham. There we have the London Docks, great railway sidings and undertakings associated with the railways, electricity works and perhaps the biggest gas works in the country, Beckton. It is obviously an area that is of immediate importance to any potential enemy. During the last war it was an area which was immediately attacked by the enemy. During the war we had to find a lot of money to pay for the various Civil Defence forces, and we are quite unable to afford any more expenditure in view of our unfair position as against areas like Torquay or other parts of the country which were not attacked and may not be attacked in the future. Why should an area that has already been badly blitzed and has lost hundreds of thousands of houses, as well as hundreds of factories, and more important than factories and houses, an area where thousands of its people have been killed and injured, have to find extra money as compared with these other areas which have not suffered or are not likely to suffer such damage and loss?
We in the East End of London were in the forefront of the bombing attack 1118 on this country from the beginning of the war to the end. The first aerial bombardment was on the London Docks, and we found that we were the last area to receive the German rockets. At a time when we have lost a large amount of rates because our houses and factories have been blitzed, and when we are meeting a great many financial difficulties, we are now being asked to meet this extra burden, which is grossly unfair. Yet with all those losses we are under this Bill expected to find 25 per cent. or more of the cost of Civil Defence. Does the Home Secretary realise that Civil Defence is a national responsibility, and that areas such as Torquay, Bournemouth and the like should be compelled to contribute to the cost of Civil Defence in areas such as Coventry, Bermondsey and West Ham?
I am hoping that on the Committee stage the Government will change their mind, that they will see that Civil Defence will become, as it should, the national responsibility of the country as a whole. We in our area are in financial difficulties now, and shall be in further difficulties if the financial proposals of the Bill are put into operation. Failing a change of mind on the part of the Government I must say, on behalf of my three colleagues who represent the West Ham area, that we shall do all that lies in our power to ensure that Amendments are put forward on the Committee stage. In this matter, I believe we shall have the support of many other Members from blitzed areas which suffered so much damage during the war.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I will not follow entirely the constituency speech which has just been made by the hon. Member for Upton (Mr. A. Lewis) except to say this: I believe that in principle it is not a good thing to give authority without financial responsibility. It leads to extravagances which do not occur if there is financial responsibility as well. The vulnerability of these islands to intensive attack, in the unfortunate event of another war, must be a factor which exercises very strongly the minds of those to whom we entrust our National Defence. The question has been asked: are these islands any longer defensible? I would 1119 reply immediately with a strong affirmative. I believe they are still defensible, but I also realise that not without measures far more comprehensive and more imaginative than those which were adopted during the recent conflict, will that state of affairs be brought about.
We have been presented with a flimsy Bill of nine pages, but apart from its seeking to secure extremely wide powers for the Minister and the Government we have been told very little, so far, of the scope which is envisaged for this organisation. Therefore, our speeches must of necessity be interrogatory, and not as constructive as they might have been had there been a little more meat in the Bill into which we could have got our teeth. I am quite convinced that if war does come again, there will be a period of unorthodox war which will last for a considerable time, and that all the old concepts will have to be thrown overboard. I also believe that this unorthodox period of strife might easily come overnight and unexpectedly, as happened at Pearl Harbour. It is imperative, therefore, that the Government take urgent and comprehensive steps to see that this country is fully prepared.
One of the steps they should take is to decide now what categories of men will be exempt from service in the Armed Forces of the Crown. Until that has been done it is quite impossible to arrive at the manpower figure for Civil Defence; the task of allocation cannot possibly be undertaken until that is done. As for voluntary enlistment, I am happy to see that the Government have not put the cart in front of the horse for once, but will train instructors before calling on vast numbers of volunteers to enlist. It must be realised, though, that so long as they delay their announcement of what numbers are required for the various categories, having regard to the conflicting demands of the Home Guard, the Observer Corps, and radar, people will hold back. They will think that there is something more attractive round the corner if only they wait a little longer.
It is important that the Government should make their plans clear, and say what numbers will be required before starting on an intensive campaign of recruitment while instructors are being taught. It will take a considerable time 1120 before sufficient people are enrolled, if ever they will be enrolled, under a voluntary system. I ask the Government not to be too strict about the upper or lower age limits for volunteers. There must be many middle-aged men who are fit and strong and capable of carrying out Civil Defence work, as there must be many young boys who would be willing to serve as messengers, telephonists and despatch riders.
With regard to co-ordination, I believe I am right in saying that the Home Secretary is not a member of the Defence Committee, but that he can be called upon by that Committee if his services are required. That is all to the good, but what is lacking is anybody representing Civil Defence on the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Surely we have arrived at the stage where Civil Defence, particularly in the unorthodox war which may obtain for a year or more, will be just as important as any of the branches of the Armed Forces. I should like to throw out a constructive suggestion: that on the Chiefs of Staff Committee there should be a Civil Defence Staff Officer. Through him will be provided the channel from the Cabinet Defence Committee to the Home Office, in the same way as the Chiefs of Staff are represented on that Committee and provide a channel to the Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry.
To turn to the question of supreme responsibility, I am not so sure that we should not follow the example of America in this matter and have a separate Minister for Civil Defence. I dare say that I am open to arguments against it from the point of view of expense, manpower, and the creation of a new Ministry, and, if so, I would bow to them. But why not a compromise? Why not an Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department whose sole responsibility is that of Civil Defence? It is imperative that something of that nature should be done at an early date. I am convinced that in this period of unorthodox war, the duties and functions of the Armed Forces and Civil Forces will be so closely integrated as to be almost indistinctive, and therefore——
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman kindly explain what he means by this "period of unorthodox war" to which he has referred three times?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
It is a very common expression among those who discuss Defence matters, but I will make it a little clearer. What I mean by an unorthodox war is not fighting a war on the old basis of expeditionary forces, corps and divisions, and military combat on a big scale. I mean fighting a war which, in my opinion, is almost certain to commence with an all-out attack on this country by guided missiles, possibly with bacteriological warfare, with the object of reducing this country to impotency at the earliest possible stage.
I welcomed the suggestion in the memorandum issued by the Home Office in 1937. It was not mentioned by the Minister in his speech and I wonder whether it is the intention that there should be regional officers in command of areas comprising several local authorities and that they should have supreme powers in those areas. If that is so, if that is the proposal which is contemplated for the future, I should like to know to whom these regional officers will be directly responsible. In other words, from whom will they receive orders for the co-ordination of the National Defence of the country outside the areas in which they have control? May I ask who is to form the staff of these regional officers and what will be their headquarters?
I believe the regional officer will have enormous responsibility, very largely military in character, and I am quite certain that he should be a man of wide military knowledge and that he must have under him, at his beck and call, a very efficient, highly-trained staff. It may be difficult to find staff for him of adequate capabilities unless there are earmarked for that purpose some of the staff officers who left the Army at the end of the war and who are now in civilian life awaiting the call.
As an alternative to that suggestion, the staff of the local military commander, who will be in a static position most of the time, could possibly be made available to the regional officer, because there is no doubt there will be co-operation and co-ordination between the two authorities. Incidentally, these highly-trained staff officers will know how to use wireless. That will be a very important factor in making them ideal for their particular job.
1122 In his speech the Minister mentioned the question of training. I want to emphasise the necessity of training, because in the past there has been, particularly in the minds of Government officials, an idea that they can get a scheme out on paper, that all they have to do is to issue orders in relation to it, and that then, by the light of nature, the ordinary people in the country can be brought into the scheme to operate it at a moment's notice. That was one of the reasons why Civil Defence fell down in the early stages of the last conflict. I urge the Government to realise that it takes a considerable time to train anybody in these highly-skilled exercises of present-day anti-air raid precautions.
I believe there is a grave danger of communications—by which I mean normal, orthodox communications—breaking down in this country almost completely. I, therefore, urge the Minister to look into the question of the use of wireless for inter-communication in case of emergency. Let him not run away with the idea that he can get any Post Office official to man a wireless set and make it work immediately. The man will have to be trained to do the job and it will take four or five months of very hard work before this can be achieved. These comments of mine apply also to some of the regional staff who will be asked to use wireless on occasions. In the last war I suffered from certain infantry generals who despised wireless and who, under the force of circumstances, attempted to use it, with disastrous consequences. It is essential that people should be taught how to use wireless.
Before I conclude I want to raise a somewhat controversial point. I am convinced that there is a possibility—I put it no higher than that—of airborne attack on this country, an attack by airborne troops. I think anybody who dismisses that possibility from his mind is taking a very grave risk indeed. I hope in all the plans which are envisaged there will be a comprehensive plan for dealing with such an attack, should it take place, during its period of extreme weakness, which is the first 24 hours after the landing. It is comparatively simple to deal with the attack during that period provided the necessary organisation exists.
1123 Let not the Minister be led astray by those who protest that an airborne attack is not a practicable proposition unless seaborne support is immediately forthcoming, because that is not the case. That argument is only true in the case of the dropping of airborne troops into enemy territory which is infested by trained troops, as was the case at Arnhem. In such a case immediate support of the airborne landing is imperative, but to drop airborne troops in a country in the state in which this country will be found at the beginning of a war, means that the necessity for immediate reinforcement no longer exists.
As I say, therefore, an airborne attack is possible. I am convinced that if the organisation for dealing with such an event is of the highest order, it will in itself prevent such a threat being put into force. It is only if the enemy considers there is a possibility of success that he will attempt to carry it out. That is why I disagree with the definition in Clause 9 (1) of the words "civil defence":includes any measures not amounting to actual combat. …I believe it is possible that each man in this country might suddenly find himself called upon at a moment's notice to defend his street, his hearth and his home against enemy troops. Having regard to the number of airborne divisions which we know exist in certain quarters of the world, I would put this case very strongly indeed to the Home Secretary and to those Ministers who have anything to do with Civil Defence.
I have often wondered why, in Civil Defence, the heads of departments in local areas were not given responsibility. In my town, for instance, communications were not in the hands of the local post office. The chief postmaster was not in control. The Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Labour had no control over anything at all. The whole thing was vested in the local authority staff on a voluntary basis. I cannot see the necessity for that. I cannot see why the existing officers, who have the various facilities at their disposal in the normal course of their duties, should not be responsible for them in the case of Civil Defence.
1124 I wonder whether industry has yet had any indication from the Government of what is to be expected of it in an emergency? It is vital that at a very early date industry should not only be given a clear lead, but should also be informed, privately and confidentially, of the dangers which exist so that it may be aware of the supreme responsibility which rests upon its shoulders—far greater now than in the last conflict, because the more industry becomes vital to the conduct of a war the more vulnerable does it become to aerial attack.
I hope that before it is decided to "black-out" this country again, all the pros and cons will be examined very carefully indeed, because, quite honestly, I am of opinion that the advantage gained from the "black-out" in the last war was completely outweighed by the disadvantage of the nervous strain which it imposed and the counter-morale effect it had on the nation as a whole. Added to which it must be remembered that mobile columns will not be able to move about the country at speed under "black-out" conditions without extreme difficulty.
In order to give the Civil Defence services of our country a status, I suggest that His Majesty be asked permission for the word "Royal" to be prefixed to their name. That would give them a great fillip. Certainly it had that effect on the Royal Observer Corps, and I see no reason why these services should not be called the Royal Civil Defence Service. Finally, I urge the Government to make haste with their concrete plans, because after the plans have been made the organisation has to be put into effect, and the training has to take place; and training people to the high standard required takes a considerable time. It lies in the hands of the Government to lose the war, as far as these islands are concerned, in the first three weeks.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)
I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) will forgive me if I do not follow the line he has 1125 taken, because obviously many of the questions he posed were addressed to the Government. I listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), on which I should like to congratulate him. After the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week, I thought the right hon. Gentleman showed a wonderful resilience. I noticed my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health taking notes, and if he is to speak later I hope that next week, too, the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities will show the same resilience.
I am sure we all agree with the general idea behind the Bill we are now discussing. However, I trust that the Home Secretary will appreciate that I have to address myself to one or two special problems, and will not think I am not behind him in the main purpose of the Bill. During the 1939–45 war I was Chairman of the Civil Defence Committee in East Ham—a near neighbour of my hon. Friend the Member for Upton (Mr. A. Lewis). We in those two county boroughs experienced what bombing meant. I was in touch with the Civil Defence organisation in the outer-London region, and arising out of that experience I am bound to tell the Home Secretary that I am profoundly disturbed at the provisions in Clause 5. I refer first to the position, as I understand it, of local government officers. Everyone knows of the splendid services rendered by local government officers during the last war; glowing tributes were paid to their work; and, speaking from my experience, I would say that the local government service was the backbone of the Civil Defence services. I put this question quite bluntly to the Home Secretary: why are local government officers to be the only class in the community, other than the police and the fire service, to be virtually conscripted?—because that is the meaning I read into Clause 5. They are to be conscripted, and to be subject to all the attendant penalties provided for in Subsection (2). Is that the reward of the local government officers for the services they rendered in Civil Defence in the war?
If Civil Defence is a national responsibility, let that responsibility be imposed 1126 equally on all members of the community. To single out one body of employees and impose exceptional obligations on them is manifestly unfair, tyrannical and unjust. The Home Secretary can have the loyal co-operation of the local government service if he goes about it in the right way; yet their association, N.A.L.G.O., 140,000 strong, has been ignored in this matter. If the Home Secretary persists in this Clause, which imposes unfair obligations on these officers—not Crown servants—he is by no means helping to build up the new service: indeed, he may in the end defeat the object he wants to achieve in the new Civil Defence service.
Let me deal specifically with Clause 5 (2), which was also referred to by the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities. I am informed—and if it is correct I think the House will be amazed to hear it—that the Chief Wardens' Association, men who know Civil Defence in all its aspects, has not been consulted about this Subsection. How many times have we to insist that all the knowledge and experience is not in the heads of people in Whitehall. During the war the spirit of voluntary service in Civil Defence was beyond praise, but, speaking from my experience of the service, I am of the opinion that if it were intended to draft a Clause to drive out those who are now voluntarily serving in Civil Defence and effectively to kill recruitment in the new Civil Defence service, a more effective Clause could not have been drafted with those ends in view.
I urge the Home Secretary to consult those who know something about the organisation of Civil Defence, not at the centre but in the field of operative action. There is still a fund of good will and a spirit of service not yet exhausted, although there has been very little encouragement of that spirit from the Government since the end of the war. That spirit can be harnessed to this new Civil Defence service if the Home Secretary desires. To threaten volunteers with fines and penalties will kill the spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion of which, I submit in all humility, the Civil Defence service has every reason to be proud.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Wadsworth (Buckrose)
It is impossible to avoid prefacing my remarks by referring to the deep tragedy 1127 of the necessity to introduce a Civil Defence Bill at this time. It shows that the world is still insane. It shows that the leaders throughout the world, and particularly in certain sections of the world—if Mr. Deputy-Speaker will forgive me referring to this—are still pursuing a selfish goal. If they continue to do so, they will be conducting a policy against the wishes of the peoples of the world.
This Bill does not appear to be very controversial. There is a great measure of agreement on both sides of the House. There would appear to be three stages in which we shall introduce a scheme of Civil Defence. First, in this defence plan there is the co-ordination of all the Services, military and civil, under a central planning organisation. I think the House is agreed from what the Home Secretary has said that the scheme outlined for this co-ordination will be satisfactory, and we are glad to hear that already some considerable progress has been made in this co-ordination.
The second stage is the appointment of the personnel in the key positions, and I would like to know from the Minister of Health when he replies, a little more about his intention in regard to the key appointments which are to be made throughout the whole country, I presume, by the local authorities. There will obviously have to be chief wardens, and also other chief personnel appointed in the creation of a full organisation. The hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) said that the system of conscripting the personnel in local authorities was unfair, unjust and tyrannical. It seems to me that it will be essential in this second stage that all those employed in such services as water, gas, electricity, railways and the like, should be brought into the scheme, and this should be done immediately. Arrangements could easily be made for them to attend lectures in the time of the local authorities.
I think we could very easily defer for a considerable time bringing the general mass of the people of this country into the scheme. To begin with, I do not think the people are really conscious that war is imminent. I do not think that they would volunteer very easily at this moment.
§ Mr. Wadsworth
I do not, if the hon. Gentleman wants my personal opinion. I do not think the people of this country believe that war is imminent. Unless the people do believe that, they will not volunteer for a service of this kind. During the war I had experience of the Home Guard, and I know that the last 12 months in the Home Guard were very difficult. To use a good old Army expression, they were "browned off." They only attended their parades because there was a certain amount of compulsion on them to do so. There were certain sanctions. Of course, they had been conscripted, but there was a completely unreal atmosphere about all the training during the last 12 months between 1944 and 1945. That is the sort of atmosphere that would prevail if at this time the Government brought a large number of personnel into the Civil Defence scheme.
I want to say a few words about Clause 5. The Home Secretary said that it had been suggested to him that sanctions should be imposed. I do not believe anything of the kind. I believe that the suggestion came from Mr. Chuter Ede, ex-schoolmaster. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman did in the old days when he was a schoolmaster; I do not know whether he kept his cane behind the cupboard door, but I am convinced that it is because of those early years of his life that in this Bill he has thought that there should be some sanctions. It would be a very great mistake indeed if in a voluntary scheme he attempted to impose sanctions of this kind. If he does he will not get the volunteers.
I am quite certain that the whole scheme will be a failure if Clause 5 is not excluded. During the course of the Bill through other stages I for one will suggest the omission of this Clause. If it is intended to have a voluntary scheme, let us make it completely voluntary. In due course, if people realise that there is a national need for them to 1129 enlist in this service, we shall find plenty of enthusiastic volunteers who will be willing to serve their country in this way. I hope the Minister will consider the various representations made from both sides of the House and exclude Clause 5 from the Bill.
As I have said, this Bill is not a controversial one, and I think that the Government have been wise to bring the Bill to this House now, provided that they do not intend at this stage to implement Clause 5, the Penalty Clause, and do not go further with the full recruitment of the people of this country until they are in a position of real emergency which we all pray will not occur.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Piratin (Mile End)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Buckrose (Mr. Wadsworth) because he made the point that he believes that most of the people are not conscious that war is imminent. It was because of that remark that I interrupted the hon. Member. The fact is that this House is today debating a Measure of the need for which the public is not aware, yet there is a purpose in the Government presenting the Bill at this time. The object of the Bill is declared in the Explanatory Memorandum as being:to enable the establishment of a civil defence organisation for the purpose of affording protection against hostile attack by a foreign power and mitigating the effects of any such attack.In actual fact, as a number of hon. Members on both sides have mentioned, no proposals for the defence and protection of the people have emerged. All that the Bill, whatever its merits, attempts to do is to suggest an organisation within which various measures to be decided in the future can function. Several hon. Members have actually attempted to deal with the various measures which need to be undertaken, but this Government and the Home Secretary, in bringing forward this Bill, have made no such proposals at all. The R.A.F. exercises which took place round about September, show that the active defence measures then taken—for no passive measures were taken—against enemy action would fail to protect the civil population.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Is the hon. Member complaining that the Bill does not contain detailed measures 1130 for bringing immediately into operation far more detailed plans?
§ Mr. Piratin
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to make my speech in my own way? Because of that, one would have thought that if the Government are determined to show concern in the public interest, they might have brought forward some plans for such measures. In fact this Bill, which is called the Civil Defence Bill, is not a Civil Defence Bill at all. It provides no measures, nor did the Home Secretary in his introductory remarks indicate any measures, for Civil Defence and the protection of the people. I submit, therefore, that the ulterior purpose of the Bill—hence its emptiness—is to prepare the minds of the British public for war. It is for that reason that I interrupted the hon. Member for Buck-rose. The British public, in spite of all the war scares, in spite of war hysteria engendered particularly in America, is not conscious of the imminence of war, and the hon. Gentleman said he himself was not prepared to believe that it was imminent.
This is one measure in the psychological preparation of the public mind for war. This Bill ought to be considered alongside other things which have taken place and are taking place, such as the extension of National Service, in addition to the Measure introduced a few weeks ago about which further will be heard in the near future, arising from a recent Cabinet decision; the doubling of fighter plane production, the overhaul of naval vessels, the provision of bases in this country for the United States, the implementation of the Brussels Treaty, and now the preparation of the Atlantic Pact. This is merely one measure as part of a number of measures in the preparation for war. Therefore I submit that this Bill is a further condemnation of the Government's foreign policy.
A number of speakers have said with great sincerity that it is regrettable that this Bill needs to be considered at this time, and that it is a reflection on our civilisation. But these academic expressions should not be used in this House, for this House is the Parliament of the country, and have we not some contribution to make towards the improvement of civilisation? I submit that we have not endeavoured sufficiently to improve civilisation. Our people would never 1131 have tolerated a Bill of this kind if it had been brought in, say, in 1921, three years after the first world war. Everyone here knows that perfectly well. Certainly the Labour movement would not have tolerated it in those years. Likewise today, the Labour movement would not have tolerated a Bill of this kind, three years after the last war, if we had had a Tory Government. Hon. Members on this side, were they sitting opposite as the official Opposition, would have been the first on their feet to protest against the Government bringing in a Bill of this kind which is a reflection on the nature of the Government's foreign policy.
This Bill, in my opinion, is unnecesary. There is no danger of war unless America is allowed to continue her present course, and unless we support her in that course. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) made a speech a few weeks ago at the Conservative Party Conference in which he called for the dropping now of the atom bomb on Russia. He said: "Before they have it." Only last week we read in the newspapers that a man who is regarded by many in this House and outside as an old Socialist, a Pacifist, known popularly as Bertrand Russell, used almost word for word the expression used by the right hon. Member at Llandudno a few weeks ago— "Let us drop the atom bomb on Russia before they have it." Such people are calling for war.
If this House were serious in discussing this Bill, and if hon. Members believe that war is imminent as those other gentlemen seem to believe, they would ask what serious measures are we taking for the defence of our people.
§ Mr. Crossman
I suggest to the hon. Member that what he is now proving is that the form of this Bill shows that the Government think that war is not imminent, and he should thank the Government that they are not afraid of war in the immediate future.
§ Mr. Piratin
In that case the hon. Gentleman could not have been listening—maybe he was out for the moment—to the concluding remarks of the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary expressed the hope that the world would be in a state where we need not have this Bill but he regretted that the world was in a state where we needed to have it.
§ Mr. Piratin
If the hon. Member has been listening to the various speeches on both sides, he would realise that every hon. Member who has spoken takes it for granted that these are measures to be implemented shortly. I submit, therefore, that if the House was serious, hon. Members would ask themselves: what measures are we taking for the defence of our people? What protection shall we give to our civilian population if a war takes place? What protection against the atom bomb, against bacterial warfare, against rocket bombs? A similar discussion was held in this House—when the House was in its rightful place—in 1937, when the then Civil Defence Act was being discussed. Further, no preparations whatever were made for the defence of the people, but administrative and organisational steps of the kind outlined in the Bill and supplemented by the Home Secretary and other hon. Members were discussed. One or two isolated voices spoke of deep shelters and defence measures against high explosive, but apart from those voices, the administrative measures were discussed without regard to whether they were to be effective in protecting the people.
No deep shelters were provided or prepared before the war except for the privileged. Again, in the present Bill, there are no measures, but the privileged will be provided with those measures.
§ Mr. Piratin
Certainly. Such deep shelters already exist in Whitehall for the Government. Such deep shelters already exist for Royalty.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
May I interrupt my hon. Friend? Will he ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is not aware that before the war the wealthy had sufficient money to build and did build deep shelters for themselves, and that they were very well stocked deep shelters. Does he deny that?
§ Mr. Piratin
Some hon. Member said that it is not true. I can give him a list of addresses where these places are. We knew perfectly well before and during the war the kind of shelter being built in Whitehall, of which only recently cinema films were displayed to the public, where the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), when Prime Minister, did his work. The provision of shelters for those people is a realisation that shelters of that kind are necessary. If they are necessary for the privileged, they are necessary for the public.
The Bill, in addition to preparing the public mind for war, is actually preparing the way for no provision at all to be made for our people. The Government have no intention of providing protecttion for them. The British will bear in full measure the brunt of the Government's foreign policy, for this will be the outcome of it. I cannot, therefore, support the Second Reading of the Bill. My party, the Communist Party, favours measures which are essential to the defence of the civil population and which are precautions against the likelihood of war. Above all, we favour measures which will be successful in preventing any war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] For those who may say that we are not supporting this Measure and that, therefore, we have certain motives with regard to the public, let me say this: my party will give way to no other party in our endeavour before the war to secure real protection for the people. We called for deep shelters from 1937 onwards until the war began and even during the war.
§ Mr. Piratin
We shall come to that in a moment. It will be the first speech the hon. Member has made for a long time.
§ Mr. Bechervaise
I hope that when I do say something it will be something sensible. I just want to point out that it was a part of your party's policy to create an agitation around the proposal of providing deep shelters, while the majority of the Communists were seeking refuge in such shelters as they could find for the first two years of the war at least.
§ Mr. Piratin
Before anybody says, "Hear, hear," he had better hear what I have to say. My record in London is known to many people and those who know my record had better listen to me. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Bechervaise rose——
§ Mr. Henry Nicholls (Stratford)
Is it in Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for an hon. Member of this House to call another hon. Member a "dirty blackguard"?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
Certainly not. I did not hear it myself, but if the hon. Member used that expression I must ask him to withdraw it forthwith.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I will not withdraw that expression after what the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Bechervaise) said. Never. I will repeat it.
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 21 (Disorderly Conduct), ordered the hon. Member to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of this day's Sitting; and he withdrew accordingly.
§ Mr. Piratin
In case any hon. Members think with the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Bechervaise) I would remind the House of the policy of the Communist Party before the war. If any hon. Members want to believe the remarks which the hon. Member has made——
§ Mr. Skeffington (Lewisham, West)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I do not wish in any way to make the discussion narrow, but would it be in Order for other hon. Members during the Second Reading Debate to refer back to the policy of the Communist Party before and during the war?
§ Mr. Piratin
I hope I shall be able to continue the last part of my remarks fairly smoothly. My record and that of the Communist Party before the war are well known in this respect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members cannot afford to laugh, for many hon. 1135 Members on the other side were not involved in the East London raids, as was the hon. Member for Upton (Mr. A. Lewis) and another hon. Member who spoke with a knowledge of East Ham. I speak with some knowledge of Stepney. Hon. Members opposite who come from provincial constituencies had better leave this to us. [Laughter.] Yes, and hon. Members on this side know what I am talking about.
§ Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
Is the East End of London the only place that was bombed? What about Birmingham?
§ Mr. Piratin
I shall carry on, even if it takes me a long time. From 1937 to 1939 we had a policy which demanded deep bomb-proof shelters. Certain proposals of this kind were made, and in 1938 we submitted a memorandum to the Government, but it was rejected. Certain borough and town councils—such as Finsbury, if I remember aright—even attempted to build some deep shelters but that, of course, was over-ridden by the Ministry of Health and the Home Department, who felt it would involve undue expenditure. But we felt that it should be done, and in 1940, when the bombing raids on London began, the then Home Secretary, in answer to the appeals of the people, said that he could not open the Tubes for use as public shelters. The people of East London were in terror. They had nowhere to go.
To country people who may not understand what I am saying, let me say this: the slum houses in Stepney, West Ham, Bethnal Green, Bermondsey and such like places could not stand up to the raids in anything like the same way as the well-constructed houses in the West End of London. It is no use anyone saying he also stuck it through the raids because I had opportunities at different times of the war of staying in different parts. I know that anyone who lived in a well-constructed house—although I never took shelter because I did not like doing so—never felt as uncomfortable as did people from the smaller houses in East London. Although those houses may never have come down, their inhabitants felt the blast if the bomb fell even a mile away.
§ Mr. Crossman rose——1136
§ Mr. Piratin
Let me finish my remarks. It is with that knowledge that I remind the House that when the people wanted deep shelters the Government of the day said, "We have not got any deep shelters for you." It was the Communist Party which played no mean part in helping them to get deep shelters in the form of Tube platforms and stairways. People may say that that was equally dangerous. If so, let them ask the people who took shelter. I never took shelter anywhere. Ask the people who took shelter there. That is what they wanted, and in the main they were old people, tired workers who wanted a night's rest, and children. These things have to be remembered and these are the things which, if the House were serious, we should be discussing now.
I submit that the House should not accept this Bill. We shall abstain from supporting it as a protest against the policy of the Government that has led up to the introduction of this Bill. If the House passes this Bill and wishes to give the impression to the public that we are taking Civil Defence measures, we on our part shall demand the same protection for the common man in the street as is given to the privileged and as is given to royalty.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I will not attempt to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin), beyond reminding the House, if it needs reminding, in regard to the comparative safety of big, or well-built houses, and little, or badly built houses, that the House of Commons was hit. That was not a small house, nor badly built, but anyone in it at that time would certainly not have stood a better chance than he would have stood in a small house in the East End of London.
I am quite sure that, with the possible exception of the two hon. Members of the Communist Party, we all agree that this Bill is indeed very necessary. But I also agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and other hon. Members that we ought to be given a great deal more information about the general establishment and framework of the proposed organisation, if we cannot have the details. Until the last Clause but two, namely, Clause 9, no information whatever is vouchsafed 1137 as to the meaning of the expression "designated Minister" which, if other provision is not made by Order in Council, is to mean the Secretary of State. Presumably it is the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I hope very much that it is the Secretary of State for the Home Department, because I am sure there is no Minister better qualified in every way to deal with this matter. It very largely involves local government and local authorities and we all know that he has had a great deal of personal experience of local government and that he is in general sympathy with local authorities. The statement should be very much more definite as to who the designated Minister is to be. The expression may mean "Ministers." He or they will have very wide powers.
It appears from Clause 6 that the provisions of the preceding Clauses are to be in addition to the provisions of the Civil Defence Acts of 1937 and 1939, which presumably will form the framework of the new system, but we are not told that in so many words. I hope that the experience of the working of the 1937 and 1939 Acts will be taken into consideration, not only as regards what was successful, but what might be improved upon by the experience of the late war.
In that respect, I would remind the House that the Lord President of the Council, who was an extremely good Minister of Home Security, stated in the House about June, 1941, that in the early days of Civil Defence, when he was in local government as Leader of the London County Council—that was before the war—he was very dissatisfied with the lack of guidance and assistance given by the Home Office at that time. That was the experience of most of those who had to work the Act at the local authority level. At that level I came into contact with the Act. Last time, the Civil Defence organisation grew up in what might be called a haphazard way. It was started on the county district level. Then the county councils were superimposed and, after that, the regional organisations were further superimposed. The Fire Service came later and was followed by the Fire Guards. Each time, to begin with there was some overlapping and, in some cases, friction. It was some time before the machine was running, and running comparatively smoothly.
1138 I very much regret that "designated Minister" may mean Ministers acting jointly. In the last war there were 15 Ministries concerned with Civil Defence, we were told. I do not hesitate to say that that resulted in delays, overlapping and, sometimes, friction. Perhaps it was difficult, with our system, to arrange otherwise, but the more various services provided by the different Ministries—ambulances and hospital services under the Ministry of Health, transport under the Ministry of Transport and the very important Ministry dealing with communications, the Post Office—can be brought for co-ordination under one Minister, the better. I use the word co-ordination because, in spite of the Home Secretary's objection to it, it seems to be the right word when we are speaking of co-ordination from above. The more they can be brought into co-ordination under one Minister, the better chance there will be of a speedy, smooth and efficient working of the machine.
It may be said that adequate co-ordination could be secured by means of the regional organisation with representatives of each of the Departments concerned under a regional commissioner superimposed over county and county borough councils. But last time the regional organisation took a long time to get working smoothly. Not only have representatives of Ministries in that regional organisation very much to learn about Civil Defence and about local government, but they were far too wedded to Civil Service methods. We have been told that a Joint Planning Staff has been set up and is sitting constantly. We may take it that it will not, as was the direction before the last war, be practically entirely in the hands of Home Office officials. They were far too wedded to Civil Service methods, scrutinising, minuting, querying, delaying, when what was required was action with all reasonable speed.
To begin with, the whole regional machinery was altogether too slow and too cumbersome. The original idea of the regional organisation was to provide an operational staff which could assist the regional commissioner if his region was cut off by bombing or invasion from the main centres of government and which could also be for the purposes of 1139 advising, planning and training. But over and above those functions, which are of importance, I suggest that the administrative portion should interfere as little as possible. In the Fighting Services the function of staff officers is, in the first place, to assist their own immediate chiefs, and secondly, to assist those under those chiefs. This might very well be borne in mind by regional staff officers if the regional organisations are to be reconstituted, for much time was wasted in getting permission to go ahead with Civil Defence work and the acquisition of equipment. Indeed, I would say that one good thing did result from the Dunkirk crisis, for the regional staffs then realised the urgency of these matters, and allowed work to go ahead. More work was done in a comparatively short time after the Dunkirk crisis than had been done or had been allowed for in a long time before that.
I earnestly hope that much more latitude will be allowed to the local authority, the county or county borough councils, or whatever are to be the local authorities—I hope it will be those—which will have these matters in charge. I hope more latitude will be allowed to them to go ahead with work and to spend money. They are not spendthrifts, as I believe the Home Secretary well knows. They have the interests of their ratepayers at heart, and they have capable officials, such as, for example, county architects and engineers, who are highly capable of getting on with Civil Defence work. I suggest that there might be standard patterns of Civil Defence works which should be approved, and which could be modified to suit local conditions. That might save a great deal of correspondence backwards and forwards before the sanction to carry out the work is given. County councils might have power to spend, without prior approval from the region, up to a reasonable sum, say at least £100.
I need not stress the importance of telephonic communications. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) spoke about wireless communications, and I entirely agree with him. But there must be telephonic communications, and for a long time in the early part of the last war nothing could persuade the Post Office 1140 that methods which were perfectly suitable for peace were not equally suitable in war-time. Urgent requests were met by statements that materials or instruments were not available. In the south of my county, Hampshire, where there are two great target towns. Portsmouth and Southampton, practically every Post Office line went into the central exchanges in those towns and came out again. If a lateral message had to be sent it had to be sent through those towns, and every time they were heavily bombed, which was not infrequent, those exchanges went out of action, and lateral messages could not be sent. It is most necessary that the Post Office and other Ministries also should really be brought into close coordination under the designated Minister, whoever he may be, in order to avoid that kind of thing.
I ask the Minister whether it will not be necessary again to have a Home Guard or some organisation of the kind. Is the mobile force to be something on the lines of the Home Guard, or is it to take its place? At all events, I am sure that the House would like to know whether it is proposed to have anything in the nature of a Home Guard. In the last war it was raised as an afterthought, and was kept outside the Civil Defence organisation. I believe that when there is time to think about it, as there is this time, it should be part of the Civil Defence organisation. I will not go into details but it is quite obvious that if it were part of that organisation the most appropriate men could be assigned for the most appropriate duties. I presume that special measures will be taken to deal with, and to provide against, so far as is possible, that terrible atomic attack which has been mentioned. The possibility of such attack must be visualised and provided against as far as possible.
I am glad to know of the Home Office circular asking authorities to ascertain how many ex-instructors will again offer their services either part-time or whole-time. There are a good many associations of A.R.P. instructors which have been formed throughout the country, and I believe that many ex-instructors will again become available through those associations. I would again emphasise that the closest liaison and co-operation is necessary for at least all branches of A.R.P., or whatever it is to be called, the 1141 Fire Service and the Home Guard. Also, if regional organisations are reconstituted, they must act towards the local authorities in a spirit of understanding, sympathy and helpfulness, rather than with the idea of scrutinising, checking, querying and delaying anything that is put up to them. I would only add that I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities, and with many hon. Members who have spoken, as to the doubtful wisdom of Clause 5 (2). To emphasise those penalties, necessary as they may be in war, seems hardly to be the best way to attract volunteers to Civil Defence.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
should like briefly to make four points in answer to points raised from the other side of the House. The first is in regard to the complaint made—and here the Communist Party appears to agree with the Conservative Party—that this is a skeleton, and an insufficient Bill. I think the answer is to ask ourselves what would have happened if the Home Secretary in opening—or the Minister of Health in winding-up—had answered all the questions which had been asked, if they had given, or were to give, a full and detailed plan for the Home Guard, for all anti-invasion measures, for all blackout regulations, for all firefighting, and for giving the military, powers over the civil authorities. If such a speech had been made, or were to be made, on Second Reading, there would have been a war scare in this country.
One of the great realisms of this Bill is that it says quite clearly that if we have to put things in order of priority—and here I am sure that we shall have the support of some Members opposite—Civil Defence is not the first priority for this country. Diplomatic defence comes first, active defence second, and Civil Defence comes a long way behind, unless we were literally on the edge of war tomorrow. That is the framework of this Bill, and that seems to me the reason why this is a streamlined Bill It is an enabling Bill, to enable the Government to do certain things in good time if it is necessary.
The second point I want to make is to urge the Home Secretary not to accept the plea of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir 1142 J. Anderson) about giving the military, power over the civil authorities.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am delighted to hear that the right hon. Gentleman really holds that under no circumstances should the military, when they come into an area, not be under the civil authorities as regards Civil Defence.
§ Sir J. Anderson
What I said was that the Home Secretary had to take account of the traditional relationship established when, under the existing law, military organisations came in aid of the civil power, and that if he intended, as I agree was right, that a different relationship should apply in regard to Civil Defence, the Manual of Military Law ought to be looked at again.
§ Mr. Crossman
I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, in the last war, at least we in Coventry found that it was absolutely essential that if the military were going to blow up one's houses, the city fathers should decide which houses were to be blown up. Therefore, in that way the relationship must he that of the civil authority using the military in co-operation with them. I am sure that there is really no disagreement. I thought there was a suggestion from the opposite side of the House that there might be martial law imposed under which the military would supervene.
I hope that the Minister of Health will give way to the feeling all over the House about the unfortunate character of this idea of penalties. I do not believe that we shall get any volunteers but this Clause, if it does anything, will act as nothing but a deterrent. I most seriously suggest, linked with that, that since there is no urgency in this question of recruiting one's part-time volunteers, the Government should consider the whole relationship of Civil Defence, Territorials and conscription as part of a single problem.
I believe that the long-term solution is that men should be exempted altogether from National Service, in certain cases where they are suitable for it, if they are ready to do, shall we say, 10 years in Civil Defence or 10 years in the Territorials. In that case, they should be exempt altogether from conscription. We 1143 must break down the notion that Civil Defence is civil in the sense that it is something inferior to military service. As a matter of fact, it and the Territorial looking after and manning the A.A. guns is all part of a single defence system. It would be a far more effective way of acquiring part-time amateur service to give people the attraction of going into Civil Defence when, if they do so and serve well for a certain time, they are exempted from conscription. That is a suggestion which the Government have plenty of time to consider when reconsidering their whole conscription policy.
My fourth point is once again to support the plea of those who come from blitzed areas about this 25 per cent. which we must pay. It was argued by hon. Gentlemen opposite that it is a bad thing that people should have responsibility without having to pay any part of the contribution. Most of the money is now a 100 per cent. grant. I cannot see that it will do any harm if it is a 100 per cent. grant or somewhere near it. It is extremely hard on the blitzed cities. It is much harder on some others than it is on Coventry. Coventry happens to be a city which can earn its money. It is a prosperous city and it has a good rateable value. Other cities are hard hit. The idea that because one is liable to be attacked, one should, therefore, have to pay a lot on the rates and that other cities and areas not liable to attack should not have to pay their burden, should be taken from the Bill. I cannot see why Civil Defence is left on the rates at all. It is wholly a national problem, just as much as any other form of defence. It is a part of our antiquated thinking to allow Civil Defence in terms of money to be left, even as to a quarter of the expenses, as something to be levied by way of rates.
Having made those four suggestions, I say that this is a good Bill mainly because it does not try to plan precisely what we are going to do in Civil Defence, and mainly because it realises that we are in between the weapons of one war and the weapons of the future, which we hope will not be used. It is impossible to have a cut-and-dried plan. I greet the Bill mainly because it is clear that the Government are sane about their whole attitude 1144 as to the immediate danger of war and are looking at the problem in terms of proper priority.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Howard (Westminster, St. George's)
I should like to call the attention of the Home Secretary to a statement that he made in his speech which I think that I must have slightly misunderstood. He referred to the fact that the Japanese had been the only people to suffer from the atom bomb. Then I understood him to say that this was the only country that had suffered from attacks by flying bombs. I know that he is the last person in the world who would wish to under-rate the ordeal suffered by our Allies in the Low Countries, particularly in the City of Antwerp.
§ Mr. Ede
I was most careful to add a few words which said that some of our Allies also suffered from that visitation. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman knows that I was suffering under some disability this afternoon with regard to my voice; but I carefully included a reference to those people. I would be the last to belittle the sufferings they endured at that time.
§ Mr. Howard
I am deeply grateful. It may be that I did not hear the Home Secretary because, as he is aware, even as a speaker's voice sometimes drops a little, a listener's voice sometimes rises a little at the same time just behind one. It is not always possible to catch every word that is spoken.
I am one of those who have no doubt whatever about the need for legislation of a wide, enabling and declaratory character to deal with such an enormous subject as Civil Defence. I want to add my voice to those who have made it clear that the wider the powers for which an executive ask, the more important becomes the task of Parliament to make certain that the powers granted are not so wide as unduly to restrict the liberty of the individual or the reasonable freedom of corporate action. It is not necessary for me to discuss the question of how wide these powers are, because the Home Secretary himself has openly and frankly disclosed that to the House. However, I would say that I view with real alarm Clause 6 (2 d) in which the designated Minister may, by regulation, substitute other provisions for any provisions of existing Acts which he chooses to repeal.
1145 That appears to give him powers which will make him a far greater and more powerful executive than even the two Houses of Parliament together. I do not consider that it is necessary to go quite so wide as that. As far as I can see, there is practically nothing which the Home Secretary would not be empowered to do if, as I assume, he is the designated Minister, except that he cannot actually engage in combat. Apart from that, if he can satisfy his conscience that something is expedient for Civil Defence, he not only is empowered but he is required to do it.
§ Mr. Howard
I said that he must be satisfied according to his own conscience. Of course, the extent of that limitation will vary according to who is exercising these functions. There is no question of the need for Civil Defence pre-arrangement. I assume that with the exception of a negligible minority in this House we all agree that there is a need for some preparation. I come then at once to the question of the nature of the positive measures which should be provided in consequence of this Bill. I will deal with the question in three phases. First, there is what I regard as the highest strategic level; then there is the intermediate local authority tactical level, and then there is the individual. In the case of the highest strategic level—that is, the control and co-ordination at Cabinet, Defence Committee and Chiefs-of-Staff level—I derived some comfort from what the Home Secretary said today. I think that there have been improvements. I must admit for myself that I am not happy that the arrangements so far made to ensure control and co-ordination at that highest level are yet as advanced or as comprehensive as they should be.
Why, may I ask, is the name of the Minister of Labour not backing this Bill? Surely, if we get into a situation when Civil Defence is called to the operational stage, a vast deployment of labour, a vast amount of change in human activity, will be required? It seems to me absolutely essential that the Ministry of Labour 1146 should be closely associated with the preparatory stages. Again, so far as children are concerned, obviously, the Minister of Education will have a most important function. We have heard nothing about either of those today.
On the question of one overall Ministry, the Prime Minister, I think just over two years ago, said that our experience in war had shown that a separate Minister was required to co-ordinate Civil Defence activity. The right hon. Gentleman was not quite accurate, because the separate Minister who was co-ordinating Civil Defence activities was himself separated and was carrying on Departmental activities at the same time. None the less, I think there is general agreement that it is desirable to have one Minister who is solely concerned with thinking Civil Defence, and I personally would like to see that Minister one of Cabinet rank, though I realise that there are objections to that course in peace time? I urge the Home Secretary and the Government to consider the advisability, at this stage, of appointing a junior Minister, presumably attached to the Home Office, who would be specifically charged with thinking and working Civil Defence and who would have no other Departmental duties.
If I may now turn to the intermediate stage at which the local authorities become vitally concerned, there is, of course, a very nicely balanced argument as to the advantages of decentralisation or centralisation. Have we not, in our own experience at some time or other, if we have ever had any executive responsibility, appreciated the administrative convenience of centralised control? Have we not all, if we have been at the other end, experienced the disadvantage of what appeared to us to be over-centralised control? I come down on the side of decentralisation, and I would like to see the greatest possible discretion granted down to the very smallest unit. May I quote here some words which were written as the foreword to one of the Manuals issued in connection with Civil Defence, early in 1939, just before the last war opened?There seem to me to be two pitfalls to avoid and two principles to bear in mind. We must avoid any settled idea of what an enemy would do, and equally avoid complicated plans which would inevitably break down in war. We must be prepared for the worst situation we can visualise and evolve plans which 1147 will go on working if all higher control is lost.An organisation on such lines means that everyone must think out his own problems in his own area, and be ready to accept a great deal of responsibility and display a great deal of initiative both in peace and war.I believe that those words are as sound today as when they were written, and, because I believe that, I think we must encourage initiative in the lowest formations. The only way to encourage that initiative is by devolving responsibility on these smaller authorities. I presume that the type of function which the smaller local authorities would be required to carry out should be the same type as that which they carry out in peace time. For instance, the repair of bridges would be the function of the authority normally dealing with bridges, while the roads would be the responsibility of the authority dealing with highways, and so on. There are a number of peace-time functions which are the responsibility of the very smallest local authorities, and I urge that, even granted the need for bringing in mutual assistance and co-ordinating mobile reserves, all of which I recognise, the greatest measure of local responsibility should still be left with the smaller authorities.
There is one matter which will be extremely difficult, and that is the delimitation of areas. I personally regret the need for regional organisations superimposed on the existing local authority organisations, though, frankly, I cannot see how it can be avoided. If such an organisation is to be set up, and, as my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke from these benches before me said, it was set up for operational purposes in the last war, it is essential that it should be observed by every Government Department. At the moment, a large number of Government Departments have developed their own regional organisations, many of which overlap. They will all be able to make out an extremely good case why their particular regional organisation is the best for their peace-time functions and should not be altered.
I suggest that now is the time to knock the heads of those Departments together and make it apparent to them that, should the tragedy of war arise, they will 1148 be to blame if, for their peace-time convenience, they prevent the proper coordination in war of regional areas of Departmental activity. It is not going to be easy, and I suggest that it should be tackled promptly and carried right through. Another point in connection with the organisation being prepared in advance concerns the selection of individuals for these important posts. It seems to me that it is essential to select these individuals in advance, so that they can thoroughly get to know their own areas, the people with whom they will work and the nature of the problems which will confront them from day to day.
May I now say a few words on the question of the Civil Defence forces or services? If my point of view is a little narrow here, it is because I was personally associated with one of these services—the warden's service—and, if it is narrow, I would remind the House that, in an official book on Civil Defence, the name of which I have forgotten, the warden was described as:the special functionary who gave to British Civil Defence its peculiar character and was so largely instrumental in its success.The particular section of Civil Defence with which I was concerned covered the whole of the London Civil Defence Region, and on 31st December, 1940, just about the middle of the blitz on London, it had a strength of well over 120,000 people, which was approximately the size of the whole British Navy just before the war, and considerably larger than the whole of the Royal Air Force just before the war. Therefore, though the view was narrow in one aspect, it did enable one to cover a certain number of individuals and a certain amount of territory. I admit it is still narrow, but having said that, I want to say this about the proposed force.
I strongly believe that there should be one Civil Defence force, whatever it may be called, and not several. I also believe that that force should be organised on a national basis, although individuals and groups within it will require specialised training for the performance of specialised duties. I know this is a controversial point, but at this stage of the Bill it is our duty to give our honest opinions to the Government in the hope that, 1149 ultimately, they may be of help, even if they are not acceptable now. I say this because, as I understood the Home Secretary, the present plan is that the mobile force is to be organised on a national basis, but that the static force is to be organised on a local authority basis. I may have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, but that is what I understood him to say. If that is the plan, I think it is wrong, and I suggest that the Government should think again and should organise both forces on a national basis.
The name and the status are most important, and on this point I have nothing to add to the constructive suggestions which have already been made. I am convinced that it would be wrong to put this force under the direction and control of the police. It would be wrong, in the first place, because the police have a special tradition of their own; they have special privileges and functions which are not appropriate for an improvised and specialised wartime force. In addition, they have so many enormous additional duties imposed upon them by the very fact of wartime conditions that they simply cannot give the time and attention which a new Civil Defence Force needs. I worked very closely with the police, and what I am now saying is in no way antagonistic towards them. All the same, I am convinced that the present proposals will not work.
So far as recruitment and the nature of the service are concerned, I am sure that, except for the instructors, they will have to be mainly part-time and entirely voluntary in peacetime. Recruitment should be done at the lowest local level. No amount of propaganda or posters issued from Whitehall can possibly make up for the enthusiastic support of local people. In that connection, I should like to ask whether, when recruitment does take place and local formations are started, provision can be made for each one of those local formations to have one tiny physical headquarters of its own. I do not mind how small it is, but if a local force, whether it be a boy scouts' organisation or a youth club, has one tiny bit of physical accommodation—the larger the better, of course—even one room, which it can call its own, it is astonishing what a difference there is in its moral when it begins to feel that it has an existence of its own.
1150 The other point I wish to make is that I hope there will be no idiotic skimpiness in enabling a volunteer to get the necessary equipment and means of training. If volunteers are required to pay out of their own pockets for what they really need in order to improve their efficiency, nothing but disaster can arise. I must not detain the House much longer, but having lived in this business for a good many years, I could bore the House for hours on it.
In conclusion, I want to say a word about this penalty Clause. It was not an easy job before the war, and even during what was called the "phoney war," to recruit, train and try to instil a measure of self-confidence and esprit de corps in this voluntary force; but it was done somehow or other, and it was done thanks to the patriotism and the gallantry of the hundreds and thousands of men and women who undertook the job. I am certain that these services could never have been initiated and formed had they had to start in face of a threat such as that contained in this penalty Clause. It is tragic folly to have a Clause of this kind, and I cannot think how it has slipped into the Bill. I hope that before this Debate closes tonight the Minister who replies will say quite frankly that the Government have made a mistake and that they will withdraw the Clause. If they do that, I am sure they will not only lose no prestige, but will gain enormous national support.
I have had a good many conversations with people formerly engaged in Civil Defence, and I know that there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who will support me in what I am going to say. There is not one of those people who is not clear as to the need for penalties and for their firm enforcement as and when an emergency arises. They are clear about that, and will support it, but I am certain there is not one of them whose gorge does not rise at the suggestion that penalties should be imposed at this stage. I apologise if I appear to have spoken unduly warmly on this matter, but when one has worked for a good many years with a voluntary service, one begins to know the feeling. In the future, as in the past, the country will be dependent for its Civil Defence organisation on the preliminary work of 1151 a comparatively few super-patriotic individuals who will volunteer. It is not going to be easy to get them. Therefore, do not let us now make it harder for them.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington (Lewisham, West)
Although I support this Measure, I cannot say in the traditional way that I welcome it. As many hon. Members have already said, it is a very sad commentary on world affairs that a Civil Defence Bill is needed three years after the end of the war. Nevertheless, I am certain that such a Measure is required, and that it would be the maximum folly to fail to take all necessary steps. Many of us remember the grim atmosphere of November, 1938, when trenches were being hurriedly dug in the parks and gas masks hastily distributed. We remember the public concern at the time, not so much because of the actual fear of war as, perhaps, first of all, about how far we were sacrificing another country to save our own skins, and, secondly, at the feeling that the arrangements being made for defence were obviously improvised and likely to be quite ineffective. Therefore, the public had little faith in them. It is essential that we should avoid any possible repetition of that kind of thing in the future. The ordinary public must have confidence in the Civil Defence arrangements being made.
With the hon. Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Howard), I am a little concerned at Clause 5 (2), which indicates that certain penalties may be applied to volunteers who fail to honour their obligations. I can see the logic of applying similar treatment to that prescribed in the Territorial Forces, because it is these volunteers who will become the indispensable key personnel in the several defence organisations. They must be absolutely reliable or the whole structure will break down. This seems obviously true. But if this service is to be really effective—if it is to be what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) called an "organisation of self-help"—it is necessary to enthuse and animate the individuals who are going to sacrifice so much leisure and so much time for this public work.
1152 I am sure that the negative approach in the Bill is psychologically quite wrong. As one who from a humble position had an opportunity of seeing our Defence Forces at work in London during the war, I was astonished at the magnificent services they wholeheartedly rendered to their organisation, and the endeavours they made to see that, at whatever cost to themselves, their little sector was always manned and they were there to do their job. This was particularly true of the part-time workers and the volunteers in Civil Defence. These men and women generally were doing a job in the factory, in the office or in the home, and had difficult journeys to and from their homes when going to work. Yet night after night, particularly in the blitzes of 1940 and in 1944, they always turned up to give of their best so that their essential work could be carried on.
I had hoped that the Home Secretary, when making his opening speech, would have given a little praise to this great body of men and women, who rendered such remarkable service in the past, and would also emphasise how we shall and must depend upon them in the future. Such a note was completely absent from my right hon. Friend's speech. On the whole the Civil Defence services had rather a poor deal. There was a great deal in what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities about the feeling in the Civil Defence services. They had very little recognition and no medals. Perhaps they did not want medals, but we should remember the feats they accomplished and the risks they ran in all the great cities, particularly in London and the South-East, during the war, equal in many cases to the perils which others underwent in His Majesty's Forces.
If these penalties must be retained—and I hope that that matter will be reconsidered—we must give more encouragement and a greater status to the volunteers in the Civil Defence movement. I hope that, first, the Government will reconsider the matter of penalties, and, secondly, I hope the Minister of Health, when winding up this Debate, will give much more positive encouragement to the men and women who will be asked to sacrifice a very considerable amount of their leisure in order to become properly trained to do this work efficiently.
1153 Another thing I hope the Government will bear in mind is that those who have been trained and have some knowledge of the work should make it more widely known to their neighbours as opportunity arises. There is a great feeling of cynicism among many people that because of the horrors of modern weapons they think that there is very little that can be done. We all know that if we are faced with a modern conflict it will be infinitely worse than anything we knew in the past. However, I am certain that civilised men and women must emancipate themselves from fear which is partly based on ignorance, and we should show to the people that it will not be possible for an enemy to secure a knock-out blow suddenly on any country which is well prepared. If that knowledge is made available, men and women will have the will power to take the necessary action to save themselves. I am quite alarmed at this feeling of hopelessness and frustration amongst people because of the horrors in Japan about which they have read. Too many of them think that nothing can be done. I am the last person to suggest that any conflict of this kind in the future will not be devastating, but we ought to realise what can be done to minimise it, and, at least, how we can certainly save ourselves, if we have the right spirit and if we realise that it is not possible for the enemy to win automatically through a sudden knock-out blow.
There is a minor point I should like to mention. I hope the appointments, when made, by local authorities, particularly in the voluntary services, will be made from as many different sectors of the community as possible. In the past there was some feeling in certain areas that the selection came only from a narrow coterie. These difficulties disappeared when any peril arose, but it is a pity if personal antagonisms of that kind arise, because responsibilities should be evenly shared by all sections of the people. I hope that proper instruction will be given in this matter.
In connection with any possible works that may be undertaken by local authorities or indeed by the Government themselves, particularly in connection with the construction of shelters or other structures, I hope all the time the possible alternative uses for these erections will be considered. For example, some of the 1154 deep shelters we know were part of the plan for the extension of the tubes. In many of our cities the problem of car parks in the city centre is one that is always providing almost intractable difficulties, and it may well be that in many instances deep shelters could be combined with some other use as, for example, a car park, or in some other way. I know there are many other possibilities, and I hope they will be borne in mind.
I must join with my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Cross-man) in connection with Clause 3 and the 25 per cent. which local authorities will have to bear. I know that local authorities never want to bear any of the cost of these services, and, therefore, I shall have very little support from the Government here. However, I represent a blitzed area, the Borough of Lewisham, where 54,000 houses were damaged, some of them more than once. That borough already feels it has not had a fair deal financially, although I think, on the whole, it is prepared to accept the arrangements. It is enough to have to bear such a burden, but if on the top of it they are asked to pay 25 per cent. for these preparations, which are part of the nation's defence arrangements, it is asking rather a lot. We know that if there is another conflict, situated as we are on the approaches to a great city, it is hardly likely that we shall escape. Because of these facts, I think the financial burdens ought to be looked at again, and I certainly hope they will be.
Lastly, I think this is a workmanlike attempt to reorganise our Civil Defence services. It is, of course, only the structure of the scheme, and what happens will depend on the character of the regulations issued. All Members of the House must keep a very watchful eye upon these regulations, not because one is necessarily suspicious of the Government but in order to see that the essential spirit of a trained citizens' army is maintained. That is the spirit we want in the Civil Defence service of the country, because it is only with a spirit of cooperation from public-minded men and women that we shall make a successful conclusion of this vital job.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Sargood (Bermondsey, West)
While everyone will agree that it is regrettable that we have to discuss this subject 1155 of Civil Defence tonight, at the same time the Government would be open to the charge of negligence if they did not take these steps. Those who try to avoid war should themselves be most strongly insistent on measures to minimise the effect of aerial bombardment on the civil population. We are in that category now that we are doing our best to avoid war. We realise it is our duty to provide whatever protection we can should war come upon us again.
In introducing the Measure, the Home Secretary said that the new service would have a civilian basis and would be based on the fire, police and medical services and on the local authorities. He did not make it clear what the term "based on" means, but he used that term. He explained that he was not giving a detailed explanation. That became obvious as his' speech proceeded. In some respects we can understand that he did not find himself able to make a detailed statement, because at this stage it would not be altogether appropriate to give one. However, there can be no doubt that there are questions that can and should be answered at this stage. For example, what does the expression "forces and services" in Clause 1 (1, a) mean? Does it refer to established forces and services such as the fire, police and medical services? Or are we to assume that certain aspects of the former Civil Defence organisation are to be revived?
Excellent and courageous as were the services rendered by members of Civil Defence services in the last war, we must admit that there were some defects in the organisation. For example, there was too much dual control and there was duplication of the communication systems, which tended to lessen the proficiency of the service. Steps were taken to overcome the deficiencies, but, nevertheless, because of that system, because of the overlapping of duties and responsibilities in the service itself, there was a good deal of friction. In wartime we cannot afford the difficulties caused by such friction.
Moreover, such duplication means waste of manpower. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at that matter again to see if it cannot be reconsidered. We have to appreciate that we cannot look at this problem altogether on the basis of what happened in the last war. Let 1156 us make no mistake about it, future wars will be different. But there were mistakes made last time that can be avoided, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider the difficulties in the hope that similar mistakes will be avoided in the future.
I suggest for the consideration of the Government that in the future, the functional responsibilities of the Civil Defence services should devolve on as few services as possible, and that their duties should be clearly defined. Whatever form of attack we may have to face, we have to avoid the difficulties to which I have referred. I insist upon mentioning those difficulties, because I know from experience how they arise from dual and overlapping responsibility. I suggest that the duties should be carried out in the following fashion. I know that in some quarters this will not be very popular, but we have to remember that war in the future will be highly organised and swift, and that we have to be highly organised to meet it. I suggest that the police should be responsible for communications and as a reporting agency, and for shelter control. Were those services allotted to them, there would be a clear-cut definition of their responsibilities that could be quite easily carried out by the police forces. Nor would they interfere with the functions of other forces.
The fire brigades should be responsible for rescue work, both heavy and light. In spite of the presence of members of other services at the scenes of attack in the last war, the firemen on most occasions were also engaged in rescue work, for they were on the spot, anyway. Without wishing to minimise the work done by other branches of Civil Defence, I can say that, a great deal of work other than fire-fighting fell on the fire brigades. Other services which the firemen could undertake would be demolition, and the job of organising local fire parties, if they were found to be necessary. Medical services, of course, would be responsible for the treatment of casualties, first aid, the ambulance services, and any precautionary measures that could be devised against bacterial warfare. The local authorities would be responsible for the clearance of debris, repair work, evacuation. I suggest that a joint committee should be responsible 1157 for such essential services as the supplies of electricity, gas and water. By these means we should have a clear definition of function that would avoid overlapping and dual responsibility.
It was suggested by my right hon. Friend that the local authorities should recruit and train members of the Civil Defence organisation. I hope he will not proceed with that suggestion. I feel that if we could get these several services clearly defined, as I have mentioned them, they themselves would be quite capable of recruiting and training people for those services. That would create an esprit de corps in each service, whose members would know their duties and responsibilities. If anyone volunteers for these Civil Defence services, will he be exempt from military service, if he is otherwise liable for it? Whilst it may not in our lifetime be necessary to use these services—as, indeed, I hope—at any rate, the first responsibility of the Government is to see that those services are ready if necessary.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
I am very grateful to have been chosen to take part in this Debate. I have to follow two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken with great knowledge of the subject under discussion, particularly from the point of view of the local authorities. It is from that point of view that I am going to speak for a very few minutes. I am going to give a worm's eye view. However, I am not sure that that is the correct expression. I happened to be the first chairman of the A.R.P. committee set up by my local authority, responsible for 30,000 people, for the two years previous to the war, and that was more like being a toad under a harrow, than having a worm's eye view.
I should like to suggest one thing which, I think, is absolutely essential in dealing with this problem. I think that at every step the Government must take the people into their confidence. This is a people's service, and it must be regarded as such. I must be careful, as the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Mr. Sargood) said, not to draw false conclusions regarding the next war, if there is to be one, from an entirely irrelevant set of circumstances. However, before the last war—and I think the hon. Member for East 1158 Leyton (Mr. Bechervaise) is probably with me in this—we did have a great deal of difficulty in that, sometimes, the officers of the local council had confidential information which they could not impart to the chairman and other members of the A.R.P. committee. That was somewhat irritating. That sort of thing should not arise. I do not believe the Government can possibly say they have any reason whatever for not taking people into their confidence.
I do not think they would be doing their duty if they did not take a lead in organising Civil Defence now. I do not think any sensible person would disagree with the view that not to take steps to put ourselves into preparation for some form of Civil Defence would be madness at this time. We may, personally and individually, think war is neither inevitable nor imminent. We may even be prepared to venture our own lives on that assumption, but we have no right, and the Government certainly have no right, to gamble with the lives of others if there is the slightest chance that war is imminent. He would be a very unwise man who was prepared to sweep away that possibility.
The criticism which I have to make of the machinery of this Bill—and it is, of course, a machinery Bill—is that it reminds me of a general who wishes to keep his lines of communication clear and designs something like a Forth bridge over the river behind him. He designs a beautiful bridge, but he is apt to forget the immediate importance of the pontoon, which he can make for himself. Bridges are very good, but when one has to keep lines of communication open, it is also essential to have a pontoon.
I want to talk for a moment of the immediate problem and the immediate danger, which we must not neglect and which we have no right to neglect. Once or twice in my life, I have had to try to set up an organisation whilst working against time—trying to get something ready against a time limit of which I had no knowledge. On both those occasions, I adopted the same method, which, I think, is a good one. There is nothing particularly patent about it. I think that every sensible man does it—that is, he makes immediate plans. When we were trying to get ready for A.R.P., the first thing that we did was 1159 to look to our assets. It is absolutely vital to make an immediate plan and to assume, almost as a lunatic would, that war is coming tomorrow, and to try to get a form of organisation going which would at least give something to build upon.
For example, under the present circumstances, one of the things which the local councils should know—and, after all, the weight of all these preparations will fall on the local authorities at first in a case of emergency—is how to take charge of the situation; how they are going to talk to the people—where they can get their loudspeakers, etc., where they can get spades and pick-axes. If their own supplies are blitzed, they must know where they can get others. All these are simple things which must come into any final plan. These are the things which local authorities can get on with now. The Government should issue instructions or suggestions to local authorities, to nationalised industries and to public services and others that they should now get down to preparing a plan for immediate action which can gradually be replaced by the larger plan. I strongly commend that immediate course of action to the Government.
Mention has been made of the Home Guard. I think that one of the first things in an attack on this country might well be the landing of airborne troops in large numbers. That is the unknown which we have to face. There are other imponderable unknowns, such as the atom bomb, but we can at least visualise being attacked by airborne troops. That is something which we should consider very carefully in our organisation. I think that it will be found, should we ever have another war, that we have to have closer integration between such organisations as the Home Guard and Civil Defence. I hope that that question will be borne in mind by the Government in making their plans. I and other hon. Members in this House, well remember the doubts which were in every one's mind as to what the civil population had to do when we were likely to be invaded at almost any moment. It was very difficult to find out from any sources what people were to do. I hope that we can at least avoid that situation should the disaster of another war come upon us suddenly.
1160 I do not think that any hon. Member tonight has spoken in favour of fining volunteers who do not turn up for their jobs. I feel most strongly that such an action ought to be cut out. The very people who will be the most critical of the volunteer who does not turn up to do his job, will be the very people who will be most critical if he is fined. We may have people resigning because someone has been fined. There are other ways of bringing pressure to bear on such a man than by laying down in black and white that he should be fined £5, when, presumably, he has only to resign before he is summoned, to dodge the penalty altogether. The whole thing seems rather stupid. The British are a great people, but they cannot be led or ruled by threats. That is the sort of thing which they will not stand for, and I hope that the Government realise that. I cannot believe that any sensible Government in this country would bring in a Clause of this nature.
I wish the Government well in their arrangement for Civil Defence. I know that they are undertaking a task which is not popular and one which will not bring them in votes at the Election. That is all the more reason why they must do it. [Laughter.] That took a long time to get across, but it got there eventually. In any case, I wish them well with it, and I am certain that they will not let things of that nature stop them. By making their arrangements now, they may well lay the foundations for the defence of this country in its most dangerous hour.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
In none of the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon could I find any real note of criticism. It is a regrettable necessity, as I think we are all agreed, that a few years after the termination of a successful war we should be called upon to introduce this Measure. The Government are to be congratulated upon the courage which they have shown in introducing it. They have not gone into the details of organisation. That, as we all know, is a particularly difficult problem.
The House has been fortunate in hearing from the Home Secretary a lucid exposition of the Bill, and particularly in having one to follow him who was closely associated with the original Bill. 1161 The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) is the Member around whom the web of Civil Defence was woven. I should also like to remind the House of the great part which was taken in Civil Defence in its early days by the Lord President of the Council. It has been said, over and over again, that the Civil Defence organisation was a piece of improvisation—the kind of work at which we as a people are very good—and it is a tribute that it should be reintroduced in very much the same form as in the earlier Acts of 1937 and 1939. We then had no experience, and there were many who believed that nothing of the kind could happen; but they went on with the organisation, and I am sure we are all prepared to pay tribute to the wonderful organisation that was built up.
It has been suggested in the Debate that this should be a purely national service. There is a great deal to be said for that point of view, particularly with regard to expenditure. It is tragic that those areas of the country which suffered most from bombing—very often poor areas—should have to bear any of the burden of what is really a national duty. If a poor part of the East End of London is bombed, then not only that area suffers but the whole country may suffer as a result of the destruction of a vital part of a capital city like London.
Consequently, the Government might consider whether they may not go even further by making a 100 per cent. grant to all local authorities engaged in this work. At the same time, we cannot neglect the local authorities. The combination of central control and local authorities in touch with their own individual communities was the crux of the whole system, and anything which in any way derogates from the responsibility of the local authority ought to be considered very carefully before implementation.
I used to marvel, particularly at some of the poorer rural areas and the enthusiasm they showed in building up their organisations. True, it was only incidentally tested, but I frequently rejoiced to find that local authorities in poor rural areas discharged their difficult duties just as well as the authorities in richer parts of the country. From that aspect I very much welcome what the Home Secretary 1162 said this afternoon about the active cooperation of local authorities.
One respect in which this Bill marks a distinct departure is in the combination of the Civil Defence service and the military service. That is an entirely new feature. It is a considerable advantage if a mobile military service can be persuaded, under conditions of this kind, to associate itself with the work of a local authority and to assist them. Yet I was very impressed with the assertion of the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities that it must be clearly laid down that if the military mobile column comes in to assist, control still lies in the hands of the local authority.
In my opinion it would be fatal to introduce the military element—which as all know did a tremendous amount of excellent work in this connection—if they felt they were in control of the machine; that would be entirely contrary to the great traditions of this country, and particularly of this service. The service was built up upon the local authorities and the men they employed; it was wonderful to see how these men were able, after a short training, to stand up to the very difficult problems they had to face, some of them almost nightly.
I welcome the Bill very warmly. But that does not mean we are convinced—and I do not think anybody in the House is convinced—that a war is inevitable. However, it is the duty of the Government to make the best provisions they can. They cannot foresee the future, and we all realise that should another war come it will be of an entirely different nature from the last; but it is the Government's duty to make whatever provision they think right for protecting our people from the harassing experience so many of them underwent in the last war.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I hope I shall not disappoint the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) if I am a little critical of this Bill, although I trust I shall not be too controversial. I agree very much with what he and the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Skeffington) said in referring to how tragic it is that we should be talking about this subject now so soon after the war, but how very right it is that we should be. I should like to associate myself with the tribute paid by the hon. Member for 1163 West Lewisham to the Civil Defence services in the last war. Also, as he said, it is very important that the people of this country should be told as far as is possible the real position about the modern weapons of a future war.
Let me now add my welcome to this Bill which, as I think the Home Secretary knows, we on this side of the House think is perhaps a little overdue. This Bill is, as it says in the first line, an enabling Bill. I, like my hon. and right hon. Friends, think that perhaps we might have been told a little more in the Bill. The Home Secretary told us quite a lot in his speech; we shall no doubt hear a lot in Committee, and perhaps from the Minister of Health tonight; but it would seem that a little more than this bare structure might have been put into the Bill. The Lord President of the Council, when winding up the Second Reading Debate on the Iron and Steel Bill last week, said that it was a preposterous suggestion that the Government should embody in a Bill specific and detailed plans for the future organisation of the industry. Well, I hope that this will not create a precedent for occasions when the Government have not got their plans as far advanced as they should like them to be.
I must offer a word of criticism for the last three years. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) said today that he had been to an exhibition on, I think, how to spend one's spare time, at which no reference had been made to Civil Defence. I would point out that since 1945 more could have been done in working up enthusiasm with local authorities and the many organisations to continue the Civil Defence work which grew up during the last war, for many of the organisations still remained in being. Until recently I know of no action taken since 1945 to encourage organisations of this sort. There may have been some but I do not know of them. I should like to ask a question concerning this period since 1945. I understand that in 1946 notice was given that there would be short three- to six-day refresher courses for Civil Defence officers. Was the Home Secretary satisfied with those courses; was there a good attendance, and did they produce the results which he expected?
1164 My next question concerns shelters. The Home Secretary referred to various cartoons in the newspapers, and he will no doubt remember one of some workmen building a shelter while others close by were knocking one down. What is the policy at the moment with regard to all types of shelters? In passing, perhaps either now or in Committee he will be able to tell us what is a shelter over a highway, to which he referred during this speech? He referred to shelters beside, under and over a highway, and it would be very interesting to me to know what a shelter over a highway is like.
There are one or two other points I should like to make, and the first arises from the many references in the Bill to the Minister designated. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities dealt with that point at some length. At the beginning of the war the Home Secretary was the Minister responsible for law and order, and he has found himself at the head of Civil Defence. It has been suggested, on the other hand, that the Minister of Defence should take over Civil Defence. I hope we shall be told exactly what the position is to be. I thought that the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for the St. George's Division of Westminster (Mr. Howard), that a junior Minister should be appointed either to the Home Office or perhaps to the Ministry of Defence to study Civil Defence problems, was a very good one. Perhaps we shall hear something about that either tonight or in the Committee.
I should like to refer to Clause 3 which deals with the expenses for work done by local authorities. The Home Secretary explained to us that those who did not lag behind should not find themselves at any disadvantage. I am glad to say that I am able to associate my borough which I have the honour to represent with the wise virgins to whom the Home Secretary referred, but I think that in the 75 per cent. category the same situation which we had in the past might arise again in the future. Those who do certain things will get 75 per cent. of the expenses paid. If in the future there is an emergency and everybody is told to do those things, those people who have been ahead of the others will again suffer. I think that is what happened in many cases at the beginning of the last war. 1165 I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that point before the Committee stage.
I want to say a few words, although a good deal has already been said, about the personnel side of the Bill and the call for volunteers, which I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree has been spoilt by this £5 penalty. As was said in a letter to "The Times" this morning, punishing the volunteer cannot be justified while the slacker goes free. I think that explains the position very well. A great many people have taken the analogy of the Territorial Army and the R.N.V.R., and have said that the same sort of things occur there, but I do not think—and my hon. and gallant Friends will bear me out—that that is the case. In the voluntary Services benefits, grants and bounty are given for attendance and for proficiency. If a man is not proficient or does not attend he does not get the bounty or the grant. That is a little different from asking for volunteers and then fining a man or woman if he or she does not attend.
As hon. Members have said, this will give rise to many curious cases. How many times will a man be fined before it comes about that he is said to have resigned or deserted, whatever the word may be? No doubt, all those small points will come up during the Committee stage, but I particularly ask the Government to consider the position and, if possible, to make a statement tonight. I do not think that the only alternative to this present penalty is compulsion. The real alternative to the penalty is to make the whole Civil Defence services really first class from the word "go." The right appeal must be made. The whole thing must be given an interesting outlook. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said, perhaps it could be called the Royal Civil Defence Corps. One must get the local spirit into it as well by recruiting locally, and for each individual section of the service.
Is anything being done to interest the young people of this country in Civil Defence, by which I mean the organised youth movements? There are many of them which, no doubt, will occur to the Home Secretary. I would mention the Sea Cadets, the Girls' Training Corps, the Boy Scouts, who did great work in Civil 1166 Defence in the war, the Boys' Brigade and many others. Those young people want to learn, and they are very keen. I also want to know whether Civil Defence training is going to be given to the National Service men in the Forces. When they have finished their call-up periods, they will be invaluable instructors in peace-time.
When I say that the whole organisation should be first class, I particularly ask that the right appeal should be made to every section of the community which has anything to do with it. By that I mean the nationalised industries, local employers and local trades councils. Perhaps I may give an example. I heard the other day of a case where a local Territorial Headquarters wrote to the local trades council asking them to attend a meeting with the local employers and heads of industry to discuss the best methods of recruiting in their neighbourhood. They did not answer the letter for nearly a month, and when they did they merely said that it had been brought to the attention of their council and it had been decided that no action should be taken. I do not think that that is very helpful, and I suggest that as soon as possible everybody should be contacted to ensure that this organisation really goes well from the start.
My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities referred to Clause 9 and the interpretation of the duties of Civil Defence. I should like to draw attention to the words "actual combat." The Clause says:Civil Defence' includes any measures not amounting to actual combat.They do not seem to me to be quite the right words. Hon. Members have spoken about invasion and hordes of paratroops landing in this country. I should hate to think of some poor Civil Defence worker grappling to the death with the enemy and not being quite sure whether he was acting in accordance with his terms of reference or not.
Finally I would speak about the operational picture and the need, to which the Home Secretary referred, to take as many precautions as possible now. I was very glad to hear him say that. In the last war there was a delay before there were any air-raids on this country, but—and I think hon. Members will agree—I do not think that we should get the same 1167 sort of year's delay as we did then. I think that the air-raids which we had in those days were relatively small. I do not wish in any way to belittle what the people did in this country, far from it, but I do not think that the raids which we had on this country were anything like those which we inflicted on Germany.
I myself have seen the damage in Hamburg, Berlin and in the Ruhr, and I very much wonder whether our Civil Defence organisation would have stood up to that sort of attack. I wonder whether it would have stood up to the sort of damage and disorganisation inflicted on Hamburg and Essen, and whether it would have been sufficiently flexible, sufficiently decentralised and mobile. These raids were made by what are now called "conventional weapons," and as our present plans no doubt are based on this form of weapon, we must sooner or later take into account the atomic bomb and other weapons of mass destruction. The United States have gone into this matter very thoroughly. Firstly, there is the report by the President's Air Policy Commission, published on 1st January this year, which is usually known as the Finletter Report. Secondly, there is a report published on 13th November by the Office of Civil Defence Planning, which no doubt corresponds to the Joint Civil Defence Planning Staff mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. That report has just been made to Mr. Forrestal, the Secretary of Defence, and no doubt we shall soon see a similar report made by the Joint Civil Defence Planning Staff to the right hon. Gentleman.
In this report, as many Members probably saw recently in the "Observer," estimates are given of the sort of casualties that can be expected from an atomic attack and the size of the areas affected. These figures are not based on statistics but on the results of the bombing of Japan and on the Bikini experiments. As the Home Secretary knows, I was one of the two Members who had the honour to represent the House at the latter. Many problems arise in that connection, but I shall not attempt to go into them now in any detail. Many of these problems do not arise in connection with conventional weapons as we know them today. There is the tremendous damage done by the 1168 explosion, the intense heat which causes tremendous fires, the radiations of explosion and the contamination of areas for unknown periods by radio-activity. Such problems as the relative areas affected by these dangers and how each affects or overlaps the other, how long it will be possible to live in an area, or how long before it is possible to pass through an affected area, are all problems that have to be worked out in the next few years.
As my hon. Friend the Member for St. George's Division of Westminster (Mr. Howard) has said, we should prepare for the worst situation. The Home Secretary said at the conclusion of his speech that we must have a sense of proportion and strike the right line between defence, offence and our economic recovery. I think there is no doubt that any possible enemy of this country must hope that we may err along one of these lines.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Kinghorn (Great Yarmouth)
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble), and if he has the patience to stay for a few moments, he will find that we are approaching this problem in rather a similar way. I was also interested in the two speeches made by our opening batsmen from both Front Benches. There was the statesmanlike speech which we always expect to have from my right hon. Friend on the Government Front Bench, and there was also the statesmanlike utterance from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), who had such a ripe experience of Civil Defence during the last war.
The one thing which struck me was that the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities was at great pains to point out to his opposite number on the Government Front Bench, with whom he worked closely during the last war, that he was approaching this problem of Civil Defence in much the same way as he had done in the last war. That is all very nice and the good traditional method of tackling a problem, but it seems to me that both right hon. Gentlemen tended to forget that the day the Americans dropped the atom bomb on 1169 Hiroshima, the whole development of warfare took a completely different course.
If we are to devise measures with any hopes of combating future wars according to these modern lines, we have to approach this problem in a completely different way. In this connection, I should like to ask whether, before this Bill was framed, full use was made of the scientific results which by this time must have emerged, especially from American sources, from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two industrial cities typical of many in our country, and from the experiments made at Bikini. I should also like to know, as by this time we have had three years' occupation of Germany, whether investigation has been made into the results of our own bombing of Germany. I ask that because the results of our bombing of Germany are a thousand times greater than the results of the heaviest bombing we suffered on these islands. If we are making plans for the future defence of this country, we must not base our plans on what happened to us. The bombing in this country was infinitesimal compared with the attack we made on Germany, and if we want to have the results, an investigation must be made in Germany through, I suppose, the Control Commission.
I know that we have learned a number of things from our Control Commission people in Germany. For instance, some of us have stressed the importance attaching to gliding, so far as the Air Force are concerned, but the Air Force have said that gliding is of no help to them. But after three years in Germany, where members of the Royal Air Force have been gliding, they have come to the conclusion that it is very useful to have this experience. It may be that the same thing applies to the results of bombing.
I think it is time that this research organisation should be providing some solid matter upon which Members can base their ideas. The right hon. Gentleman, almost in passing, told the House that he had now got a scientific adviser, but if I were to approach this problem, I would have seen to it that before this House embarked on any Measure for Civil Defence, we went to the scientists first, to tell them to examine the whole question and give us chapter and verse, 1170 and then, as politicians, we in this House could put it into law. It is obvious that we are all at the behest of the scientist in the future, and that the scientist must be at the beck and call of the politicians as part of our general political make-up. This sort of thing happened during the war. We had our "boffins" to go to during the war, because the Air Ministry had no one to tackle these scientific problems. We used to hear a lot about how many bombers had been brought down by night fighters and of courageous airmen like "Cats-eye" Cunningham, but it would not have mattered how brave these pilots had been, if it had not been for the wonderful scientific discoveries made in the laboratories.
And so it is with Civil Defence. It is only the scientific adviser and his staff who can do this sort of work, because the Civil Defence organisation have not the equipment to do it themselves. That leads me to the general organisation, which also must be scientific in its make-up. If we have to operate a Civil Defence organisation in this country, it must be something far more supple than what we had during the war to combat those small raids which took place here. We can take the view of biologists and set up an organisation which has a great central cell with a central organisation, but with the proviso that we are prepared for that central organisation to be completely wiped out. All the other pieces, however, like the amoeba, will merely split off, will be capable of carrying on on their own and of working in complete isolation; so that if an atomic bomb drops on London, for instance, and is nine hundred times greater than which was dropped on Hiroshima, although London may be completely wiped out as an effective unit, our whole process can be carried out from York and, when York has been wiped out, from Wigan, and so on, just because the organisation is not tied up too much with the central body.
Dealing with the general make-up of the organisation, it seems that with that scientific background we must depend also upon a modern levée en masse. I think the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities gave us a very good phrase when he talked about organised self-help. That means that every youth, man, woman and child who can stand on their own feet and 1171 work for their own country, must be prepared automatically to click into operation if catastrophe overtakes us and, like the bigger unit, must be prepared to work in isolation. I remember that during the war we had the beginning of that kind of activity when the bombs began to fall at Richmond, where I had friends. When they saw the incendiaries coming down, automatically they rushed for their shovels and batted the bombs on the head in the middle of the road, without any question of a £5 fine if they did not do so. They just did it. But in future it may be something more than an incendiary bomb, it might be one of the gamma rays or some special bacteriological element, and so on.
I should like to speak, if time permits, about the question of the designated Minister. During the last war this task was carried out quite successfully by the Minister of Home Security, who happened at the same time to be the Secretary of State for the Home Department. As I understand it, he did the job very well, besides running schools for probation work, justices of the peace and similar activities traditionally directed from the Home Office. It seems to me that in future wars there will be no "phoney war" period. There will be no period like that after Dunkirk. We shall not be able to afford any Dunkirks. Scientifically, the blow could be struck within the first few minutes and after that one need not survive at all. Therefore, we must not budget for mistakes like the Norway campaign, or the sending of out-of-date fighters over France when we were trying to stem the German attack on that country in 1940.
Our organisation must be absolutely efficient, up to date and ready to go into action at once. It needs, therefore, a Minister in charge, who can act with supreme power. We have heard some discussion about the question of the military working with the civil powers. If we consider this in the light of the books which have already been written, it will be rather farcical to talk about a mayor disputing matters with a major-general who comes into East Anglia with his troops. The question is completely out of date. Any conflict which might strike us would put us immediately on our feet so that automatically we would become units of some kind of military 1172 formation. There must be a man in charge at Cabinet level who will be able to take decisions for the whole of the country. I am rather inclined to agree with the "Economist" last week when it said:The place where Civil Defence should be planned and executed is the Ministry of Defence, for it is a fourth service.I would go further and say that it is a super-service above all the other services because the whole of our economic and military life—every sphere of our activities, in fact—depends upon decisions at that level. I would decide for the Minister of Defence, otherwise it seems to me that he is a Minister not of Defence but of attack, who must be spending all his energy between the other three Services. They are not designed primarily to defend us once the first blow is struck but to see that another blow is not struck. As we were told this afternoon, we were not saved from the rockets because we could bring them down; we could prevent their coming only by capturing the sites by military operations. Only in that way were we able to avert the greatest dangers from rockets towards the end of the war.
Let me refer now to the matter of dispersal. While I was waiting the long weary hours to take part in this Debate, the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) was discussing these things with me and I asked him whether this kind of thing was being done in Russia and whether Civil Defence was being got ready there. "No," he said, "they do not need it. All they need is dispersal. They have plenty of space in which to disperse their people." We have far more territory which is ruled either from this country or from other countries in association with us in the Commonwealth than has any other country in the world. If it came to a question of dispersal over a very wide area, we could beat any other people in the world at that game.
Although it is impracticable to move thousands of people from, say, Lancashire and Yorkshire out to Rhodesia or Alberta and so on, we must not lose sight of the fact that our military safety is bound up with our economic safety; and we must start a process, even if it is at only on the same scale as it was carried on before, of emigration from this country. We should be doing very 1173 well in the economic, as apart from the military, sense if we could resume the rate of emigration from this country which went on every year up to the time of the war in 1914. The same thing applies at home. Obviously London is the finest target in the world for any kind of weapon today. London is far too big. It ought to be split up and its people dispersed throughout the country. A lot of our new industries certainly should be much farther away from London than they are today.
My next point concerns the people who do the job. I was surprised last week, on being invited to a function, to discover that one hundred thousand people in this country are still banded together in an organisation called the Civil Defence Association. Three years after the war is over they still meet together. They have their social functions. They are quite ready to come into operation at once if the Government would give them complete recognition as a sort of modern civil territorial force. I was very surprised to find them in existence to such an extent, and I hope we shall hear later in the Debate that closer working with these people will be effected. They must be the finest people that we could have if, by voluntary effort, they are still in existence to the tune of one hundred thousand some three years after the war is over.
I must not conclude without referring to the £5 fine. It has been hinted that we may discuss this aspect during Committee stage. I hope, however, that before we go away tonight, we shall all have come to the conclusion expressed by practically every speaker in the Debate that there must be no question of a £5 fine with the voluntary services in this national cause. If anybody joins a voluntary organisation and needs to be brought up to the mark by a £5 fine, he had better not be in that voluntary organisation. Were we to pursue that line, we should kill very many of those wonderfully fine voluntary organisations which can be found only in this country, especially amongst our women folk, which do so much to maintain the traditional well-being and balance of our country. My last word is that I hope the £5 fine will go.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Major Vernon (Dulwich)
The Home Secretary concluded a very lucid description of this Bill by saying that the world 1174 was mad. He will forgive me if I correct that, and say that the world is partly sane and partly mad. I am sure he will agree that it is our duty, as a deliberative assembly, to foster sanity in every way we can and avoid doing those things which are insane. I am sure he will not agree with me, however, when I say that I believe his Bill comes down on the side of insanity, or at least shows an absence of that thorough and ruthless analysis of the whole subject which should have preceded a Measure of this importance.
I do not claim to be always reasonable, and I should be glad if Members who follow me will point to flaws in my argument. It seems to me that war is utterly foolish, but there are sufficient signs of sanity in the world already, to give us reason to believe that it can be avoided. If that can be done, then all our talk today is so much nonsense. I am sure we all agree that the object of American policy, and of the American people, is to spread their way of life through the world, to increase their influence, and that their method of doing it is to get mineral concessions in other countries by buying shares, to increase their exports, to grant loans, and, in other ways, to help build up their financial empire. A financial empire is something entirely different from a political empire, and is something which the Americans have been building up with so much success.
If the Americans land themselves in another war it will have a ruinous effect just when they are succeeding, by ordinary methods, in extending their way of life. They have tried a bit of both. In Greece they have tried the method of force, but after a year and a half seem hardly any further forward. In China, they have encouraged the National Government with arms and with military advisers but, again, their whole policy there has been brought to ruin. Cannot we expect the Americans to learn their lesson and stick to their peaceful methods of expansion, and quit these dangerous policies? Already, America has nine-tenths of the gold of the world——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
This is a Second Reading Debate on Civil Defence in this country, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going slightly wide in talking about the wealth of America.
§ Major Vernon
With all respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I was trying to point out, 1175 that the basis of this Bill was unsound, and I was trying to give reasons why there were grounds for hope that America would not continue to follow a war-like policy. I wanted to illustrate that there were signs that Russia would not follow a war-like policy, and I was about to suggest that, if this was so, there was no sense in this Bill at all. However, if you rule that that line of argument is out of Order, I must bow to your decision.
I will conclude by saying that if the Minister asks me for a suggestion, it would be that he should announce, after 'he has got his Bill, that he intends to do nothing about it for six or twelve months, in order to give reasonable people in the world a chance to show that they can overcome lack of reason. There are signs ill many directions that reason is winning. We used to be told that an incident might incite one side to attack another, that it would lead to war. There have been incidents in the last few years, but reason finally prevailed. There have been critical situations, but thanks to delay they have not resulted in war. That is the conclusion I was coming to, and but for your Ruling, Sir, I should have tried to establish it by putting forward a great many detailed cases. I can, however, only give the answer to the sum and not show its detailed working.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)
When I shed my Civil Defence uniform, over three years ago, I thought I had finished with this subject, and I regret that I have to deal with it again today. While I cannot welcome the Bill, I must accept it as an unpleasant reality, and I am sorry that I cannot agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) in saying that its operation ought to be postponed for six or twelve months. A few minutes ago we had an interesting and well-informed speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) who, I thought, gave the best answer to the main criticism of the Bill, namely, that the Home Secretary, in introducing it, had not seen fit to bring forward details of his proposals.
The hon. and gallant Member pointed out, rightly, that things were developing at such a rate today that it was quite impossible to formulate plans on what 1176 had gone before, or even on what was happening now. We learned to our cost, during the last war, how quickly events moved. We remember the farcical Civil Defence rehearsals we held in 1938–39, when we lowered casualties from first floor windows to ambulances waiting at the front door below only to discover, when raids occurred, that the ambulances could not get within a quarter of a mile of the houses, and that casualties were never on the first floor but were always under two or three tons of debris. It was then that we began to wake up, and realise that things were moving. Nobody had foreseen complications such as the unexploded bomb, and we had to create rest centres, fire guards, shelter marshals, incident officers and many other things that were not thought of in 1939.
That is why I was a little alarmed when the Minister talked about his negotiations with local authorities, and the hon. and gallant Member for Peters-field (Sir G. Jeffreys) mentioned the necessity of basing the system on county councils and county borough councils. We ought to get away from that, and look a little beyond the local authorities. They did a wonderful job in the last war, but nowadays the kind of job envisaged is too big for them. Remember what happened last time. Town clerks, who are always very busy, acted as food controllers, fuel controllers, national registration officers and A.R.P. controllers, in addition to doing their usual job. They did it very well indeed; they adapted themselves to the early immature ideas of A.R.P. very well, but the kind of situation that might come about in the future will be well beyond them.
I agree with my hon. Friends, who have spoken from experience, that there was overlapping, needless waste and complication in London Civil Defence services in the last war, as, no doubt, there were in other areas as well. The borough I have the honour to represent had 3,960 houses completely demolished in air-raids and 26,897 damaged. That is a big enough job for any local authority to handle; I should say almost too much, when it is remembered that every one of the 28 Metropolitan boroughs had its own service, or at any rate its wardens and certain other services. They were 1177 not complete services, but there were 28 separate services working in that small area, to say nothing of the separate services in the boroughs surrounding London.
I hope that the Civil Defence instructors who have been mentioned will be taken to Germany and shown some of the results of raids on German cities. We have heard something of the results of the atom bombs dropped on Japan. Today I was looking at an official report in the Library giving some details of what happened in Hamburg, which, as hon. Members know, was by no means the worst bombed German city. They had to suffer a blitz of 2,400 tons of bombs on each of three nights in close succession. In about 10 days they had as many casualties as London had in the whole war. It resulted in 60,000 people being killed, 37,000 seriously injured, and 900,000 homeless or missing. Here are a few words from the translation of the German report:From the unison of a number of fires the air gets so hot that it rises with terrific momentum which causes other surrounding air to be sucked towards the centre. This suction, combined with the enormous difference in temperature, 600 to 1,000 degrees centigrade, causes tempests which go far beyond the ordinary meteorological tempest with its difference in temperature of 20 to 30 degrees centigrade. In a built-up area the suction could not follow its shortest course, but the overheated air spread through the streets with immense force taking along not only sparks, but burning timber and roof beams, so spreading the fire farther and farther, developing in a short time a fire typhoon against which every human resistance was quite useless.The report goes on to talk of:roofs sucked off … windows and doors swept away … human beings hurled to the ground or sucked into the flames … children wrenched from their mothers' arms … hundreds trapped by the rapid spread of fires collapsed in the intense heat and died in the streets … shelter exits blocked by collapsed masonry … the occupants in sheer animal terror made no attempt to escape … thousands in shelters died from carbon monoxide poisoning … in some of the shelters only a layer of soft ashes was left.That is the problem which the town clerk of the future will have to face unless we change the policy we adopted last time. I suggest very seriously, without in any way saying anything against municipal authorities—I speak as an alderman of a municipal authority and have every respect for them—that the problem is too great for municipal authorities to 1178 handle today. I do not know what the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield meant when he talked about recruitment in future being on the basis of a national force. Either he meant some kind of military force, or one to be recruited by the police. I am talking of the wardens' service.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
What I meant was that the whole Civil Defence force should, in effect, be one force and not a number of totally independent forces.
§ Mr. Hynd
I thank the hon. and gallant Member. That is roughly the line on which I was thinking. I believe I am actually confusing the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield with that of my late commanding officer behind him, the hon. Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Howard). He was at the head of the London Civil Defence service when I was a very small cog in one of the very small wheels. The point I am making is that, next time, Civil Defence will be very much in the front line. The problem is going to be terrific. Whether we think in terms of biological, chemical, or atom bomb warfare, it is going to be nothing like the problem of the incendiary bombs of which an hon. Member spoke of being able to hit with a shovel in the early part of the last war. We have to develop an entirely new technique. I am sure the Minister has that well in mind and that is the reason why he, very wisely, has not seen fit to put too many details in this Bill.
I suggest that the solution of the problem is very much along the lines proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bermondsey (Mr. Sargood). He suggested that we should try as far as possible to cut out the large number of organisations and shunt some of this responsibility off the shoulders of the local authorities. I agree. For example, I suggest that not only should the police be responsible for reporting and for shelter control, but they should also control the wardens' service. I know that is a very controversial point, but I make it quite seriously, in the light of experience. I suggest that the Fire Brigade should control the fire guards, and that the first-aid posts should be manned by the joint war organisation of the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance. They are an 1179 organised body, who know how to tackle this job and I see no reason why that should be controlled separately by the local authority. Ambulance services and hospitals can well be handled by the ordinary machinery of the National Health Service.
One may ask, what is left for the local authority to do? I say there is more than enough for the local authority to handle. For example, there is the construction of shelters and the post-raid services, the rest centres and mobile canteens, both of which could be run, under their supervision, by the W.V.S. who, in effect, ran them last time. The services of furniture disposal, rehousing, repair work and other post-raid services will be enough next time for the local authorities to handle and that is as much as they should be expected to do. Finally, we should try as far as possible to train personnel on the basis of being all-purpose parties. When we get into something like a blitz on the Hamburg scale, we should not have to rely on separate parties coming from different places, but on people on the spot who are able to tackle whatever job has to be done. That is why we must have all-purpose parties so far as possible.
I would conclude by referring to two matters of finance which have already been mentioned often this evening. My excuse for doing so is that I wish to assure the Minister as far as possible, that the opinion of the House is unanimous. The first is the question of the fine. I hope that the Minister will wipe that out here and now. The second is the grant to the local authority. Other speakers have said far more eloquently than I am capable of doing, why a local authority in a particular area must have national financial support if they are to do the job properly. I suggest that 75 per cent. Is not sufficient, and that if the Minister cannot make the grant 100 per cent., if he must leave some margin so that the local authority will not be too extravagant, the very minimum should be 90 per cent.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Nicholls (Stratford)
I should not have intervened had I not felt that I could anticipate the reply which the Minister will presently give. I anticipate that he will say that the 75 1180 per cent. and 25 per cent. has been agreed between the representatives of the local authorities' associations and the Minister. By virtue of the fact that I am a member of a local authority, and am aware of certain factors, I can state that we were in no way consulted by any organisation which claims to represent local authorities. In so far as any such organisations have expressed an opinion on how far we were prepared to agree to the 75 and 25 per cent. proportions, they have disfranchised at least the constituent body of West Ham.
As for the Bill itself, I hesitate about taking up the time of the House with a rather trite remark, but Civil Defence depends first and last on morale, and I would regard any Civil Defence Bill as premature, unless it was preceded by adequate and sympathetic treatment of the blitzed areas, which so far we have been unable to obtain from the Government. It is strange that, facing East as they do, they seem to overlook the damage done in the East End of London, and the consequent troubles that have arisen out of the war. Even at this stage, years after the war, we are still unable to get sympathy and satisfactory treatment from our Front Bench. As is known, I intend to raise this matter as often as possible, but this is hardly a suitable time.
With reference to the penalty Clause, I understand the Minister to be willing to reconsider it during the Committee stage, but it seems a terrible tragedy that he should think in terms of a penalty against volunteers. It appears to me to be the attitude of a schoolmaster who is determined to retain his cane in spite of the fact that he has a very strong and formidable power in so far as he is able to make regulations from time to time. In those circumstances, surely, lie does not wish to retain either 25 per cent. as a cane, or a rod to penalise volunteers?
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
Everyone will agree that, by and large, this Debate today has been singularly free from any partisan politics. The whole question of Civil Defence far exceeds any political or ideological theories. It is of fundamental importance, and politics should not enter into it. I speak in no political sense when I venture to suggest 1181 that the voice of Scotland on this issue has not been heard perhaps as much as it should have been. Glasgow is the second City of the Empire, with a huge population, and was singularly unprepared to meet hostile attack in the last war. I remember making my maiden speech, for which I got into considerable trouble, the occasion for a strong attack on the local authorities in Glasgow for being singularly unprepared for the hostile attack which, up to that time had not come, but which it was not difficult to predict would come in due course. They were the unwise virgins; they were not ready. I told the House, in my maiden speech, that they were not ready, and in due course that was proved to be only too true.
§ Major Lloyd
I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) in saying that the Bill pins too much responsibility upon the local authorities. I do not think that, by and large, in Civil Defence the local authorities came out too well from the last war. One of the lessons to be learned from the experience of the last war was that too much responsibility, too heavy a burden, was placed upon local authorities. There may have been many exceptions to that dictum. In Scotland, certainly in Glasgow, there is no doubt that the responsibility placed upon the local authorities was too heavy. Glasgow was fortunate indeed that it did not have much more heavy attacks than it had from hostile aircraft. If there had been much heavier attacks, then the indictment against the unpreparedness and inability of local authorities to accept their heavy responsibilities would have been much stronger than it is.
I agree with all those—and there are many—who, from both sides of the House, have suggested that the Bill still continues to place heavier responsibilities upon the local ^authorities than is justified in the light of experience. I am convinced that the Home Secretary would be well advised to consider seriously on the Committee stage Amendments which would substantially lighten the burden of responsibility upon the local authorities. What about the local authorities who are not at all interested until the crisis is upon us? What 1182 about the local authorities who, for some political or ideological reason—which, thank heaven, has not appeared in this House but which undoubtedly might and perhaps does exist—are not interested? What about those local authorities who are so pacifist in their outlook that not only are they not interested in recruiting of any kind, but will certainly not take any active part unless compelled to do so, in Civil Defence or any other form of defence? No one can say that that is not a possibility.
It is common knowledge that already there are local authorities and other responsible bodies in some parts of the country who are not prepared to do a hand's turn for recruiting of any kind. Fortunately, as far as I know, that point of view has not been represented here today. It is not unrepresented in the local authorities. What powers are there in the Bill to compel such local authorities who are totally unwilling, for pacifist or ideological reasons, to do a hand's turn towards implementing the Bill or helping the Government of the country to see that their own local Civil Defence is in the slightest degree prepared or efficient? I see no powers of that kind. The Bill assumes that all local authorities will be as enthusiastic as the Minister or as enthusiastic as the majority of hon. Members. In some cases, that is rather a big assumption.
I feel that, generally speaking, Scotland undoubtedly lagged behind in the attitude of some of its local authorites towards Civil Defence during the last war. I entirely agree with the hon. Member who said that the local authority should be given the minimum of responsibility in this connection and that the question of expenses should be entirely a national charge. Nor am I convinced that the police service should be brought into this matter in the degree provided for in this Bill. Nor am I convinced that the Home Office should necessarily be the "big noise" in Civil Defence. We in Scotland suffered a lot from directions from the Home Office in Whitehall with regard to our Civil Defence Regulations. We were completely under the control of Whitehall in our Civil Defence activities throughout the war. Many of the regulations which were reasonable, sound and practical in respect of London or perhaps some other big cities in England were not reasonable, sound or practical 1183 when applied to Scotland. That was much resented. Many protests were made without the slightest effect.
Scotland does not want to be dominated by Whitehall officials, by the Home Office or by any other Whitehall office on the question of its control and executive responsibility for Civil Defence. I should like to see some delegated responsibility to local authorities in Scotland in common with other local authorities. Also, I should like to see a special executive committee set up in Scotland, functioning in Scotland, utilising the advice and experience of the English authorities and working in close liaison with them but certainly not under their complete domination in respect of instructions from Whitehall. Let Scotland be, as much as possible, autonomous with regard to Civil Defence activities. I suggest that an Amendment to the Bill in that connection would be an extremely wise procedure and very much appreciated in Scotland.
Time is getting short, the back benchers have finished, and the big guns are now about to fire. I raise these matters because I believe that in Scotland we were not satisfied with our Civil Defence situation during the war. Now that the Government and the whole nation have awakened to the danger—and we welcome that most heartily—I say that Scotland was not satisfied last time and will not be satisfied this time if we are to have a mere repetition of the same kind of Whitehall control over our Civil Defence activities. We want, as much as possible, devolution of these activities under Scottish control. The Bill does not do that at all, and does not even mention Scotland. In the light of our experience in the last war, I hope that, before this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, the Minister will see to it that some special reservations of the nature I have indicated are included in it.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Bechervaise (Leyton, East)
Reference has been made to this Bill as a skeleton which is to be clothed by means of regulations and orders, so that the Civil Defence system will be brought into being that way. Sufficient has been said by the Home Secretary, and sufficient is seen in the Bill, to show that 1184 we have not learned a great deal from the experience of the last war in regard to the organisation, discipline and training of the Civil Defence forces, as distinct from the Civil Defence service. This Bill is exceedingly small, but tailed along behind it are a number of services—the ordinary local government service, covering sewers, water, gas and other things, and commercial and industrial services—which are all lumped together and taken on as a Civil Defence force.
During the last war, in Civil Defence we went from improvisation to improvisation, and at the finish we had to put up with what we could get. Incidentally, the personnel were under the control of local committees in the respective boroughs, particularly on the outer edge of London. The local committee was largely responsible for training, for equipment and for finding suitable buildings for depots. Adjacent to it was another authority doing precisely the same work. When an incident arose on the borders of those districts, it sometimes happened that the Civil Defence organisation of one district stood more or less idly on one side of the road—that is rather an exaggeration—while the other was operating at the other side. For some reason or other, the offer of assistance from the idle authority was not acceptable to the other. I submit that that policy is disastrous, and that the only way for Civil Defence to be adequately organised is for it to have its own organisation and its own offices. It should be a national organisation with its own national, regional and area officers controlling that particular service. In view of the difficulties which we experienced during the war, it is utterly ridiculous to think that we can carry on with a similar organisation in the future.
Take the question of officers and the absurd position in which a local authority finds itself with regard to them. At the beginning of the last war, of course, nobody had had any experience as a Civil Defence officer. The result was that advertisements appeared for such men, and we had a position in which ex-Army officers were applying for the job. One local authority, perhaps, would offer £350 or £400 to the successful applicant. The officer accepted by them would be in their service for no more than, say, six months before he was angling for another job at 1185 a higher rate in an adjacent borough. From that borough he would eventually jump to another which offered more. Of course, such men were in short supply because nobody was adequately trained to do the job, and the result was that they jumped about all over the place. I submit that during a war such conduct is absolutely disastrous.
Let us take the organisation of the Civil Defence force itself. Nothing that I say can possibly detract in any way from the services rendered by the men and women in that force; but I want to point out the difficulty of not having a responsible person in control of incidents. There were occasions when perhaps, the leader of a heavy rescue party would take that responsibility, and then, later on, somebody else would take the responsibility, possibly a warden. I submit such a system is all wrong, although it obtained, more or less, throughout the war until the system of incidents officer was established. That sort of organisation was purely haphazard.
I wish to make one further point. In the next war two things are likely to happen. There will be a more effective fifth column, and it is our business to see that every organisation set up is as proof as possible against attacks from a fifth column. It would be utterly impossible in the great cities for each little area to have its committee responsible for discipline. We know the sort of arguments which occur in committees such as whether this or that should or shall not be done, or whether a person should or should not be punished.
In the last war there were joint manoeuvres for the Home Guard and the Civil Defence forces, but the Civil Defence authorities seldom knew where the defence points for the Home Guard were. As a matter of fact, they were always being changed. The only way is to have national officers. There should be regional and area officers, and they should not be lumped in with the commercial concerns and the local government services. They should be separately responsible for Civil Defence force activity. Nobody would dream of bringing in a Bill in connection with the Home Guard or the Territorial Army and tacking on at the end of it all these other services. In view of the work which they performed in the last war, 1186 it is reasonable to expect that they should be treated as a national corps and not as a local government concern.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I am sure that we have all listened with interest to the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Bechervaise) on this subject about which, I realise, he knows a great deal. I should probably have listened with more interest had I not felt a bit like the horse which had been left at the post. It seems to me that this Second Reading Debate has been a very great improvement on the Civil Defence Debate which we had last March. Today we have had the encouraging stimulus of action in the shape of this Bill; and there has also been an encouraging absence of the kind of speakers who may be put under the heading of "dismal Jimmies," who get up in their places and say that if a war comes this country is indefensible; that it is wicked to talk of such matters, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Such a course of action is dangerous and is only likely to make war all the more probable. It has always been my opinion—and I think that of an increasing number of hon. Members in the House—that the best defence against war is to be prepared for that eventuality.
We have been fortunate in having had a number of speeches from hon. Members who had first-hand experience of Civil Defence in war-time. It struck me that we had particularly valuable speeches on this side of the House from my hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Howard), and the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) and on the other side from the hon. Member for Lewisham (Mr. Skeffington) and the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden). Through them, we have heard the views of people who have actually done this job in war and know it from the user's end. I am sure that the Home Secretary and the Minister of Health will both be aware of the great value of that particular angle on that subject.
I can make no pretence of any such specialised knowledge, although I can claim better knowledge than was credited to me by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) in his speech, when he insisted on consigning myself and the whole 1187 of the Opposition to residence in provincial constituencies throughout the war. I thought—I am no expert, but I am sure the Home Secretary will forgive me—that the outstanding contribution of this Debate was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). He has a real and unique experience of this subject. He initiated our Civil Defence services, and it was only when I tried to learn something of this subject that I fully realised the great debt which this country owed to the right hon. Gentleman for his work in 1938–1939 and the early part of 1940. He, with that small and devoted band of Civil Defence workers, engaged in an uphill struggle and it may well be said of him as was said of his namesake by the great poet Burns:We climbed the hill together,John Anderson, my Jo.I would, however, warn and remind the Home Secretary, who is now in the position which was occupied then by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities, that the concluding words of that well-known poem by Burns are—Now we must totter downAnd hand in hand we'll go,And sleep together at the foot.One might almost substitute—until the sirens blow.I hope he will not do that and I am sure that that is not his intention in view of this Bill. We have some guarantee in the Bill that at some future date, the right hon. Gentleman intends to take action. What the House is particularly anxious about is when he proposes to take that action, and what it is going to be like when he does so. I fully realise that it is not entirely fair to ask him to make such a statement when discussing this Bill. Nevertheless he will surely agree that the information regarding his future plans has been very scanty in this Debate. Maybe we shall hear more from the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up.
The main remarks of the speeches in the Debate fell into two categories—firstly discussion of the Bill itself, and secondly what should be done as a result of the Bill. Regarding the Bill itself, I personally gained three general impressions. The first was that steps in the 1188 near future were likely to be confined to research, discussions, planning committees, negotiations and so forth, rather than to action. Secondly, I think it has been generally agreed on both sides of the House that the Bill contains exceptionally far-reaching powers. Thirdly, there has been very general criticism of Clause 5, in which the right hon. Gentleman takes power to impose a fine. I could not help thinking during the Debate that one might describe the Government's attitude at the moment by paraphrasing the old jingo poem, and saying:We won't act yet,But, by jingo, when we do,We've got the powers,We'll get the men,And get their money, too.I should like to pass now to the questions which concern the action intended after the passing of the Bill. There has been much talk in this respect regarding the role of the Fighting Services in Civil Defence in the event of another war. I was particularly pleased, and I think that all hon. Members on this side of the House were particularly pleased, when the Home Secretary, at the conclusion of his speech, underlined the fact that the main task of the Fighting Services is offensive action, and that that is the best way of preventing the serious attacks from arriving in this country. I am so glad he included that consideration in his speech, and I think that most hon. Members on this side support him very strongly in it. Nevertheless, I think it would be most unwise not to recognise that the responsibilities of the Fighting Services in regard to Civil Defence will be much increased in comparison with their responsibilities in the last war. The increased scale of attack of modern weapons, I think, will make that inevitable. If one accepts that that is inevitable, then an immediate requirement is increased liaison between the Civil Defence authorities, the Defence Services and the Ministry of Defence.
It was on this subject, that I certainly was left a little vague as to how exactly it would work and whether the existing organisation in its present design, really ensured the intended liaison. The right hon. Gentleman made reference to the mobile columns of which we heard much more—I think the Under-Secretary will agree—in the last Debate. Today then-role was slightly soft-pedalled. The 1189 Home Secretary said that the mobile columns would help "if available." It is probable that the most anxious time for Civil Defence will be at the very start of a war. That is the very time when the Regular Army and the nucleus of the Territorial Army will be particularly preoccupied in attempting to mobilise, and that that will be the hardest of all times to get available mobile columns of trained, Regular soldiers with their vehicles and equipment.
I am stressing this point only because it seems dangerous that the Civil Defence authorities should rely on something which, if one considers probabilities, may not, in the event, be available. No doubt, this matter will be faced in the forthcoming exercises which, I understand, are to be held. We heard from the right hon. Gentleman many remarks concerning the command of military forces assisting the civil power. From personal experience I do support very strongly the remarks of the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities that that question of command is very tricky. I was called out when with a division to assist in Bath, and I can very well remember the excellent co-operation we got from the civil authorities—without producing the snags which might well have arisen if we had differed from the civil authorities about our respective responsibilities. It is a most delicate duty and one which I think I am right in saying all soldiers dread, not because they do not want to do it but because of the great difficulties of knowing who is the authority. There is an old Army saying, that in any duties connected with the Civil Power whatever you do is wrong.
§ Brigadier Head
I was saying that we were most fortunate in Bath and there was no difficulty. Our trouble is that one cannot always bet on all civil authorities being like the hon. Gentleman's. This aid of the civil authorities by the military authorities will require, it seems to me, quite a lot of examination because, to my own knowledge, there are many anomalies that exist today. If I may offer the right hon. Gentleman one particular example, the Civil Defence regions do not correspond by a long chalk with the Army Commands, and 1190 there, straight off, is a potential difficulty in which some wretched city may find itself responsible to a command miles away, when another command would be much nearer.
Liaison with the Ministry of Defence, I hope and pray, will take place. I, for one, am sorry not to see the name of the Minister of Defence on this Bill. It may be that he has a lot to do at the present time, but I would remind him that in a White Paper, written presumably under his name, on the whole question of Defence policy, he said:The security of the United Kingdom is the first of our long-term Defence commitments.In my opinion, the question of Civil Defence is one worthy of his closest support and closest association. The organisation of the machine has been touched upon by several hon. Members, and we have been told several times about the Joint Planning Staff and the Civil Defence Committee and their respective allegiance both to the Home Office and upwards to the Cabinet through the Civil Defence Committee. Here, again, I think there was a good deal of agreement on the importance of having a Minister who would be responsible for this subject under, say, the Home Secretary.
My experience in this respect causes me to fear what one might term collective irresponsibility. That can be a danger. I ask the right hon. Gentleman this: suppose that Civil Defence went very badly and there was an appalling muddle. We may blame him, but we know that with his other responsibilities he cannot divert all his attention to it. I feel that there should be someone under him of whom we can say, "He has made a muddle." Otherwise, we shall have a condition of diffusion in which it will be nobody's fault although there is collective muddling.
The question of recruiting has also been mentioned, and here I think there was agreement that it was a very unfortunate decision to include powers to impose this £5 fine. I have heard put forward the argument that it is essential and is used in the Territorial Army. I should like to say to the right hon. Gentleman that in the discussion on the National Service Bill, we discussed this very point. I will read out to him the 1191 actual words of the then Secretary of State for War. He said:What I wanted to say was that there was no real penalty. The £5 sanction mentioned by the hon. Member was utilised before the war, but I do not think it will be used in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1947; Vol. 437, c. 2375–6.]That is in connection with the Territorial Army, and I never heard of an instance of it being used before the war. The imposition of this penalty is a terrible mistake psychologically, and I join with all hon. Members in hoping that we get it removed, and that we have a forecast of its removal tonight, because I believe that that will give more pleasure to these keen people than any other thing than can be said by the right hon. Gentleman in winding up.
An early statement about recruiting is vital because of the delay in this respect since the war. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the keenness of all these Civil Defence volunteers, and to a keen man there is nothing more discouraging than hanging about and waiting for something to happen. Let me just read an extract from an excellent paper by Civil Defence people who are keen on this subject. It says:There is a large body of men and women who sacrificed and suffered because of their capable and enthusiastic performance of their duties as Civil Defenders. They are still, to a larger extent than is generally imagined, ready and willing to respond to further calls on their efforts. It is, however, indisputable that the number would have been vastly greater if there had been less delay in formulating plans.I believe that to be common sense—and common sense from the horse's mouth. So let us please have an assurance that the plans concerning recruiting and the tasks these keen people should do will be forthcoming very shortly. I believe it to be right to express in this House the immense debt of gratitude which the community as a whole owes to these stalwarts who go on and retain their keenness at a time when one would expect many people to be fed up with this particular subject.
Mention has also been made of shelter policy, and the hon. Member for Mile End—who is not in his place at the moment—spoke a great deal on the subject of deep shelters. In case the hon. Member reads HANSARD, let me say that he said he would furnish the addresses 1192 of the rich who had constructed for themselves deep shelters during the war, and I will make this offer to the hon. Member. For every address he furnishes me which I check to be true I will present 10s. to the "Daily Worker."
I should not like to pass over this subject without making a brief reference to the construction of new factories. In the last Debate I asked whether or not any special designs or requirements would be given to those who were making plans for future factories or large buildings. The Under-Secretary gave me what I considered at the time a very good answer. He said:I refer particularly to the … question of the standards which will be adopted for big buildings with a view to air defence. I am not claiming that everything has been done which perhaps might have been done in the last two years. The machinery has perhaps not been wholly adequate. … Where there has perhaps been too little organisation has been in the relations between Government agencies and industrial bodies who are building."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 2696.]I call that a good answer because it was frank and penitent—which is rather a new experience for me. What I had hoped for was some indication that in the intervening period since March the matter had received attention. Perhaps we shall hear from the Minister of Health. According to my knowledge of his activities, he seems most particularly interested in long-term building plans, so perhaps he will give us some information on this subject.
§ Brigadier Head
No mention has been made of preparedness and readiness, which seems to me a quite important aspect in this respect. In 1939, war was declared, and there were no intensive raids for a considerable period; but surely it would be unwise to gamble on that in any subsequent war. Therefore, the preparations for modern Civil Defence surely need modification with that likelihood in view. As preparedness and the warning period envisaged are not mentioned, and as it seems to me likely that air attack may follow immediately after the start of another war, this is surely a question of great importance in the organisation and training of our Civil Defences.
1193 I would say that perhaps the greatest danger in an air attack comes from ignorance. At present, there is fairly widespread ignorance in regard to the potential of atomic bombing and on the likely scale of attack. I personally do not believe that it is as great as the general public now consider it to be, but I believe it is the duty of the Government to disseminate more information in this respect, because, as I have said, the general public are at the moment understandably ignorant on the matter. One way is by training, and in this connection I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there is to be universal training in Civil Defence. I ask that because the Under-Secretary said in the last Debate that it might well be there would have to be universal training. Might not a short course be included for those who are being called up, because in that way we could have a widespread dissemination of knowledge and thereby decrease anxiety?
It is, indeed, a sad fact that we are once again discussing this subject of defence, but I think there is a growing realisation that the best prevention of war lies in adequate preparation and ensuring that our defences do not fall into decay. I say therefore to Members who may regret this discussion on Civil Defence, that we are talking not entirely about Civil Defence but also about the defence of civilisation.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)
Almost every Member who has taken part in this discussion has started by saying how much he regrets having to take part in a Debate of this kind. I do not want to repeat what has been said by other Members, but all those who have sat during most of this Debate will agree that if we had to have a discussion of this sort, we could not have had a more friendly and helpful discussion. Members have contributed to it from all parts of the House, and, as the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) has just remarked, a particularly gratifying feature has been the contributions made from those who have had practical experience of this work during the war itself.
In replying to some of the suggestions that have been made, and particularly in replying to the searching questions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member 1194 for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), I am at a very great disadvantage, because, as the right hon. Gentleman will readily recognise, almost all the subjects are going to be matters for the regulations, and these regulations necessarily have to be discussed with the various bodies affected. It would be extremely rude on my part, before the discussions have started, to say what is the Government's mind upon them. It is one of the disadvantages of a machinery Bill—and this is merely an enabling Bill—that it is not possible to indicate too definitely the sort of flesh that is going to be put upon it, because that flesh, as it were, will have to be moulded by discussion with the bodies that are ultimately going to carry out the work. Therefore, I can merely say in general terms that there is not very much difference between what is in the minds of my right hon. Friends and myself in this matter and some of the general indications the right hon. Gentleman gave. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not go into more details now, for the reasons I have just advanced.
I think it has been agreed by almost everyone who has spoken that this is the sort of machinery that we ought to have in the circumstances facing us today. It would have been exceedingly inappropriate to have set out in a great Bill all the details of the machinery that we would have to adopt in Civil Defence, because if we did not only would we have to cover a very wide field indeed, but, after having done it, we should still have to have priorities between the different parts of the mechanism as to when to call them into operation.
We should have had to have had a series of appointed days, because as the international situation develops we should have had to determine, in terms of our economic needs and the development of the crisis, to what extent we would put our national resources into Civil Defence, to what extent it is necessary to make urgent preparations and to what extent it is wise to rely on more rudimentary preparations. Even though we exposed the whole field, we could not say that all the things that we might need to do at any time would have to be done at the same time. We should have had to have had a series 1195 of appointed days. All that has happened is that the regulations themselves will take the place of the appointed days and provide us with an instrument sufficiently flexible to enable us to adapt our Civil Defence to the unfolding international situation, and to our growing technical knowledge of the weapons that may be used from time to time.
There has been no difference of opinion today about the nature of the machinery which the Government ought to take to themselves in these circumstances. A lot of scepticism has, however, been expressed about the role to be played by local authorities. Some Members have suggested that local authorities ought not to be relied on to do the work envisaged in this Bill. I warn hon. Members that if they start on the assumption that we have to have a central organisation, and break that down to regional organisations and those regional organisations down to sub-regions, so that we have all over the country organisations paralleling the local authorities themselves, we should have to use a great deal of manpower before we have finished. The machinery would become very top-heavy.
This nation has discovered over and over again that to the extent that we can achieve co-operation between the central Government and local government we have the most efficient and, at the same time, the most economical form of organisation. I hope hon. Members will not press that point too far, because this country is particularly proud of its local government. Many other countries envy the extent to which we can place tasks on local government in the knowledge that they will be discharged. May I say, as Minister of Health, with some special relationship with local authorities, that when hon. Members express doubt about the efficiency and willingness of local authorities to do this sort of work, they must remember that those views are sometimes reciprocated about the central Government. I hear representatives of local authorities speak most tartly about what they consider to be the deficiencies of the central Government. Therefore, do not let us use the language of recrimination. In this respect, let us use the language of co-operation, because this organisation of 1196 Civil Defence is a great co-operative undertaking by the central Government on one side and local authorities on the other. Therefore, we should not speak too much of the sanctions the central Government have over the local authority, but rather of how far we can carry local authorities along with us in the discharge of these tasks.
I should like to reply to a question I was asked by an hon. Member opposite as to what sanctions we have where local authorities are not prepared to co-operate. We have the ordinary sanctions that exist in almost all our legislation. The appropriate Minister can step in if a local authority fails to do the task which the local authority should do and levy the rates. That is the normal sanction which operates in respect of many other Statutes and, if the hon. Member will look at the Bill, he will see that that sanction is contained here. It is to the glory of local government that very rarely has any Minister had to exercise that sanction. Usually it is by persuasion and the example of other local authorities that the recalcitrant one is brought to behave itself; therefore, we do not anticipate having to use that weapon.
I have also been asked about the 25 per cent. I am always surprised that lovers of local government should argue for the 100 per cent. grant. There is no form of financing local government activities which is more destructive of good local government than the 100 per cent. grant. Let me put it in these terms. There may be an argument, which is very often developed by local authorities, for the central Government taking a larger share of local government globally, but that is not the same thing as saying that a special service shall have a 100 per cent. grant. One cannot really separate and distinguish between a 100 per cent. contribution by the State to local authorities' expenditure and complete financial irresponsibility.
§ Mr. Bevan
I was going to add that very thing. To protect itself against financial irresponsibility, the central Government has to dot all the i's and cross all the t's of the local authorities. Therefore, the initiative of the local authority must always depend upon the 1197 local rates finding a certain proportion of the expenditure. Every good lover of local government knows that. I have been a local government man myself, and although I argued for the central Government taking a larger share of general local government expenditure, that is different from saying that a particular service should carry with it a 100 per cent. grant.
I also think hon. Members have forgotten that not only do we find 75 per cent. of certain services and 100 per cent. of others, where they are construction works, but also those services rank for grant under the equalisation of rates provision. In some instances the State will find almost 90 per cent. To the extent that the State is a ratepayer under the Act of 1948, that 25 per cent. itself would rank for the State contribution. We have, therefore, the 75 per cent. plus the State's share of 25 per cent. of the rate-borne expenditure. That will vary in accordance with the well-being of the local authority. If a local authority is very poor it ranks for a higher State grant and would, therefore, attract a higher proportion from the State. When we speak of 75 per cent., we are talking not of the over-all expenditure but of anything from 75 per cent. to above 90 per cent. I still insist that we must retain the interest of a local authority in its expenditure.
I come now to a point which has been stressed throughout the whole evening. Hon. Members of all parties have, if I might use a colloquialism, given one part of the Bill "the bird." The provision in Clause 5 under which the volunteer is liable to a financial penalty has not found a single friend anywhere in the House. I am authorised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to say that we propose to desert it. We are bound to be influenced by the opinions of those who have had practical experience in this field.
§ Mr. Bevan
In order to give hon. Members an opportunity of winning a concession on the Bill. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must not deny me the opportunity of being amiable. Consequently, when the Bill goes to Committee my right hon. Friend will move to delete that provision. I think that will give general 1198 satisfaction, and will mean that the 100 per cent. voluntary character of the British will be restored.
One pleasant feature of the Debate is that there has been no attempt on the part of any hon. Member to create panic. After all, we do not want to become a nation of troglodytes. We do not want to dig ourselves in all over the place, or to devote so large a proportion of our resources to passive defence that we have little or no energy left for offensive warfare. We do not want the shield to be so heavy that we are too weak to wield the sword. There is no great satisfaction for us to see a very large proportion of our total resources laid aside in passive measures.
The hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) spoke about deep shelters. But before the war there were very nearly two million people unemployed in Great Britain who could have been diverted to defensive preparations. If we ask the Government of today, however, to set aside any substantial proportion of our resources for a purely passive defence, the House must decide what it is going to give up. We no longer have a reservoir of idle labour upon which we can draw. We cannot afford now, in our present circumstances, to take away labour and materials. The commodities involved are very scarce indeed. I need not remind hon. Members how scarce is steel. It would mean also cement.
§ Mr. Bevan
If we decide that we are going to try to make our people feel safe—and they never would feel safe in such circumstances—by organised defence measures upon a wide scale, requiring the consumption of those materials, the result would be that our economic recovery would be greatly imperilled, if not permanently retarded. The Government believe that, as things are at the present time, our most effective defence is the promotion of the well-being of the population of the country. Therefore, what we propose to do immediately is to put in hand those defence measures which will not call for a great diversion of manpower from existing activities. We can do quite a good deal without diversion by training and by effective preparation. For example, some hon. Members seem to have forgotten the fact that many of 1199 the measures which the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary to take from 1937 to 1939 are now automatically provided by the re-organisation of our structure.
Take, for example, the National Health Service: It is not necessary to have the Emergency Medical Service today because the health and hospital services of the country are already instruments of the Government. There has not got to be elaborate co-operation with the voluntary hospitals; arrangements have not to be made with local authority hospitals. [Laughter.] Hon. members must not laugh. This is a very important point indeed when looking at practical preparations. I notice this—I do not want to say anything tart to hon. Members—that when we speak about the National Health Service, it brings a jeer from some hon. Members. Before many months are over some of them will be claiming to be the authors of it. If I were them, I would restrain myself a little in this matter.
The fact is that the hospitals are now organised on a national scale. To do all that is required at present, it is only necessary for the Minister of Health to ask the regional hospital boards to identify sites and buildings where they can expand their hospital services in days of emergency. The same thing is true about blood banks. The blood transfusion services are running services which are nationally organised and nationally administered. All that is required there is to expand them at once in days of emergency. The same thing is true of the ambulance services, a most essential and even a critical part of our Civil Defence organisation. These are now the responsibility of the counties and county boroughs and are capable of being expanded at any time. Therefore, a great deal of what is required to be done in terms of a war emergency are the runing pre-occupations of the National Health Service at the present time So, by our wisdom in constructing these things, we have at the same time provided the foundations of an effective defence organisation.
Accordingly, it does not seem to me that there is much more that I can say in defence of this Bill except to inform hon. Members that we do not propose to set aside any very large proportion of 1200 our resources, and I would especially implore local authorities not to consider that any immediate preparations would require the swelling of their existing staffs. It seems to me that most of what we shall need to do in the very near future can be done by the existing staffs of local authorities, and there is no need to enlarge them.
What we shall therefore do is to use whatever experience we have in training people, in getting the proper organisation in being, in making available to the population what knowledge is necessary in order that they may give us, as the right hon. Gentleman said, organised self-help, and at the same time as we are doing that, to try to convey to the people of Great Britain what I am sure is in the mind of my right hon. Friend, that there is no service which they can render to their people and their country that will stand higher in the esteem of the nation as a whole than in coming forward in numbers to join these voluntary organisations when we are ready to accept them. I believe that the war showed that these services developed a great sense of comradeship among those taking part. Without consideration of party, of class, or of differential income, the whole population of this country is prepared to co-operate in defending itself against the rigours of another war.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Snow.]