§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Major Gwilym Lloyd George)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill provides the necessary legislative authority for the training by the Home and Health Departments of certain National Service reservists with a view to their mobilisation in time of war as members of Civil Defence mobile columns.
Before I come to deal with the proposal outlined in the Bill, I should like briefly to refer to the civil defence situation in general, particularly in the light of the potential new form of attack from thermo-nuclear weapons. I say briefly Advisedly, because, as the House will remember, in May and July last, the House was informed by my predecessor that the Government had started and were carrying out a detailed review of the plans over the whole field of defence, which includes but is, of course, much bigger than civil defence alone. Good progress has been made, but final conclusions have not yet been reached.
It is quite clear that questions of the utmost difficulty are involved, the decisions on which will determine our policy over a wide field for a long time to come. Until those decisions have been reached over the whole, or virtually the whole, field, a partial disclosure of them would be premature, unsatisfactory and misleading.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
On a point of order. As this Bill is a narrow one, dealing only with the training and discipline of Armed Forces in regard to civil defence, may we take it that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House will be free to roam as widely as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is now doing?
§ Mr. Speaker
The real effect of the Bill, as I understand, is to enlarge the duties of the prescribed Minister under the Civil Defence Act, 1948, by making arrange- 2156 ments for training persons in the Armed Forces. That is really what it does, but I do not think it is out of order to have a little narrative background, though it would not be the desire of the House that we should turn the debate into one on civil defence as a whole.
§ Mr. Speaker
Duplication is all right, so long as the hon. Member avoids what is called tedious repetition.
§ Major Lloyd George
I wished to make it perfectly plain that, in view of the fact that there is this review taking place, it would be misleading if we discussed civil defence as a whole until we had completed it, and I propose from now on to deal only with what the Bill does. Because of that difficulty, the House will not expect me to go into the whole field of civil defence, and I therefore propose to confine my remarks to what the Bill, in fact, does.
First of all, there has never, as far as I know, been any serious argument about the need for mobile forces organised and administered centrally, manned exclusively on a whole-time basis, and disposed operationally well outside, but in tactical relationship to, the more likely target areas, with a view to reinforcing the local forces. Whatever the outcome of the review may be, it is beyond doubt that the recent general development of the broad strategic picture has been such as to accentuate beyond all need of further emphasis the paramount importance of a mobile Civil Defence reserve. The only questions that really have been at issue have been these: first, what should be the source from which the manpower should be drawn, and, secondly, what should be the timing of the arrangements?
While these questions were being considered, the last Government took certain preparatory steps, and, when the present Government assumed office in October, 1951, they found that the plans for an experimental mobile column were well advanced. A study was being made of the means of manning mobile columns generally, and, naturally, we proceeded with these measures.
2157 The experimental mobile column was first established in January, 1953, for one year. By the end of 1953, when the experiment was due to terminate, the Home Office felt that, although much valuable knowledge had been acquired from that experiment, further experience in the operation of such a column was still needed, and a second experimental column was formed for the current year. That experiment is now being concluded, for the Home Office feel that they are in possession of sufficient data about the establishment, the organisation and the practical use of mobile columns to produce the required technical manual.
On continuing the study of manpower for these columns the Government came to the conclusion that in present circumstances our defensive arrangements should be directed primarily not towards preparation for war, but towards producing the greatest possible deterrent to any potential attack upon ourselves or the countries allied with us, and that we should draw the manpower needed for mobile column purposes from men who are available under the National Service Act, 1948.
The practical effect of this was that any men for mobile column training in peace, and whole-time mobile column service in war, had to be found from men undergoing their whole-time National Service in the Armed Forces or from men who had passed on to the reserves of those Armed Forces and who still had to undertake training during their period of part-time service. It was clear that it would be extremely difficult to provide from the Armed Forces a regular flow of men in their period of whole-time service without gravely affecting the efficiency of those Services, their ability to carry out their inescapable peace-time commitments, and their potential strength as effective fighting organisations.
The alternative, therefore, was to see whether National Service men could be made available during that part of their period of reserve service in which they were under an obligation to devote some time each year to Service training. Here, circumstances helped us. To meet its cold war requirements the R.A.F. has to take in for whole-time service a greater number of National Service men than it would require to mobilise during the first 2158 year of war. It was decided, therefore, that these men should be made available for Civil Defence training during their period of part-time service.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to allow me to interrupt him, but we are now getting up against this difficulty: that we are now getting involved in the working of the National Service Acts. I do not see how I can avoid making some criticisms of the line of argument which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is now developing. I think it must he clear, especially in view of Clause 1 (5) of the Bill, that this is a very important matter, and I hope I shall be allowed not merely to allude to what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying but, if necessary, to criticise it in detail.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that will be allowable, though I do not want to prejudge anything that may arise. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at line 9 of subsection (1), he will see that it refers to personsserving their term of part-time service under the National Service Act, 1948.So, as that is a definition of the class of persons who are affected by this Bill if it is enacted, I think any reference to that category of persons which is relevant to the purposes of the Bill would be in order.
§ Mr. Speaker
Yes, I think that is probably the effect of the subsection to which the right hon.. Gentleman alludes. I thought he was asking my opinion about how far he could discuss the National Service Acts. In so far as that is within the definition of the class of persons involved, I think that would be in order.
§ Mr. Wigg
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is now at the point where he is discussing the National Service Acts and some of us, certainly myself, will want to argue in relation to this Bill that this situation has come about because of the mishandling by the Government of those Acts. I hope I shall be in order.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Further to that, Sir, if I followed the Minister rightly, he has told us that he is in an unfortunate situation because, owing to the idiocy of the Air Force in taking in hundreds of thousands of men, they have nothing to do in the time in which they should be doing their part-time service. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is able to make a palpable excuse for the Air Force, we must be entitled to point out that it is a palpable excuse, and tell him why.
§ Mr. Speaker
Let us try not to prejudge what is in order or what is not in order until the matter arises. So far, I have heard nothing which is out of order.
§ Major Lloyd George
If there is any suggestion of idiocy on the part of the Air Force, it was just as idiotic in the time of the last Government.
§ Major Lloyd George
I do not think this ought to be a matter of controversy —[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—not in the party political sense at any rate. All I am saying is that the principle of mobile columns has been adopted and that a good deal of work was done on it by the late Administration. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is perfectly right, and I am not quarrelling about his point of order, because subsections (1) and (2) do, in fact, reflect on certain things that happened. There is no question about it. I was trying to develop the point that we found we could get these men, but that to get them we had to have this Bill.
I was saying it was decided that these men should be made available for civil defence training during their period of part-time service, and for civil defence service in war, until such time at least as they were required for R.A.F. duties, and that Parliament should be asked to approve the necessary legislation. That is what we are discussing this afternoon in this Bill.
The scheme to be developed, if the Bill becomes law, was originally conceived in terms of calling-up, for one 2160 fortnight's fire fighting or rescue training in each of their last two years of part-time service, those Class H reservists of the R.A.F. who would not be required by the Royal Air Force in the first phase of a war, and who were in medical category I. But the R.A.F. have now been able to find some reservists at a sufficiently early stage during their period of part-time service who would be available for three periods of training in civil defence duties. The complexion of the annual allocation of 15,000 has, therefore, been altered so as to include these other men.
As regards the training to be given, the rescue training in the first period will be of an individual character, simply designed to teach the men the techniques of rescue. In the second period, the main concentration of the training will be on team training, with the object of producing efficient rescue teams. In those cases where a third period of training is given, the men will be formed into rescue columns and will carry out exercises on that basis. On the Fire Service side, training in the first period will consist of pump drill and the basic elements of fire fighting. This training will be developed and extended in the second and third period to include specialised operations such as water relay.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I should like to have this point illustrated. Does that mean that more men will be available from the R.A.F. for the auxiliary service and that there will be three-year periods of 14 days each during which training will take place?
§ Mr. Wigg
I am sure that the Home Secretary is completely misinformed, because the legal obligation of the National Service man is to do 60 days' training in 31 years, of which no more than 21 days are in any one year. It would appear that if the Minister is so grossly misinformed it will be better to adjourn the debate until the correct information is available.
§ Major Lloyd George
I think that the hon. Member is confusing two things, the period of continuous days and the total for 12 months.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This matter has been discussed previously and I thought that all hon. Members were well informed on the subject, The fact is that the National Service man can be called up in one year for the whole of his auxiliary service.
§ Major Lloyd George
We decided, rather like the Territorial Army, to have a fortnight's camp and that we would encourage all these people to get in close touch with the local civil defence people and continue, as no doubt they will, to get their training from local organisations.
§ Major Lloyd George
There is no compulsion beyond the training that they will receive. The hon. Member will see the position later from the review that is now going on. It is an extremely important one covering the whole field, which is of gigantic proportions. That review is now being held and it would be premature to make comments until we have the review before us.
§ Mr. Crossman
We are told that a review is going on and that we cannot ask any intelligent questions until the review is over. Why, therefore, are we having this Bill at all? Why cannot we wait for a Bill against the background of Government decision, or are the Government going to decide afterwards what they will do about civil defence? Are we being told that the Government are producing a Bill before making up their minds about what sort of civil defence they want, a kind of advanced guard defence before we know what service we want? It seems 2162 that we cannot obtain any background against which we can decide whether the Bill makes sense or not.
§ Major Lloyd George
A start has to be made somewhere and this is a start. It is no good legislating for the whole field of civil defence when one has a necessary review of the situation being carried out, and the situation is very different from that which prevailed at the start of civil defence. It would be misleading and a folly to develop civil defence until we have had the whole situation reviewed. This Bill, however, would be a cog in the machine whatever the results of the review, because nothing will change the fact that mobile rescue columns must be of vital importance to civil defence. I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), sitting where he does, will deny that aspect.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
As I understand, the Minister has told the House now that these men are, in effect, called up to do their reserve training in civil defence and that they will only have 14 days' training. If that is so, it will place them in a very favoured position as compared with those who are called up to the Armed Forces. Surely that cannot be the position, but that is the impression which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman gave.
§ Major Lloyd George
These men are not called up at all. We are talking about reservists who are in part-time training at the moment. They are not necessarily called up.
§ Mr. Strachey
The immense majority are called up, certainly of the Army men, not only for 14 days but for 14 days and their drill. Surely the Civil Defence call-up should be on all fours with the Army call-up, otherwise we shall have the most extraordinary anomalies.
§ Major Lloyd George
I hope that hon. Members will allow me to proceed with the argument. I was saying that on the Fire Service side training in the first place will consist of pump drill and the basic elements of fire fighting.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge) rose—
§ Major Lloyd George
I think that I have given way a great deal. The hon. Member will have an opportunity to ask 2163 questions later on. I cannot possibly make a coherent speech unless I am allowed to go on with it.
§ Mr. Wigg
On a point of order. We are dealing with a serious matter of the discipline of the Armed Forces and those who have Reserve liability. The least that we can expect is that the Minister should give us full and accurate information. We appreciate that he has not been in the job very long, and we do not expect too much, but if he does not know perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary will tell us.
§ Major Lloyd George
I must get on with my speech. I suggest that I have given all the necessary information in relation to this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I beg hon. Members to read it.
§ Mr. Beswick
I am seeking a very simple piece of information. At present the National Service man has 21 days' maximum obligation in one year. The Minister proposes to call him for 14 days. What happens to the other seven days' obligation? Is it to Civil Defence or to the R.A.F.?
§ Major Lloyd George
There is no change with regard to the 14 days. I have tried to explain what is proposed in the Bill. That is all that I am trying to do, and I should he obliged if hon. Members would kindly let me go on. It is very difficult when one is interrupted. I was about to explain that a further development is that it is now proposed to operate ambulance columns in association with the rescue columns and to use men who are below the physical standard for fire-fighting or rescue work. It is also proposed to use men who, although they can be made available by the R.A.F. for only one period of training, already have driving experience.
We are making arrangements to give a first period of training in fire-fighting and rescue duties to 15,000 men during 1955–56. For the training next year of these men who will be allocated in approximately equal numbers to firefighting and rescue training, we intend to provide and staff three establishments. Two of these establishments will be 2164 devoted to rescue training. One is the Civil Defence depot at Epsom, on which the experimental column has been based and which is no longer required for this purpose, and the second will be a new training establishment at Millom, in Cumberland, and not at Horsforth near Leeds, as was originally announced. In addition, one considerably larger depot will be required for the preliminary firefighting training; that will be at Charley in Lancashire.
§ Mr. Hughes
On a point of order. We ought to have a similar statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland: we are being completely eliminated from this.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I really do not think that points of order which clearly are not points of order should be raised.
§ Major Lloyd George
Each depot will be staffed by a civilian commandant and civilian instructors, but the R.A.F. will be responsible for the discipline and Service administration of the reservists, and will furnish at each depot a commanding officer and staff for this purpose. The cost of building and furnishing the three establishments required during the first year will be of the order of £375,000, which will be borne on the Vote of the Ministry of Works.
Separate arrangements will be made for training the officers and more senior N.C.Os., since they will require a more extensive syllabus of training involving an appreciably longer period of tuition than it is proposed to give under the main scheme. The junior non-commissioned officers, that is the rescue party leaders and the N.C.Os. in charge of firefighting appliances, will be drawn from the most promising of the part-time National Service men, and they will be given special training as leaders, primarily in their second year under the scheme.
In the event of war, the men would be mobilised by the Service Departments and employed in Service units which would come under the operational control of the Civil Defence authorities and 2165 would be located at tactically suitable places. Thus, concurrently with the development of training, plans will be made for the selection and provision as practicable of additional depots to serve as operational bases in war.
In view of the preparatory measures which have to be completed and of the need to give the reservists adequate warning notice, the early summer of 1955 is the earliest date at which the scheme as a whole can be practicably brought into operation. I must inform the House that in order to meet even that date, it is necessary to enter into immediate commitments in respect of building work at at least two of the establishments in anticipation of the passing of this Bill. It is proposed to begin operations at Chorley and Millom immediately and at Epsom before the middle of next month.
The Bill which would give effect to the scheme is short and comparatively simple.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
Before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves the question of training, do I understand that it will not be before 1957 that any of these men will be doing training in a unit?
§ Major Lloyd George
In the first year, it will be as individuals, and in the second year it will be collective, and then there will be unit training in the third period. The first period will be individual training and, in the meantime, the leaders will be trained as well.
The Bill is a very short one. Subsection (1) of Clause 1 extends the Civil Defence Act, 1948, to enable the "designated Minister"—in effect the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Health—to make arrangements for giving Civil Defence training to part-time National Service men: and Clause 1 (4) enables the designated Minister to pay for the cost of the arrangements.
Clause 1 (1) also makes it clear that the training which a man may be required to undergo under the National Service Act, 1948, includes training provided in pursuance of the arrangements made by the designated Minister. Clause 1 (2) extends the arrangements to other members of the Armed Forces, with the object, in this context, of providing for 2166 the training of the officers, noncommissioned officers and technicians who, although not necessarily part-time National Service men themselves, will be needed for service in war with the reservists trained under Clause 1 (1). Clause 1 (3) deals with the application of the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, in respect of accidents occurring at the training establishments.
Clause 1 (5)—a declaratory, provision inserted for the removal of doubt—confirms that Civil Defence is a duty of the Armed Forces generally. It has customarily been accepted that members of the Armed Forces have a liability to perform Civil Defence duties, but, since the taking elsewhere in the Bill of powers in connection with the Civil Defence training of Service men might tend to throw doubt upon this liability, it has been thought desirable specifically to assert the fact. Finally, Clause 1 (6) defines the expressions "Civil Defence" and "designated Minister" by reference to the Civil Defence Act, 1948.
I should like to mention the following, additional points. The Bill has been expressed to apply to members of a1l three Services, in order to cover any plans which the Government may find it desirable to produce to meet this formidable problem.
Since Civil Defence training will not be given to all National Service reservists during their period of part-time training, it has been necessary to legislate for a selective scheme, and the restriction of the scheme to selected National Service men is catered for by the reference in Clause 1 (1) toany class of such persons to whom the arrangements relate.
§ Major Lloyd George
That is a matter for discussion between the R.A.F. and 2167 ourselves. The cost of the scheme will be met by the Home and Health Departments.
I hope that I have now given the House a sufficient account of the reasons for this Bill and of the immediate arrangements which it is proposed to make if it becomes law. I recognise that the scheme proposed under the Bill is obviously not, taken alone, sufficient to meet the magnitude of the present threat, but it is essentially a first step. This limited plan for training R.A.F. reservists by no means represents all that is likely to be required.
It is now evident that nuclear attack on this country would produce conditions in which men from the Armed Forces would need to be used to supplement the Civil Defence services, and it is necessary that some training for those duties should be given in advance. The Government, are, therefore, now considering what other plans should be made for using members of the Armed Forces to supplement the Civil Defence forces and what specialised training in peace would be needed for this purpose.
The argument has been advanced that, before embarking on the scheme for which this Bill provides, we should have awaited the outcome of this further study. But I do not feel that is enough reason to delay the introduction of this scheme. It is a first step, and one which can clearly be taken without, in any sense, weakening our offensive power, since these men form no part of the present mobilisation plan. We should not therefore delay the opportunity of equipping these men to make an important contribution to the defence of the country in the first phase of war.
Meanwhile, it is essential to foster the closest contact at all levels between the Armed Forces of the country, and those responsible for the direction or control of Civil Defence services. With this in view, my predecessor created a new post in the Home Office with the title Director-General of Civil Defence, and appointed to it a distinguished retired soldier and ex-member of the Army Council, Sir Sidney Kirkman. I am satisfied that this will ensure not only the continued coordination of the civil defence work of the civil departments concerned, but in particular the initiation of liaison at the 2168 highest level with the Chiefs of Staff and the Commanders-in-Chief Designate, Home Forces.
§ Mr. Bellenger
May I put this question to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; it is a very important and useful point? For example, will—as we may now call him—the Chief of Staff, Civil Defence, be co-equal with other Chiefs of Staff and attend Cabinet meetings when they are called, or the meetings of the Defence Committee?
§ Major Lloyd George
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this is a matter for the Executive who have full responsibility, and it is essentially a civil affair. This is a step to obtain complete liaison, which is very important, and is accepted readily and gladly by the local authorities.
Finally, I wish to make it clear that neither I nor my colleagues concerned with Civil Defence are in the slightest degree complacent about the very grave, indeed the terrible results, that would eventuate from even one hydrogen bomb attack, let alone a series of such attacks. On 5th July my predecessor made some striking comments on this aspect, and I fully endorse them today. The surest way of avoiding these results is to secure a state of affairs in the world which will render so catastrophic a form of attack unthinkable. The policy of Her Majesty's Government is to strive for the removal of causes tending to produce international tension and suspicion, and I do not have to remind the House of the notable progress in these matters which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has recently achieved.
While we do not by any means regard war as inevitable, we must not shut our eyes to the fact that the hydrogen bomb does exist and could be used against us. Nor must we despair merely because what we could achieve at full stretch would not prevent grievous damage and loss of life. But one thing is certain. Unless we act at full stretch and with our uttermost efforts, the grievous damage and loss of life would be immeasurably greater.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I welcome the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to the Dispatch Box making his first speech as Home Secretary. I could only wish that it had been on a more pleasant subject, because even in the Home Office there are some pleasant subjects, though certainly the contemplation of the hydrogen bomb is not one of them. But I wonder if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has read the speech made by the noble Lord who presented this Bill in another place on behalf of the Government, because it hardly seems to be the same Bill. There are certainly not the same reasons, but of course there were no reasons in the House of Lords. There were a few excuses and that was all.
What is the origin of this Bill? It is the confession that was wrung from the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and the Under-Secretary of State for Air that, out of the 100,000 National Service reservists for the Royal Air Force, only 8,500 were called up. It is obviously unfair that men who happened to have got into the Royal Air Force contingent should do their two years' full-time training and then nothing more, whereas men who served in the Army had to do their full-time training for two years and then were called up annually for a fortnight, together with other liabilities, like Territorial training drills during the course of the year.
That was obviously unfair, and the late Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence—now the Minister of Works —explained to the House that something on the lines of this Bill would be brought in to deal with that situation. That is the origin of this Bill, and it is no use now trying to bring in these other things, because the whole Bill carries the marks of improvisation to cover up something that had been at last revealed as indefensible.
I wish to join with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in his closing words. Speeches made during the past eight days by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery and General Gruenther indicate the appalling prospects—to use the words of the Prime Minister in the debate on Suez—that this rapid development of the power of nuclear weapons opens up for all of us. Let us remember that we have a civil 2170 population that, up to the present, has never broken under the impact of war.
I am told that during the last war, when the Germans started their bombing attack on areas in the East End of London, they sent over observation planes to see if the people were fleeing to the countryside, as they did on the Continent. To the surprise of the Germans our people were doing nothing of the kind. Of course, there is the famous case of the woman who was being condoled with by a very exalted personage on the wreck that had been made of her home. She made the reply—I would not use the words unless they were a quotation—" Well, it does take your mind off the bloody war, doesn't it?"
I was on the Civil Defence Sub-committee of the Coalition Government at the time when we knew that attack by the V.1 and V.2 weapons was imminent. We asked ourselves continually, "Will they face that?" Fortunately, a few days before the first of these weapons fell, the Normandy landings took place, and everyone in this country was convinced that the war was not going on very much longer. But had those missiles fallen a few days before, instead of a few days after the Normandy landings, the result might have been very different. Let us face the fact that the risk of one hydrogen bomb is something far more formidable than the whole of the V.1 and V.2 bombardment.
I wish to revert to one thing which I said on 5th July. I hope that the military commanders of this country will realise that the most important military asset of any country is stability on the home front. Nothing to protect the home front from the dangers that menace it ought to be regarded as a mere side-show to which manpower can be contributed only in trickles. Resources must be made fully available for it. I agree that events move so rapidly in this matter that one has no real ground for complaint that the full picture is not available today.
We must say, however, that the full picture ought soon to be available, if we believe what General Gruenther said, even in the light of what the Prime Minister said at Question time today. General Gruenther is reported to have said:…he felt that it would be necessary, if an act of aggression should develop, to use atomic 2171 weapons to correct the unbalance of forces between the hordes an aggressor might throw at us and the forces we should be able to assemble.That did not deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) at Questions. This was not saying that if they bomb us with the hydrogen bomb we will drop one on them. This says that owing to the unbalance of what are now called conventional weapons—although when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and I were in the First World War we would not have described them in such magniloquent terms—we shall be justified in using nuclear weapons if an act of aggression —not an act of nuclear aggression—takes place. I can only hope that the Prime Minister will take some note of that statement because we can be sure that, no matter who starts it, this will not be one-way traffic. That is the solemn thought about all this. After Pearl Harbour we know that it takes only one man to make a quarrel, not two. The numbers come in when we try to make peace.
Therefore, we are dealing with the most tremendous military earthquake, in prospect, that the world has ever known. I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will not say that the Bill is the pill that will cure the earthquake. It has nothing to do with the earthquake. It has to do with the difficulties of the Under-Secretary of State for Air. If he had had no difficulties there would have been no Bill.
Let us examine the Bill. To my mind the vital provision is not subsection (1) of Clause 1 but subsection (5). We are told that this is there for the removal of doubt. Whose doubt was it? The other night I heard the hon. and learned Solicitor-General deal with a point in which the most distinguished constitutional lawyer in the service of this House had advised the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments that one of them was ultra vires. The Solicitor-General, giving a spot decision, said, "I do not think so." I should have thought that, if there had been any doubt, it would have been refered to the Law Officers of the Crown. Subsection (5) says:It is hereby declared that the duties which members of the armed forces of the Crown may be called upon to undertake … include civil defence and the undergoing of training therein….2172 Who had the doubt? It was not the regimental sergeant-major who has just retired from the Coldstream Guards. I am sure that when he has had to draw up a duty roster he has never had any doubt as to what he could order a man to do if there was a job to be done. I have been the subject of duty rosters. I have even risen to a sufficiently dizzy height to draw them up myself. The people who do that never have any doubt, and woe betide the private soldier who suggests that there is any doubt.
Subsection (5) is the important subsection and we hope to move in Committee that it shall become subsection (1) of the Clause. It recognises that Civil Defence has passed beyond the phase where we can rely on the superannuated and the weak to discharge it. We will need, as we needed at times during the last war, some of the most vigorous, robust and alert people to do the work if it is to be done in a way that will maintain the confidence of the people whose morale we must preserve if we are to exhibit the ordinary stamina of the British people in trial. I am glad to see both the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Joint Under-Secretary nod approval to that. It is right that if we have any doubt at all it should be firmly laid down that this is one of the duties.
Of course, it has always been one of the great military exercises of this country to train soldiers in peeling potatoes, but when it has been suggested that they should go to the aid of farmers in flood or drought or any other emergency of that kind I have never heard it said that it was not a lawful order to tell them to go. In fact, to my knowledge the troops sometimes rejoice at being able to get off the barrack square to go to do some potato picking.
I suggest that it is a rather dangerous doctrine that this doubt has existed. I can only hope that if there is any doubt the new Army and Air Force Annual Bill, to which the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) has been devoting so much of his attention to the great gain of all of us who are interested in military matters, will make it plain, if there is any doubt, that civil defence and training for it are essential duties of the Armed Forces of the Crown.
2173 My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and others have asked many Questions about the selection of these men. This is important. At any rate at first only a few will be taken. The original proposal was that there should be 15,000 in the first year, and a second 15,000 in the second year, making a total of 30,000 men undergoing training in the second year. However, according to calculations which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has made, this year there are about 140,000 men from whom the first 15,000 and, in the next year, the 30,000, can be selected. That is approximately, at best, one in five, although I suppose that if we now have a three-year scheme that will mean 45,000.
§ Mr. Ede
I do not want to overstate it. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley knows the mathematics of the problem very well, and I am not going to get into a dispute with him as to whether it is more or less than 100,000. It is at all events somewhere about that number. How are they to be chosen? What will he the basis?
§ Mr. Ede
Everybody got on to the duty roster, even if it was only to shine the knob at the end of the sergeant-major's swagger stick, for on a duty roster everybody gets something, but on this job only between one in four and one in five will be on the duty roster.
This for the first time introduces the principle of selection into the National Service scheme. That again is a problem which will have to be very carefully thought about. In the past it has been 2174 some excuse to say, "We have not got a job for them, and we are calling none of them up," but now that some are to be chosen, how is it to be done? I suggest that this is a Bill the administration of which will require most careful consideration not only by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman but also by the Under-Secretary of State for Air and his noble Friend the Secretary of State.
It was, of course, expected that the Bill would be presented to us by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, as he then was, who had long experience in presenting bad and thin cases to the House.
§ Mr. Ede
The Government said, "Who can get us out of the trouble? The Home Secretary," not realising that they would not have the same Home Secretary when the time came.
I can tell the right hon. and gallant Gentleman from my experience in his office that civil defence is a very heavy responsibility for a Home Secretary. I frankly confess, as my hon. Friends know, that at no time during my term of office was I happy about what I could do. Consequently, I am exceedingly grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and to his predecessor for what they have said about the steps that we had taken, tentative steps along lines which, as far as I can see, they have not found it necessary to take one step in retracement; in fact they are moving on from where we were.
In the awful event of there being another war, it is on the success of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in developing and maintaining a Civil Defence service which will take note of the realities of the situation that our power to remain in the conflict will depend. That is the heavy responsibility of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and he must not be content with getting the few men for whom the Royal Air Force cannot find a job.
We have to recognise that this cannot now be described as something which is outside the main military strategy of the nation. It is not merely a matter of men. It is a matter of resources also. Who can contemplate what we really ought to ask for in that respect? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned a few 2175 pounds for barracks and instruction centres. That does not deal with the civilian population. It does not pretend to do so, and I am not suggesting that that was put up as any form of camouflage. How about the dispersal of industry?
§ Mr. Ede
It will be something far more than the docks this time. The former Home Secretary told us that a hydrogen bomb dropped anywhere would have an area of devastation of some sort or another spreading to a 15-mile radius. What are we to do about aircraft factories and factories making munitions of war in circumstances like that? As I once told my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on a previous occasion when he was asking me questions he must not emulate Socrates, who was such an adept at asking questions but not providing the answers. I merely say that to indicate that if the Government live up to what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said about not being complacent about the matter, there is a great deal of thinking and public education to be done. We shall have to be very frank with the people of this country about what it may mean if the trouble comes.
I did not like the concluding phrases used by General Gruenther in this respect. He said:There remained the problem of maintaining people's interest in it, in spite of the ingenious moves by the Soviet propaganda machine. The Russians were busy indoctrinating their young people; we must counter this by educating public opinion.I did not like the contrast between "indoctrination" and "education," just as I did not care for the contrast between "hordes of the enemy "and" forces of our own."
We must bring home very vividly to our people the danger in which we stand. I agree with Field Marshal Montgomery that no nation in the world has yet really faced up to the issue as to what it will mean, and I am sure that the more that each nation faces up to it, the less likelihood there will be of the final disaster coming, because—let us be quite certain about this—although there may be some 2176 form of military victory, there will be no triumph. The outlook for mankind is bleak indeed.
We shall not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. We are wholeheartedly in favour of an explicit assurance on the widest possible grounds by the Government as to what their plans are for dealing with the problem and about the need for these plans. We ask that statements shall be clear, emphatic and explicit. We wish the right hon. and gallant Gentleman well—no one wishes him that more than I do—in the continual conflict that he will have with the Service Departments when he has to put before them the urgent needs of the civil population in this connection.
During the Committee stage we shall put down one or two Amendments, one of which I have already indicated, to which I hope the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Government will pay particular attention. We believe that the great thing which is achieved by the Bill is the recognition that this is a job to which the Government must call the able-bodied and the alert. We expect the Government to administer the Bill in that spirit and at the same time to carry on their efforts to ensure that the tension between nations shall grow less and less until we can feel that mankind has learnt without experience the bitter lesson that experience will inevitably bring. We hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to impress upon his Service colleagues in particular the fact that his claims are at least equal to any one of theirs in the future consideration of national defence.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
I am sure the whole House has followed with interest the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I welcome this Bill, but I would have welcomed it more enthusiastically if it had taken in a larger ambit, though it is very important to provide the necessary personnel for Civil Defence. The wider issues, I think, should be faced increasingly, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that anything we can do to familiarise the public with the enormity of this matter should be done.
I am amazed at the comparative indifference and almost innocence which 2177 has been displayed by the public on this subject. It takes me back to 1938, when it will be remembered that there was not only wide indifference to the problem of Civil Defence, but complete innocence as to its accts. I remember local authorities allowing Civil Defence regulations to lie on the table, and I remember some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen declaring that our only salvation was to dig deep air-raid shelters. I remember the general idea of the impossibility of doing anything which was adopted by those who looked at this problem in 1938 and 1939. If anything marks our progress, it is that we now give recognition to the amazing possibilities of this side of warfare.
I was astonished when this House was told that it was impossible to retain our troops in Egypt and in the Canal Zone because five hydrogen bombs would wipe them out. We were advised accordingly by the Prime Minister, and the House agreed that it was desirable to give up our base near the Suez Canal. Although voted against the Government on that particular occasion, nevertheless I ventured to write a letter to "The Times" pointing out that the House of Commons had decided that we could not hold the Suez Canal with 60,000 troops because five of these bombs would destroy them utterly. So the majority of the House of Commons agreed to the withdrawal of our troops from Suez, and in my letter I pointed out that there were 16 million people living in the Thames Valley. If the life of our troops was precarious in the Suez Canal, what about the 15 million or 16 million English—if I may be nationalistic on this occasion—whom we were foolish enough to continue to cram into the most vulnerable part of these islands. What is the sense or wisdom of such a thing?
§ Sir W. Darling
It is not equally true. There are not 15 million people there. Let me remind the House that one-tenth of the population of these islands live in one-third of its area. There are 5 million people in Scotland but there are 45 million in England and Wales, and we should not forget that when we are directing our minds to this question, because a very important aspect of it is the redistribution of the population. There is 2178 a continual temptation to crowd all our strength into this corner of Britain, and it is preposterous, ridiculous and an untenable position which cannot be held for one hour.
This little corner of the land where we find the valley of the Thames has always attracted the invader. The Romans came here and, in the 1914–18 war, there was bombing from the air. Despite that warning, London was built larger between the wars and more and more industry came to it, while most of the Government Departments were centred here, making it more vulnerable than ever in 1939–45. We are going to build another airport at Gatwick when everybody knows that the hydrogen bomb that will destroy London Airport will also destroy the new one at Gatwick. Yet the House, with enthusiasm, has supported that idea.
I support the Government in this important matter, but I hope that this is only a small instalment in full consideration of the problem. I do not disagree with anything said by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary. This is a most urgent and momentous problem, and we must organise as best we can to resist the possibilities of danger by placing Civil Defence certainly as high as, if not higher, than any other aspect of offensive warfare. We must address our minds to the ancillary matters and provide effective machinery to deal with such matters as transport, taking sections of the population even to sea in order to keep them alive, the protection of factories engaged in munitions, and the thousands of other problems which are created by the threat of war. I am glad to support the Government in the steps they are taking. I hope throughout the new Session our minds will be concerned with the plans and purposes to which we must address ourselves if we are to make this country secure against the possibility of attack.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
As I understood the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), what he would prefer to see the Government doing is to redistribute industry. If the Government did that it would probably be the best civil defence measure that could be devised. In place of them doing that he welcomes the provision in this Bill that the National Service man should spend a meagre part of 2179 his time learning the rudimentary art—if it can be called that—of fire control and rescue work. I would say that he will be able to do very little in the time which the Government are allocating for that purpose.
My main complaint today, as my right hon. Friend indicated in his speech, is that Parliament is groping in a fog. We are not seeing our way clearly, and it is the fault of the Government because they are introducing at this time a Bill of this nature in advance of a much more comprehensive Measure. Actually, we are discussing this Bill in quite a different context from that which the Home Secretary mentioned in his speech. The context in which we are discussing this Measure was concisely and precisely put in a speech delivered yesterday at a meeting of the Institute of Directors by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. This is what he said and this, I maintain, is the background to all our discussions today:If there were a war it was quite likely that the main use of weapons and our main potential would rely on what we had made in peace and that wartime production would sink to a very low level owing to what the other side was doing to the industries of its opponents.As I understand that speech, if it is correctly reported, it means that in wartime our industrial or our civil population will be reduced to such a level that they would not be able to maintain the flow of supplies to our troops who are fighting overseas. If that be the case then is it not obvious that we want something more than this puny Bill.
Let me say with emphasis that I have no objection to the use of National Service men for what is euphemistically termed "civil defence." When I look at its title, the Bill seems to be a Box-and-Cox Measure. There is no longer any such things as civil defence under the impact of hydrogen or atom bombs. The whole population will be totally engaged in warfare, whether they are in military uniform, Air Force uniform, or the darker coloured Civil Defence uniform.
It will be interesting to know, by the way, how we are to switch from Civil Defence uniforms and equipment to Air Force uniforms when the first year of break-back war has gone by. It will make no difference then what uniforms 2180 we have or whether there are any uniforms at all. The whole population will have to be mobilised under a discipline strict and severe if we are to avoid the panic and chaos which are likely to occur in face of a weapon which none of our people, or people anywhere else except in Japan, understand.
Some hon. Members recently watched the "Battle Royal" operation in Germany, when the Royal Air Force and the Army engaged in joint operations. Certain atomic missiles were dropped or fired in theory and we saw a very nice illustration of how the Army can put up, or simulate, an atomic bomb. We did not see the actual impact of the atomic gun. The military, any more than the civilians, do not know where they are, under this new and novel form of warfare. It is not treating this House fairly that, in advance of the comprehensive review which the Home Secretary talked about today, we should be asked to pass a Bill of this nature for the purpose, which we all know only too well, of saving the Government's face.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
I accompanied the right hon. Gentleman on the occasion to which he has referred, and I think it is going too far to say that the military do not know where they are. I got the impression that they have a very clear understanding about where they are.
§ Mr. Bellenger
The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) was there, but I reiterate that the military do not know where they are. They have never seen an atom gun fired and perhaps a handful have witnessed the explosion of an atom bomb. We all saw an American weapon which is supposed to be able to fire atomic missiles, but not one British officer or other rank has ever seen that gun fired. Am I not therefore right in saying that, to a very large extent, the military are groping in the dark with regard to the new warfare, nearly as much as the rest of us are?
Some Members of the Government may know more about this matter, but it is obvious that the military do not. Few of the allied generals at S.H.A.P.E. know what these secret weapons will do because the information has not been given to them by the people who do know, our American allies. I do not think that what I am saying is unfair to 2181 the military; and when I say "the military" I include the Royal Air Force. It seems that the Navy in regard to their ships are much more realistic than the other Services, but even they do not know where they are going in relation to this terrible weapon.
How can Parliament find a solution to this problem? We cannot do so by means of this small Bill if we are not told the size of the problem. What would the House say if the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a Budget and said, "I am putting on a lot of additional taxation, but that is in advance of a comprehensive review of our national resources which the Government are now undertaking." That is what we are being asked to do today. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has told us what he was doing at Coventry, to which he has sent three part-time commissioners to deal with this matter, we might have been able to understand the problem so far as it concerns Coventry.
§ Mr. Bellenger
At any rate, the Government have sent three commissioners down to try to solve a problem which Coventry itself has refused to solve. It has refused to operate a scheme.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not want to discuss civil defence as such, but how the National Service reservists mentioned in the Bill will be used and what they are to do. I think it will be in order to discuss that subject. When you were not in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the Minister himself ranged over a wide field, and Mr. Speaker said that in answering the arguments of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman we could apply our remarks to some of those points which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had made.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is true that I was not in the Chair, but the Ruling was passed on to me that to discuss the Coventry situation would be out of order.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Surely it will be in order to touch lightly on it, if that is necessary as a background to an argument on the Bill.
§ Mr. Crossman
On a point of order. We have discussed at great length matters concerning Field Marshal Montgomery and General Gruenther, but we are told that we may not discuss the recruiting of personnel in Coventry, which is one of our key cities, on the Second Reading of a Bill to set up a corps of National Service men for civil defence. Are we not to be able to discuss one of our great rearmament cities which will have to recruit these men under the Bill?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am amazed to hear this special Ruling that we cannot discuss the city I represent in relation to the Bill. We are allowed to consider American generals but we are not allowed to discuss Coventry's recruiting. We have discussed London; why can we not discuss Coventry? I know why not; because Coventry is an important city which has fought the Government on this matter. It is outrageous.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I intended to illustrate my arguments with references to my constituency. Surely it is in order to make references to what has happened in my constituency.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not say "references." I said that to discuss the Coventry situation would be out of order.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I think there is a difference in definition. Perhaps, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you would define what you mean by "the Coventry situation." That may refer to some relationship between the Home Secretary and the Coventry local authority. If we are discussing civil defence surely you would not say that civil defence did not apply to Coventry as well as to London and other big cities.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not say that at all. I said it would be out of order on the Bill to discuss in detail the differences that arose in Coventry. That is what I meant to say, at any rate, and I stand by that.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I will try to keep within the bounds of order. I am sorry that I had to mention Coventry. I guessed that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) would try to say something about it. It is very important that we should consider the proposed call-up of the National Service reservists and placing them under the command of the Home Office for what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to as training for utilisation for mobile columns in time of war. It is obvious that these men will be sent somewhere, even if they are not sent to Coventry.
The Government, in introducing the Bill, are trying to perform a sleight-of-hand trick on Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) explained exactly why the Government are forced to ask Parliament to remove doubts. My right hon. Friend said that he had never had any doubts —neither have I—that men who will be sent to do civilian duties under the Army Act or the Air Force Act will be liable so to do.
If there is any doubt on this question, is there any doubt about using Service personnel to unload ships? I should have thought that when in time of war, or even in time of peace, we are training men to do what I maintain are military and not civilian duties, there would be no doubt that they are under a duty to do them. I am not so clear whether they are under a duty to do such purely civilian labour as the unloading of ships. However, that is by the way.
I wish to put a point to the Joint Under-Secretary in relation to a remark made by his right hon. and gallant Friend about the close liaison between a retired general in charge of civil defence under the Home Secretary, and the Service Ministers. I am not so sure that that liaison will be as effective as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said it would be. For instance, I understand that the Home Secretary himself is not a member of the Defence Committee which includes 2184 the Service Ministers who are the controlling authority over the young men mentioned in the Bill.
As hon. Members know, the Defence Committee is the Committee within the Cabinet which decides military matters. Of course, its members have to go to the Cabinet for its approval, but I believe I am right in saying that, in the first instance, the Home Secretary is not a member of that Committee. Though it is not directly part of this Bill I would say that the Home Secretary who is to control civil defence should himself be a member of the Defence Committee.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
Who is to be the chairman of that Committee, because the Home Secretary is a very senior Minister indeed?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not think that the Home Secretary is the right person to be in charge of civil defence under the new conditions of war. I do not think that he should be the designated Minister, and certainly not the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Health in a matter which is essentially military.
§ Mr. Wigg
This is an important point which I tried to get cleared up earlier. As I understand, when these men are called up for training they will be liable under the Army and Air Force Act, in which case they will be under the command of Royal Air Force officers, and the chain of command will be from the Home Secretary to the Secretary of State for Air.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I believe that these Service personnel—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—will be under the control and command of their own officers. They will be organised in military units commanded by military officers, in this case by Royal Air Force officers. These Royal Air Force officers will either be under the command of the civilian commandant, at the depot at any rate, or else under the supreme command of the military commander, and will be working under orders given by the civilian commandant which are conveyed to the Royal Air Force commanding officer.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)
Royal Air Force officers will have to be made available to look after the discipline of these men, but the instructors at the depots will be 2185 civilians. The point on which I am afraid that I cannot help is the exact chain of command through the commandant, but we shall have to discuss that.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I think we have heard quite enough from the hon. Gentleman to realise that the fog of warfare is spreading. He is not quite sure what the chain of command is to be. We intend to ask the Government to enlighten us on the point. Our contention is that the Government are not saying it in the Bill. They have introduced the Bill today and are asking us to approve the calling up of Royal Air Force National Service personnel who are to be placed under some command, certainly under their own officers for discipline, but we are not quite sure where the command is going to start or end. This is an illustration of the haphazard way in which the Government have asked us to consider the Bill.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is a little confused about this issue. He is confusing the operational role with the question of training.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I understand that these men are to be used for mobile columns. In time of war, who is to command and operate the columns? During the last war, civil defence was operated by local authorities, and, in most cases, the town clerk was placed in command. Is that what is to happen? If so, is the town clerk to have peace-time training in rescue work and all the other things? What is to happen in wartime?
Any hon. Member who has been in the Services knows that under the stress and strain of war it is essential that military men should be controlled by people understanding the military mind. The only place in which the civil authority will then come in will be for supplying some of the civilian services if, indeed, they still exist at that time.
I believe that when atom bombs begin to fall most of these services will be destroyed, and it will not be the civilian authorities who will be able to put them into operation again. That will have to be done by the military, as happened during the heavy bombing of Caen and all the other towns during the advance through Normandy in the last war.
2186 It is quite obvious that we cannot carry too far today the point that the Government must give us an opportunity of looking at the comprehensive plans which they say they are to introduce. From my experience of seeing an operation in Germany in which atom bombs and similar missiles were theoretically used, I am convinced that it will be impossible for civil authorities, or, indeed, military authorities to operate to any extent above ground. They will have to go underground. In that respect, I urge the Government to have a look at some of the defence measures now being provided in Sweden, a country which has not been to war for more than 100 years. Nevertheless, the Government of Sweden are fully conscious of what atom warfare is to be like in the future.
It would obviously be wrong, indeed unpatriotic, for the Opposition to oppose this Bill on Second Reading, but we do say that the Government are not treating this House fairly today when they ask it to give them what amounts to a blank, and a smudged, cheque.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I propose to address the few remarks that I intend to make to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and to that of the right hon Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), when opening the debate for the Opposition. The right hon. Member for South Shields complained, first of all, that the Bill had been introduced in advance of the report on the overall inquiry which is now taking place into the whole aspect of civil defence as a result of the change in atom warfare. Whatever may be the result of this report, one good aspect with regard to future civil defence is the mobile column. If the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw had criticised us for leaving the mobile column question until the report has been issued I would have agreed with him absolutely. It is essential to get this thing going, but, at the same time, it will take the longest time of all to integrate.
I would like to clear the air over this matter of command, civilian responsibility, and so on. We have seen this many times before. There are many examples of it. I am only guessing, but 2187 surely these people will go to the training depot. All the orders will be issued to them through their own officers, but the actual instruction will be done by civilians. That has happened over and over again in the Army. We have had civilians instructing soldiers before, and there is no difficulty about that at all.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there may be some difficulty on the operations side, but, with good will on all sides, such difficulty is easily overcome. During the war, the Home Guard in my own constituency—unknown to any one else, of course, because there might have been horrified comments—were trained in civil defence as well as in their own duties. Although they were never called upon to implement the scheme I have no doubt that it would have worked perfectly well in event of an emergency.
These mobile columns will surely come under the command of the regional commissioner. All this rubbish about the town clerk shows a great lack of imagination. The whole object of a mobile column is to keep it outside the area of damage and under the command of some central authority—probably the regional commissioner. When a disaster has taken place the column will be unhurt, or unaffected, by that disaster and come under the directions of the regional commissioner to do the job which, under the Bill, they will be trained to do.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned this as being a Measure to get my right hon. Friend at the Defence Ministry out of a hole. One gets accustomed to, and one sometimes gets sick of, this sort of thing which goes on in the House of Commons. The rest of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was magnificent, as it always is, but that bit really was not. He knows perfectly well, and so does the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), that this problem was on the plate of the late Government for a very long time. They were unable to find a solution to it and an Election came just in time for them.
We were questioning them about it, as I remember only too well. The hon. Member for Lincoln had no solution of the problem whatsoever. To say that this has been done in this way to solve the problem is quite ridiculous—the right 2188 hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) himself said that only one person in four was affected.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member will be fair about this. Was it not the incoming Government which immediately cut down all the reserve training establishments for the Royal Air Force? Did they not, almost immediately, close 17 out of the 22 reserve ground schools and close nearly all the flying training schools? Did not that cause tens of thousands of reservists to mount up?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
No, it was precisely the other way round. This is very much out of order, of course, but those training schools were closed because these men had no training to do and there was, therefore, no obvious, reason for keeping them. As the hon. Gentleman knows quite well, the Royal Air Force, in the first year of warfare, has to recruit a reserve greater than it needs. To accuse us of having created the problem does not accord with the facts.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Since the hon. and gallant Gentleman accused my right hon. Friend of misleading the House, it is only fair to make it quite clear that we believe that this problem was very much intensified by the mistaken policies of the Air Ministry.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I do not agree, neither do I think that those are the facts— but let us continue with the debate.
I would be happier about the Bill if I knew more of the details of the administration, the command, and particularly the communications of these mobile columns after they have been trained in these schools. Easily the most important part of the Bill is subsection (5). It puts on paper what we all realised was, in fact, the case—that all the Armed Forces are liable, as part of their duty, for civil defence—but the only thing I am a little worried about is that it refers to the Regular Armed Forces. What about the Home Guard? I should like to know whether the Home Guard, by implication or otherwise, is included, because, above all others, they are the people who should be included.
There should be included all Territorial units which are to remain in the 2189 country—the Home Guard and other units of any sort or kind which, by their nature, will not be sent overseas. It is no good suggesting the inclusion of the whole Territorial Army, because we hope that those units eligible will be sent overseas in a very short time. It is about time we were told—not just by a sort of vague implication, but definitely—that the Home Guard and similar units are to get Civil Defence training at the earliest possible moment.
I also want to know what training they are to get in actual mobility. They are to be trained in fire fighting, rescue work, and so on, but what is to happen to them during the remaining week-end of the seven days' training which they get in each year? I want to know by whom, and when, and how these people are to be trained to drive in the column at night without lights and get to the required destination. It is no good civil servants, local authorities or anyone else trying to tell me that it is quite all right, that all they have to do is to get to the steering wheel and drive.
I have had the experience of trying to train men in these exercises. It takes a deuce of a long time to teach a man to read a map at night, to move at anything like a reasonable speed and to get to the required place. He needs a lot of training. I therefore suggest that when they have finished their training at these establishments, no more useful purpose could be served than that, on the week-end of their seven days' training, they should be formed into mobile columns in their own areas, under their own officers, in hired transport to carry out exercises by day and by night. I think that that is the only way in which they will become at all effective.
Normally speaking, the Territorial Army, or those arms of the Service which do part-time training, do it for a fortnight in the summer. In many cases it is their only holiday in the year. For two years out of three the Army, being a benign institution, usually selects a delectable spot for its training. For one year it generally has to go to Salisbury Plain, which is not so delectable a spot, but it is generally a seaside resort or somewhere near a town where fun and games are available. Therefore, the people who go to those camps regard that fortnight as a real holiday.
2190 Are these establishments which are to be set up to operate all the year round? If they are to operate throughout the winter—which, of course, they can do because the men will be living in bricks and mortar and not under canvas—the welfare side of these establishments will have to be seriously considered in order that these people can be kept amused when they are not being instructed, and so that they will look forward to going to these establishments for their fortnight's training.
I would have been happier if this Bill had been introduced by the Minister of Defence. I am beginning to see clearly that civil defence should pass right out of the ægis of the Home Office. The whole of the nation is to be included in the defence of the country, whether civilians or soldiers, and it all needs co-ordinating by one Department. This Department should be responsible for the co-ordination of all the arms of the Services, including the Home Guard, the Observer Corps, the Mine-Watching Corps, and so on. I look forward to the day when we shall have a Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces, of a very high calibre indeed, with Civil Defence under his command.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
In associating myself with everything that has been said on both sides of the House about the importance of Civil Defence and the necessity to take it seriously, I do so with the background of having been in civil defence almost from its inception, well before the days of Munich, and right through the war. Therefore, the Home Secretary can be assured that I approach this matter very seriously.
I believe this Bill to be quite inadequate and ill-conceived. It proposes that, to begin with, about 15,000 men shall be called up for two weeks' training at one of three establishment in different parts of the country. This would involve two rescue schools and one fire-fighting establishment. We are told that work is to begin immediately on the Epsom school, and then we shall have to build two others, involving engaging a large staff and fairly considerable expenditure. I believe the Home Secretary, in introducing the Bill, mentioned a sum of £375,000. Yet I doubt whether this would achieve the object desired.
2191 I do not think that two weeks' training will be sufficient either for rescue work or for fire-fighting. In addition, many of the people will have to travel considerable distances to those schools. There will be confusion as to who is in charge, the civilian or the R.A.F. officer. I listened carefully to what was said on that point by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), and I think he will agree that confusion would be avoided if it could be either a civilian or a military establishment, but I do not see why it should be both. If we are to have special instructors, they might just as well be military as civilian instructors.
§ Mr. Hynd
The Joint Under-Secretary, in another place, in introducing the Bill, said that people would be recruited and trained specially to give this instruction. There are no real experts in this matter with years of experience. The whole thing has been built up in the last few years. We are told that R.A.F. officers will be detailed for this job, but the Joint Under-Secretary in another place also said that it is no part of the Government's policy to maintain civil defence mobile columns in peace, as there were no peace-time functions for them to fulfil.
I fail to understand that. Surely there should be enough work for a full-time nucleus of mobile columns to keep those specially equipped vehicles in apple-pie order ready for the day when they might be required, and to train the people to drive at night. Surely there should be enough work in peace-time for them to do jobs like that. If we are to take this mobile column business seriously, we ought to see that the vehicles are kept running so that they are ready for the day of mobilisation.
I ask the Government to consider very carefully this simple suggestion. The Government have many black spots on their record, but there is one thing for which they can claim a little credit, namely, the elimination of certain Government Departments. They have been able to amalgamate one or two Ministries. They have been able to cut down staff and to effect certain economies in expenditure. Yet here they are setting up 2192 a new organisation, with new expenditure and a new structure which I do not consider to be necessary.
Would it not be much more simple to say that those Service men who cannot fulfil their part-time obligations in the normal military way should be allowed to fulfil their part-time obligations by enrolling in the existing Civil Defence Corps in the areas where they live? That would avoid creating a new organisation and it would avoid all this expenditure and the necessity to travel long distances. It would ensure that if war did break out, people would be available for work in their home areas where they were most required. That would solve the problem without all this rigmarole.
I would go a little further. On a previous occasion I made a suggestion which was fairly well received on the Government Front Bench. I should like the Bill to be extended so as to provide that those people who, for one reason or another, have their National Service deferred should, as a condition of deferment, be obliged to enrol in the local Civil Defence Corps or some comparable Service. If the Bill dealt with the matter along those lines, it would be much more useful than it is at present.
I agree with other speakers that, in view of the stage at which we have arrived, with the threat of the hydrogen bomb, and so on, it would be more sensible for this Service to come under the Ministry of Defence rather than the Home Office. We know what happened last time. In each town the town clerk became the civil defence controller. He was also the food and fuel controller, and he had a lot of other jobs as well. That may have been successful in the last war, although I do not think it was as successful as other arrangements could have been.
Certainly, next time, in the circumstances prevailing, such an arrangement would be quite inadequate. If we are to have anything like these full-time military mobile columns under R.A.F. officers, we shall have to get away from the idea that the Civil Defence Service can be run by the town clerk in the town and some other civilian in the region. It is not too late for the Government to transfer this responsibility to the Ministry of Defence, and put the whole organisation on a proper footing.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
I should like to take up the point that the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) has just made about the control of civil defence by either the Minister of Defence or the Home Secretary, because I think that point lies at the bottom of a very profound principle which has been brought out in this debate. Civil defence has a dual character in peace-time, because it is essentially concerned with a number of Services which are fundamentally local government services, and if we start to introduce the principle that these services should come under military control we shall create a profound revolution in the whole system.
I think that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) will agree that we must not let it be thought that nothing which has so far been done is of any use at all—because that is not true. Although I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that civil defence is something for the alert and able-bodied, I know that he would be the last to suggest that the very considerable body of volunteers who have come forward both under his leadership and under that of the two Home Secretaries of this Government are all elderly and decrepit people. That is not so.
There is, and there will continue to be, a place—even in Coventry—for the operation of local government civil defence within the towns themselves. But the Bill deals mainly with a completely new aspect of civil defence—the mobile reserve force coming in from outside to deal with incidents which cannot, for one reason or another, be dealt with by the local government civil defence services. That force is an important one and must be built up.
I take leave to doubt whether some of the Bill's proposals, as they now stand, will create the cadre of mobile columns which we must have in every area if we are to deal adequately with the situation which may arise. That is a question which must be studied. At the beginning of his speech the right hon. Member for South Shields made great play with the conditions under which, as he said, this Bill came to life. He seemed to think that he had some knowledge of the work that went on in the councils of the 2194 Government, and his idea was that this was the way in which the Government were offsetting a certain unfairness which now exists in National Service. The fact is that the Government required these additional resources, and that they were not available from other quarters. I see no reason for criticism in the fact that the Government have turned their attention to the only quarter from which resources could be drawn. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) has pointed out in nearly every debate on defence matters that we are inadequately served by military resources. That is true. We have, therefore, to draw our civilian defence resources mainly from civilian and not military sources. I agree with the principle, which has been enunciated very fairly, that total war requires total defence.
I suggest that the Bill implies a completely new psychological approach to the question of civil defence—
§ Mr. Harvey
Yes, indeed. The question has been raised whether there was any doubt among the people about this question of civil defence. There has been doubt everywhere. Doubt has been expressed by hon. Members opposite, as well as by my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and by civilians and soldiers, as to the exact importance and standing of civil defence. It is a very great encouragement to the small number of hon. Members who have taken part in past civil defence debates to see the numbers swelling as they have done in this debate. The attendance of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) is a welcome addition, although what he may have to say may not be so welcome.
The Bill accepts, for the first time, in clear terms the principle that civil defence is part of the duties of the Armed Services. As the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has indicated, it may well subsequently involve the inclusion, under the National Service Act, of civil defence as a full-time service—the fourth arm of defence, as the former Home Secretary regularly described it. I welcome the Bill because I believe that it lays a new emphasis upon the whole subject. We should be ill-advised to say anything today which implied that the very enthusiastic people who have come forward to 2195 date have not been performing a very valuable service.
What we must do—and what I think the Bill does not quite succeed in doing—is to establish a permanent corps for civil defence—a regular element upon which the volunteer and National Service formations can be built up. This is the beginning of a prototype civil defence organisation having quite a degree of similarity to the Territorial Army as it relates to National Service men and Regular Forces. The difference is that under existing arrangements the Regular Civil Defence Forces do not exist.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary has referred to the appointment of the new Director-General. He has a vast and important task to perform in co-ordinating the activities of the Civil Defence Corps, the mobile column system which is envisaged in the Bill, and the local government Civil Defence service—which I do not think can be brought under military control but should be closely co-ordinated with it. Another very important aspect which has already been touched upon by one hon. Member opposite is the dispersal of factories—which comes under industrial civil defence. All these things are part of the system of total home defence.
I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) about the necessity for a complete and absolute military command and conception, into which all these parts must be fitted. I welcome the Bill as an indication of the Government's acceptance of the function of civil defence and its future development. The Home Secretary has referred to the review which is now going on and which has been necessitated by the arrival of the atom and hydrogen bombs. When that review is completed I am certain that there will be some developments which are not unrelated to the system as we now see it. This is an immediate Measure, designed to meet an immediate requirement. As such, this is a perfectly adequate Measure within those limitations, which the Home Secretary has fully admitted. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has been assiduous in pointing out this discrepancy in National Service, but it is part and parcel of the system to which his party and ours have entirely subscribed.
2196 This is a partial adjustment. It is not the complete adjustment. In due course it may be that a complete adjustment will be made, but to make that full adjustment now would, I think, be foolish. For that reason I am glad the Bill has been presented. I am glad it underlines the very considerable change in the aspect of the defence of the home front, which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields says, is fundamental to the maintenance of the morale of our people and our continuance in any struggle.
I wish my right hon. and gallant Friend well in the task that he has undertaken, especially in his work for civil defence, and I hope that he will, in making the adjustment, not fail to remember that there will always be a vast amount of voluntary recruitment for civil defence, and that if we impose too rigid a military system we shall not get that response.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
We have had today a new essay by the Government in hocus-pocus. The Government and their supporters have put up a smoke screen. They say that a great review has been going on, and that, pending the results of investigations, inquiries, researches, and exercises in the workings of civil defence, the Bill is an essential Measure.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) went a little further than he has gone in the past, and a little further than the hon. Gentleman the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey). He said that this problem has been always with us and that the people who are really responsible for it are those who were in the Labour Government. He picked on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and said it was rather much for him to blame the break down on the Government, because, he said, this was one of the things that the Government had inherited from the Labour Government. One of the troubles of telling fairy stories is that sometimes some of the fairies have good memories.
§ Mr. Wigg
No, but I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind thought.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will get his good fairy to get a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate in Standing Committee A for 24th November on the Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Bill. He will then find that it was during the Committee's proceedings that we established the fact beyond any doubt that out of 100,000 Royal Air Force reservists in 1953 only 8,500 had done any training. We got through the Government's rearguard and established that fact, and after the fact had been established the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Worthing spoke. He did not, on that occasion, blame the Labour Government.
What he said was:I only wish to ask one question—how long has this been going on?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 24th November, 1953; c. 15.]That is different from what he says today, when, of course, the hon. and gallant Gentleman is doing his duty and is trying to defend his Front Bench. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken took exactly the same line on 5th July. He said that when we make the point that there has been a breakdown we are making a rather mean and narrow party point. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House never play politics at all. That is done, it seems, only on this side of the House.
I do not want to make any party point, but it is very important to establish in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite and in the minds of the people of the country that the National Service Acts as they have been worked in the post-war years have broken down. The last figures that we have on the subject show that in July this year there were 142,000 Royal Air Force men under a legal liability to serve 60 days' part-time training, and of that number in 1953 only 8,000 did any training, and so far this year only 8,000. The number may rise to 15,000.
I know the figures are bound to taper off, for they depend on the call-up, but every year at least 100,000 men in the Royal Air Force are to escape the legal liability that men who have the misfortune or the good fortune to be called up to the Army or the Navy will have to 2198 bear. That is a very serious matter indeed, because it conflicts with the principle upon which the National Service Acts are based, that is to say, that the burden should fall equally on all young men irrespective of the homes they come from, irrespective of the part of the country they come from.
It is a very unfortunate and difficult situation with which the Government are faced. Of course, it is made a thousand times worse by the utter incompetence of the Secretary of State for War. With that I agree. I am not making a party point in saying so. I am being strictly objective when I say that. The situation will get worse. In November next the first of the young men will complete their three years' training, and we shall begin to step on the slippery slope that ends in having no Army at all.
The only way out, as I have said before —and I am making no party point—is for the Government to have the courage to have an all-party inquiry into the working of the National Service Acts, because the situation in which we find ourselves requires measures which would be so unpopular and so drastic that no Government, certainly no Government with the narrow majorities that our Governments have at the present time, and are likely to continue to get, will ever deal with that situation. That is a fact, and I am quite sure that all who study from a non-party point of view this problem of making the best use of our manpower will come to the same conclusion.
This Bill ought to have been introduced by the Minister of Defence. It ought not to have been called the Civil Defence (Armed Forces) Bill. It ought to have been called the Armed Forces (Civil Defence) Bill, because we have to look at civil defence as part of the whole of our defence programme. The new Home Secretary said today that we have to continue all this, that it has top priority. It is obvious he has not read the Defence White Paper. After all, he has been in his job about a fortnight, and I should have thought that he would have read that White Paper, which deals with civil defence, and which says in the second sentence in the chapter on civil defence:…the role of civil defence is necessarily a secondary one. …Is that still the Government's policy? We ought to ask that in view of the 2199 statements that have been made by Field Marshal Montgomery and General Gruenther. In view of those statements I should have thought that the civil defence of this country was more than secondary. It is a matter of life and death. It is a matter of our very survival. I should have thought it would have had absolute top priority. We ought to have a statement on the matter today. If the Government have revised this policy we ought to have heard about it, and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State, when he winds up the debate, will say a word or two about it.
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that the important part of the Bill is Clause 1 (5). It ought to have been subsection (1). As the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) said, for the first time it lays it down that the Armed Forces are concerned with civil defence. If that is so, cannot we get the Government to go a little further? We have 142,000 Royal Air Force men with a Reserve liability which they are not discharging, and the total number of National Service men with a Reserve liability in all Services at present is 454,000. Every year from now men will be passing from the Reserve to civilian life, their liability to recall being the same as that which affects all civilians. I should have thought that it was common sense that during his two years' training, as part of his military duties, the National Service man should be given basic training in civil defence.
I do not want to dwell on the subject of Coventry and I will certainly not go into the Coventry scheme. It is rather sad, however, to see the way in which Coventry's attitude has been misrepresented. What the good people in Coventry said, in their wisdom, was, "We are target No. 1. We are the priority target if anything goes wrong, and the kind of civil defence which we are being asked to undertake—above-ground shelters, for example—is a lot of nonsense. If this is the best which can be done, then do not let us deceive ourselves; let us wind it up." But no citizen of Coventry has ever refused, as I understand it, to work an effective civil defence system.
The hon. Member for Harrow, East was, therefore, a little ungracious and mean when he said that even Coventry " 2200 would be satisfied. That was a little below the belt, because the people of Coventry have never put forward the argument which has been attributed to them. Of course, it happens to suit hon. Members opposite to sneer at Coventry and to suggest that hon. Members on this side of the House, and the people of Coventry, are opposed to civil defence while they themselves are in favour of it.
It is quite true that Coventry would be a high priority target. Many of the young men who have been in the Armed Forces have returned to work in the factories of Coventry. It is long odds against the young man from Coventry ever going back into the Forces. While he is in the Army or the Air Force or the Navy he ought to be trained in civil defence. Let us use some of his two years in order to put him through schools established by, let us say, the Home Office or the Ministry of Defence. Let us see that every single one of those 454,000 men who are liable for Reserve service understands something of the work of civil defence.
Do not let us say that we have not time for it. We could mobilise some 36,000 men for the Coronation, we have Tattoos here and Tattoos there, and during the Recess we mobilised a whole Territorial battalion—the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry—for 14 days' training during which they did practically no military exercises at all. All they did was to practise a parade for which members of the public were subsequently each charged 9d. to watch.
Everyone who knows anything at all about the Army knows perfectly well that a tremendous amount of time is wasted. In view of the potential size of the civil defence bill, once we start to tackle the problem, I should have thought that it was important to try to get value for our money. Unfortunately, we can never persuade high-ranking soldiers to see this; they will not see that although a man may at the time be wearing uniform, that is a passing phase and he is essentially a civilian who started in civilian life and will return to it.
While he is in the Forces, one of the jobs which the Forces have to do is to equip him for the task of being an effective citizen. If this can be done, his discipline will be of great value, but if that discipline is supplemented by knowledge of the kind of problem which he 2201 will have to tackle and by some training in tackling it, then he will be a tremendous asset to civil defence. How much stronger would the position in Coventry be if all their young men who had been in the Forces and are now in the factories of Coventry had been given some training in civil defence.
But here, of course, the argument begins to get a litle warm. Why was not this Bill introduced by the Minister of Defence? It is because the Armed Forces do not intend to touch civil defence with a barge pole. That is why this is called the Civil Defence (Armed Forces) Bill. This is a civilian business: the Armed Forces have a wall around them again and they are interested only in people wearing uniform, never mind the civilians outside. They want the maximum number of men in the Forces, they want the maximum production for the biggest Army and the biggest Navy and the biggest Air Force in the world— and, of course, that is the biggest nonsense in the world, because we cannot have them all. Somebody must make up his mind about what comes first, and I should have thought that what comes first is that the country should be economically viable, so that something can carry on, even if 20 hydrogen bombs are dropped.
I am not asking for the expenditure of a large sum of money, but for the expenditure of some common sense. I want the Home Secretary to stand up to the Service Departments and the Service Ministers. After all, the Service Ministers do not matter very much. If we add them all up the right hon. and gallant Gentleman still ought to be able to take them on politically. He ought to be able to fight for civil defence provided, of course, that there has been a change from the policy announced in paragraph 86 of the Statement on Defence. If the role of civil defence is to be a secondary role, if its importance is to be secondary then, of course, the Home Secretary is on a bad wicket.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to read the whole of that sentence? So far, he has read only part of it.
§ Mr. Wigg
Certainly. It reads:In the development of a policy which gives first priority to preparations designed to deter 2202 a would-be aggressor, the role of Civil Defence is necessarily a secondary one, and its contribution to that policy must inevitably be through the indirect support which it can give to increasing the efficiency of the Armed Forces.It says that it has a secondary role.
§ Mr. Wigg
I had assumed that the hon. Member had read the White Paper. If we are discussing a defence problem, we assume that all hon. Members present have read the Defence White Paper. If the hon. Member turns to paragraph 13 he will find—in the prose of the Prime Minister; the mark of the master hand —that if the next war opens with hydrogen and atomic bomb attack, it will be followed by periods of "broken-back" war. After the first attack, we shall just be able to carry on.
I have always thought that paragraph 13 and paragraph 86 did not fit together, but I presumed that the Prime Minister probably wrote the first part and then left the rest to the boys. That is why paragraph 86 does not tally with paragraph 13. If paragraph 86 still stands and if civil defence comes after the Armed Forces in priority, then the Bill and the masterly speech of the Home Secretary speak for themselves and all is perfectly clear; Coventry are right in saying that they are wasting their time and their money.
I will not dwell too much on Coventry, but I will turn to Dudley, where we have just carried out an intensive recruiting campaign for civil defence. I understand that they got only 20 recruits. How can the public be asked to give up their spare time, how can we expect young and intelligent men to come into civil defence and put their backs behind it, when hon. Members opposite will give them no support and when we are told, in the House, merely that something very secret is coming out of all this consideration? The British people are not fools, and the Government must not treat the House or the public as they treat hon. Members on their own back benches. It will not do.
I hold the view that at the present juncture we cannot afford to spend astronomical sums on civil defence, but there are some things which we can do and 2203 which do not cost much money. One of them is to give an adequate training in civil defence to all the men in the Forces.
§ Mr. Wigg
Of course—unless they imagine that the town clerks will come forward with a stirrup pump and put the fires out for them.
We do not expect very much from the Under-Secretary tonight. I remember his winding-up speech on 5th July too vividly to hope for too much today, but I hope that we shall be given a very early statement by the Government about the importance which they attach to this problem.
This is the first occasion I have had of speaking in this House since I was in the Soviet Union. This afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) referred to a statement by General Gruenther, in which he said that the Russians were indoctrinating their young people. That statement is not true. General Gruenther is not telling the truth. In my travels in the Soviet Union I saw no sign of civil defence, and I heard no talk of war at all.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Gentleman asked me whether I spoke Russian. We had with us interpreters from the British Embassy and one of the members of the delegation spoke Russian. For the hon. Member to suggest that because one cannot speak Russian one needs brainwashing is no compliment to hon. Members on his side of the House, or to the Parliamentary delegation as a whole. No member of the delegation heard any talk about indoctrinating people for war. I should be failing in my duty and I should certainly not regard myself as an honest man if I did not take this opportunity of making that denial.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
"It is magnificent," said a French officer, at Balaclava, "but it is not war." The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) spoke to us in his best form, and we enjoyed the way in which he tumbled his words out. His speech was magnificent, but, in my view, it had very little to do with the Bill.
Before I mention anything about the Bill, I should like to take up one or two of the points which the hon. Gentleman mentioned. The first was that he saw no visible signs of air raid precautions being taken in Russia.
§ Mr. Bell
It was the first thing that the hon. Gentleman said when he was dealing with Russia. He knows, as well as I do, that under their discipline both civilians and men in the Forces are expended. In war, little attempt is made by that institution for the welfare of the troops. Therefore, if he found in Soviet Russia few steps being taken to protect the civilian population, it would be an insult to the hon. Gentleman's intelligence for him to ask me to believe that he accepted that as any evidence that they were not warlike.
§ Mr. Bell
Of course, I accept what the hon. Gentleman said, and when I said just now that that was the first thing he said, I meant that before he explained it in that way he was emphasising the fact that he had seen no civil air raid precautions in Moscow and had made some deductions from that. I am glad to hear that he has made no deductions from that.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think it would be a good thing if the hon. and learned Member came to what we are talking about.
§ Mr. Bell
The hon. Gentleman mentioned as an illustration of air raid precaution policy the alarming incident, to some of us, that took place at Coventry. I am delighted to hear from him that the objection to air raid defence in Coventry was not one of despair—that it is not 2205 worth while to do anything—but that what was proposed to be done was insufficient. I hope that these observations will be put in headlines. I hope that "Pravda" will have them in its headlines, and I hope that in the publication which is given to them it will be seen that the objection to air raid precautions in Coventry was not because they were unnecessary but because they were not good enough.
§ Mr. Crossman
In fact, before leaving, the head of the delegation stated that one of their objects would be to organise simultaneous protests in Stalingrad of the type which Coventry had against air raid precautions, and I am looking forward a great deal to seeing what happens when they do.
§ Mr. Bell
The Bill does not protect us from hell upon earth. The substance of the Bill is in Clause 1. As I understand, it implies that there is a number of people who receive no reserve training when they come from the Air Force, but they receive it when they come from the Army. There is, on the other hand, great need to train people in Civil Defence and, therefore, we should take these reserve people from the R.A.F. and give them some training in Civil Defence. No one yet has objected to that.
It has been suggested that that is inadequate. There has been talk about the whole of Civil Defence being under a separate Minister. There has been some indication as to how the chain of command should operate when it was in operation. But this Bill deals with training only. I am impressed by what has been said on both sides of the House of having a new look at the whole of home defence. I think that it is idle to be pedantic about the use of the word "secondary." In its context, the word "secondary" does not mean that it is of less importance, any more than the seventh commandant is of less importance than the sixth. The grading does not depend upon the numerals.
It means that we are taking the view that certain first priorities have to be given. One must sensibly balance these. What is the good of our having protection against air attack if we can be blockaded by sea and have no means of breaking the blockade by sea? In that case, we have not done ourselves any 2206 good; so, in fact, we have to balance these various defences and if, for that purpose we describe one as "secondary," we are not saving that it is of no or less importance than some other particular service.
For myself, I welcome the opportunity of paying tribute to the small detachment of civil defence in my own constituency, in Bolton. They are the Cinderellas of any civic demonstration. They get a small amount of grant and they have little real representation on the town council. They are themselves inspired only by their own voluntary enthusiasm, with, on the whole, very little support compared with the other organisations in the town.
I believe that the provision in Clause 1 of the Bill will bring recognition and authority and some sense of responsibility to these organisations. We must do one thing at a time. We must crawl before we walk and walk before we run. This Bill is only an attempt to get the training to work. We believe, and I hope we are right, that we have time to make a more intricate organisation. We believe that we may not have to use it, but it is clear that we can in fact set up an organisation and control it by putting our minds to it. We can set up our organisation and control by putting our minds to it, but we cannot do the training on paper. We can organise a staff and give it authorities on paper, but we cannot organise the training itself in that way, and we can no longer delay with that training.
I welcome this limited Bill. I am conscious that a great deal should be done, and I by no means quarrel with a good deal that was said from the Opposition benches that more should be done. I am most impressed to know that, in this at any rate, so far we have shown ourselves united in the fact that Civil Defence is important, that it is not useless, and that, far from being useless, it is really a sign of courage. Many hon. Members will remember the old motto —I believe a Spanish one—which began:Money lost, something lost; honour lost, much lost; courage lost, all lost.If we abandon Civil Defence, all is lost.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
The hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell) will, I hope, forgive me saying that it is a striking fact 2207 that from the Government side, only half way through this debate, it should be necessary to fill in as palpably as that. We heard from the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) a stirring description of the swelling interest in Civil Defence shown by the Government and their supporters. The interest has swelled to a point where desperate efforts have to be made to get anybody even to keep the debate going on the Government side.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ House counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Crossman
We notice that Members on the Government side only have sufficient interest to come in for a Count during a debate on Civil Defence and then go back to their better occupations.
§ Lieut.-Colonel W. H. Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)
Oh, no. The Chamber starts to empty when the hon. Member speaks.
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East said that it was a balanced Bill and that balance was needed in the various aspects of defence It is worth pointing out to him that the balance which has been achieved between the Fighting Services and Civil Defence is one in 50; one-fiftieth of the sum that is expended on the deterrent of the offensive weapon is allocated to Civil Defence. We on this side would suggest that that balance is somewhat incorrect.
The trouble with the Bill—I am sure that the Joint Under-Secretary was the master mind who designed it—is that it will actually hinder Civil Defence if it is carried, and it will do so for three reasons. It was the hon. Member for Harrow, East who told us that it was a small Bill, an immediate Bill for an immediate end. I calculate that by the middle of 1958, if everything is done under the Bill, 35,000 people will be ready to take their place in a mobile column. We might as well send a telegram to the Russians saying, "We shall not be ready for three years, boys. We are doing all we possibly can for this immediate need, but our total efforts will be 35,000 men fully trained by 1958." This is the Bill that is described as an immediate Bill for an immediate need.
§ Mr. Crossman
The Bill deals, of course, with the realities of the situation as outlined to us in speech after speech from the Government side. We are all going to give Civil Defence all we can, and it will consist of 35,000 men in three years' time. I am a little bit baffled.
When I study the Bill, I see the following things. This has not been mentioned, of course, by the new Home Secretary. It is a wonderful Bill for mobile columns, but they are to be mobile columns after the disaster has occurred. They are not to be mobile columns ready to go into action before the war, but are only to be activated after war starts. As we have been told in the Government White Paper on Defence that the next war is due to start with a mutual deluge of atom bombs, we can be sure that the mobilisation of these immediately needed columns will take place long after the air raids have occurred.
That is called giving Civil Defence full priority. Everything else is to he organised before war starts. We are to have the "V" bombers and they are to be ready to go to Moscow and deluge Moscow with atom bombs; we are to have the tanks, the frigates, the cruisers and the submarines. The only thing that we do not bother to have before war starts is the mobile columns, the rescue columns for looking after our own people.
I find it puzzling when I am told that the correct thing to do for Civil Defence is to have a Bill which expressly makes it impossible to organise any of these mobile columns in peacetime. What is the reason for that? They are to be mobile columns consisting of Royal Air Force National Service men who are to be given a fortnight's part-time training over three years and who, therefore, will not be available in peacetime. If it is thought to be so important to have Civil Defence, why do we say that every offensive weapon must be made before the war but that the defensive weapon is to be given to us only after the catastrophe has started?
§ Mr. Philip Bell
May I say to the hon. Member that it is not because I am not amused that I have to leave, but that I have an appointment? I shall, however, come back later.
§ Mr. Crossman
I fully appreciated that filling-in had to be done, and now it has been done, off goes the hon. Member. Perhaps we had better have some more fillers-in brought in for the rest of the debate. One point, at any rate, is clear. Under the Bill the mobile columns will be of no use whatever, because they will not be even called up before the Government's own strategy has created the disaster in this country.
The second purpose of the Bill is simply to give us a sense of the sense of importance on this matter. For any serious work, like killing other people, it is said that there must be qualifying training; but there is only one thing in which we need nothing but part-time training, and that is rescue work for our own people. No one would dream of sending a soldier to man a tank, an airman to fly an aeroplane or a sailor to serve on a naval vessel without being fully trained; but as for this secondary job of just going in and pulling up a few people and keeping them alive, that can be done quite adequately, it seems, by three fortnights spread over three years. That is the priority that we get for Civil Defence in terms of training.
Thirdly, to crown the arrogant impudence of the Bill, we are told that the best way to organise the rescue columns is under the Home Secretary and his collection of town clerks, who are to be the civil defence officers in the cities. Will these mobile columns actually be under strict military control? When they go into a town, who gives the orders in the town—the town clerk, or the commander of the column?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am asking about these deep ruminations which we are having about the next war. We were told that these mobile columns were brand new, created specially for this new occasion. Therefore, I repeat the question, and perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary will answer. [An HON. MEMBER: "Try the Home Secretary."] I cannot ask him, he is new to the job, but the Under-Secretary has been there for years.
When Manchester is hit and the Manchester town clerk then becomes the 2210 commander-in-chief of civil defence and four mobile columns converge on Manchester, who gives the order to the four mobile columns? I bet that the answer is, "The town clerk of Manchester." Can I have the reply now, or shall we have it later? Maybe we shall not get it at all.
What it comes to is that civil defence is being organised by civilians, but I rather feel it is important to have it organised in conjunction with the Armed Forces. What the Armed Forces say is, "We defend ourselves in wartime. The civilians must be left to the town clerks and the Home Secretary."
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Has my hon. Friend excluded from his analysis the suggestion that civil defence might mean the defence of civilians?
§ Mr. Crossman
No, the defence by civilians does not come into this thing. It is defence by town clerks.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
In view of our experiences in recent wars, is there not a very strong case for the town clerk?
§ Mr. Crossman
My experience is that to put it into the hands of town clerks might be dangerous.
For those three considerations, in my view this Bill will not help us in civil defence at all. Actually it will hinder a realistic civil defence policy. It is, of course, only a piece of organised hypocrisy, and it reminded me of that famous debate on control centres which we had last July. When I was thinking who was the author of this Bill, it struck me that the Under-Secretary must have designed it. Those who have forgotten this debate might like me to recall a few lines about it. The Under-Secretary was asked: why the local authorities should be asked to spend their money on putting these control centres above ground, and he replied:It does not mean that. It means there are cases where it would be convenient to have the control room above ground.I said:Convenient to whom?He replied:Convenient for the purpose of the control room and the whole system of civil defence.I asked:With land telephone lines?2211 The hon. Gentleman answered:It all depends on the particular circumstances. It is perfectly true that if they are in a place where they are likely to be put out of action—I interrupted here to tell the hon. Gentleman that I must press him on the matter, and he went on:I recognise that in some cases control rooms above ground might not be effective in war.Then I said:In war?He replied:Yes, but they are useful in stimulating interest; they have a very definite value; and it would be wrong to abandon them altogether."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th July, 1954; Vol. 529, c. 1908–9.]I have a feeling that just as those control rooms were being constructed above ground to stimulate recruiting, so this Bill, providing for the part-time training of R.A.F. Service men, is to have a stimulating effect upon the House of Commons and to make it feel that something is being done, when, in fact, nothing whatsoever is being done.
I was struck by a speech made by the Under-Secretary recently on the subject of civil defence, when he observed:If hydrogen bombs exploded in this country we shall all be involved in a complete transformation of our way of life.I think that was a profound platitude, and the hon. Gentleman was well followed by his right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary. We do not get very far on civil defence by uttering these grandiloquent platitudes and then producing this fiddling little Bill in which we are told we are going to solve civil defence by calling up some 25,000 men over three years for a fortnight's part-time training, and that this is pending a great decision by the Government. Frankly, I do not think it will "stimulate interest," and we in Coventry are more convinced than ever that civil defence remains an organised hypocrisy.
I come now to the Home Secretary. He said one interesting thing at the beginning of his speech. He repeated the Montgomery-Gruenther doctrine, when he said that the best defence of this country is the maximum offensive weapons. Therefore, civil defence naturally must be secondary to them. That was a polite way of putting what Gruenther and 2212 Montgomery put rather more honestly, which is that we are planning in the event of any conventional warfare initiated by the other side to start the use of A-bombs and H-bombs.
We should be quite clear that this doctrine for the use of A-bombs and H-bombs was not invented by Montgomery or Gruenther but is what was done since 1945. The Governments of this country since 1945 have relied on unconventional weapons to make good any deficiency of manpower. We on this side of the House must make acknowledgement of this fact and that it is a common fault of both Governments here since 1945, but with this difference. There was a certain sense to this doctrine up to 1949 or 1950 because we had the monopoly in bombs. Where it became insane was when we determined that at the beginning of the next war we would deluge Russia with A-bombs and H-bombs even though we knew that the Russians had sufficient of them to do the same to this country.
Why civil defence has become a top priority in this country is because of this strategy. It is no good blaming the Americans for this strategy. There were Americans who were opposed to it, and men like Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist, and George Kennan, who lost his job in the State Department because he was opposed to it. There were hundreds of American scientists who did not like this strategy, but the trouble is that we accepted the American strategy of the first use of further nuclear weapons even if they are not used by the other side.
We must, therefore, face the fact that this little, fiddling Civil Defence Bill is the Government's response to the danger which they have imposed on the people by the strategy they have selected. Here is a Government which delivers 50 million people to certain destruction by a certain strategy and then comes along and says, "Here is a little Bill for protecting you, but it is to be secondary to our offensive power. We must always give our best in manpower and weapons to the Services for the destruction of the Russians, but here is something to help you. Here are a few R.A.F. men for whom we cannot find anything to do and we are pushing them into Civil Defence." That is exactly what this Bill does, and 2213 it is no good saying that this is an adequate answer to the problem.
There are, of course, some of us on this side of the House who query the wisdom of this strategy. Some of us say we can avoid this whole trouble and we can stop calling up our young men for jobs of this kind. We believe that if we are prepared to renounce the A-bomb and the H-bomb and have a convention called for their renunciation throughout the world that we can find a saner solution to this problem. But as long as that is not accepted by the Government, and they say to us, "Here is a Bill for you and we are thinking hard about the subject," we will continue to have a repetition of an organised pretence that something is being done when actually nothing is being done. That is below contempt.
I want to say one other thing to this Government and to the Under-Secretary, who does to perfection represent the Government's policy on civil defence, which is a policy of pleasant, platudinous deception which inspires every Clause of this Bill.
§ Mr. Crossman
This is a deliberate attempt to deceive us into believing that something serious is being done, but until the Army, the Navy and the Air Force permit some of their manpower to be diverted to Civil Defence, I shall not believe that anything serious is being done. If this job is taken on something must be done by all three Services, and if we do this job properly it will cost hundreds of millions a year. If we want hundreds of thousands of men for Civil Defence, it means taking away manpower from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. I say that the three chief enemies of Civil Defence are the three Services which have forced the Home Secretary to produce this little Bill and who have said to him, "Look, old boy, these are the ones we do not want. We cannot make use of these men. You can have them for nothing." That is called giving Civil Defence priority! "Take labour which is unusable by the R.A.F. and give it to civil defence." 2214 The Army and the Navy are just as bad, as the Home Secretary will discover. His last job was to destroy a Ministry; his new job is to create one. There must be a fourth Ministry of Home Security. We do not want it part of the Defence Ministry, but it must be under the Defence Minister. I do not think it has to be wholly militarised, because we have to concern ourselves with the police and fire services, which are civilian services. However, I do say that a Ministry of Home Security must rank as a Service Ministry, have a status as such, have entry into the Defence Committee, and have an equal share in the appropriations, financially and in terms of manpower, if this job is to be done at all. The worst of this Bill is that it enables the three Services to hoard all their manpower and money. That is why this is a thoroughly bad Bill; because it permits the Services to continue their dominating, selfish attitude to civil defence.
We are 50 million people on someone else's aircraft carrier; 50 million civilians on an aircraft carrier which is immobilised and stationary off the coast of Europe. The protection of those 50 million civilians cannot be done by flying V-bombers to Moscow; it can only be done by revolutionising our national life. If the kind of world we are in now continues, we shall have to have deep shelters and tens of thousands of young men in mobile columns in peace time to meet the catastrophe.
When I look at the Bill, I ask, is there not some way out. Think of making our children live the lives of civilians on an aircraft carrier? Is that a sane thing? And when it is imposed on me by the strategy of the Government who say, "We are determined to have bombers flying from this country to destroy the other side before the other side uses its bombers," then I say to the House that it is time we looked at this Bill before we commit ourselves to a suicide policy of that sort—
§ Mr. Osborneindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, why? [An HON. MEMBER: "He does not know."] What is it?
§ Mr. Osborne
The hon. Gentleman says that vie are determined to send our bombers before the other side strike at us. Surely it is agreed on both sides 2215 of the House that the attack will never come from us and that, if we are attacked, we are entitled to defend ourselves as best we can?
§ Mr. Crossman
I will accept from the hon. Gentleman that he is honestly deceived on this matter. There has been a deliberate campaign of deception in this country to suggest that it is not the strategy of Britain and America to use the A and H-bombs first; that is to say, to use them against conventional armies if they move against us without the use of unconventional weapons. I say that we are committed to a policy of massive retaliation against places of our own choosing and this Bill is forced on us by that policy.
It is high time that people as thoughtful, intelligent and conscientious as the hon. Gentleman realised that this country is committed to suicide by that policy. He should realise its implications—that, if we go on with that policy, it will mean not only this Bill, not only this miserable contribution, but that hundreds of millions of pounds will have to be spent far beyond this amount. I pray to God that we shall not do it. I shall not vote against this Bill although I think it is a contemptible piece of deceit. The most important thing is to find a foreign policy which avoids the strategy which condemn us to this kind of life.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
I am glad my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) endeavoured in the latter part of his remarks to bring the House back to a sense of reality so far as this Bill is concerned. I was a little distressed in the earlier part of the debate, when it appeared that some of the suggestions made were inclined to be humorously misleading. I believe that the subject matter of this Bill is of real seriousness to us in this House and to the people in the country.
I make my contribution to the debate because I acquired a fair knowledge of the operation of civil defence during the last war. Indeed, I helped with the recruitment of civil defence personnel in January, 1939, the year war broke out. I assure those hon. Members who have not had the experience of trying to get 2216 people to undertake this work, that they would have discovered, had they sought to obtain recruits, that the people were quite unimpressed in those few months just before the war broke out, as to the ability of this country to offer them any protection if war came upon them.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) is not here, because he said this Bill indicates that at last we realise that civil defence is a part of the duties of the Armed Forces. I do not believe that this Bill realises any such thing. I believe it is a confession of failure. I believe it is an admission that we have failed to impress upon the civilian population of this country that it is in any way possible for us to protect them when another war comes.
I object strongly to the continued imposition of new duties upon the National Service man. It will be argued, I know, that the people we are thinking about here are those who have done their training in the R.A.F., and who are not now required to do their Reserve training. I do not accept that. If the R.A.F. do not want these people for National Service, they should not accept them in the first instance. These men should go to a Service which can offer them useful employment.
It is wrong to impose this additional burden upon National Service men. Although I am not swayed by it, I am aware of the experience of my own lad, who is just back from 18 months in Egypt. He now has to do his Reserve training with the Armed Forces and, at the same time, for the greater part of the year, he will have to use three evenings a week for studying for his own profession. There is no hope of getting those lads excused from Reserve training.
I shall not use the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, although I think that he was right and I agree that the Bill will deceive people into believing that some form of protection will be provided because 15,000 men this year and 15,000 next year will be drawn to man mobile columns. With a fairly wide experience of this business, I tell the House that hon. Members live in a fools' paradise if they believe that in 14 days' training men can be fitted to do the job of civil defence in the next war.
2217 It was quite impossible to do that in the last war. Training for civil defence, especially in a hydrogen bomb war, must, of necessity, be a continuous process. A man cannot be trained in 14 days to do rescue work and then left alone for the remaining 50 weeks of the year with the expectation that he can come back and carry out the job.
That is even more true of first-aid personnel. All those who have taken even the elementary first-aid course of the St. John Ambulance Brigade will know that if, after the end of six lectures they obtain their certificate and then they do nothing more they will have forgotten almost everything they knew within three months. I should like people to try the experiment themselves. That kind of training cannot be done unless people are doing it all the time. Even if we took all the 100,000 men who are not required by the R.A.F. for Reserve training and gave them 14 days' training in civil defence, I maintain that at the end of that time they would be utterly useless to this country as an operational unit.
One is forced, therefore, to the conclusion that the Bill is an admission of failure, an admission that we have failed to convince our people of the urgency of the need for civil defence if there is to be another war and that we are trying to find a way out to placate public opinion.
My prime reason for intervening in the debate, however, was to protest against the employment of National Service men in some form of service other than that to which they have been called up to the Armed Forces. There are many men in this country who have probably escaped their National Service responsibilities. Once they pass the age of 26 I believe that they can feel themselves reasonably secure against call-up. I cannot accept that there are not many, many people in this land today who have not been called upon to render service to the country in any shape or form. If we think that we can use them and that we ought to try to use them they are an untapped source for civil defence purposes.
The only thing about which I should be disturbed would be the compulsory element. I do not like the idea of compelling people to do it. I still believe that one volunteer is worth 10 pressed men and if we can persuade them that 2218 it is in their own interests, we should do so. I do not quite accept the views of some of my hon. Friends, in that I think that it may be possible to offer some protection and help should calamity overtake us. It is our duty to try to persuade people to come forward voluntarily to do the job and not compel members of the Armed Forces, who may not have an interest in rescue or first-aid work, to do a job which should be the responsibility of the civilian population.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
This is a Bill to organise the flower of our nation for the purpose of civil defence and, according to its Preamble, it is also an explanatory Bill…to remove doubts as to the civil defence functionsof members of the Armed Forces. I have never known a Bill which removed so few doubts as this Bill has done during our debate.
The Bill has been very badly battered. Although we are not going to vote on Second Reading we have still the Committee and Report stages on which it is our duty to do our best to amend it and to obtain explanations. There is also the Third Reading on which we shall have to make up our minds whether or not a more emphatic protest should be made. If we do not oppose the Bill on Third Reading I wonder whether the duty of opposing the Bill in another place will be undertaken by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery and he will shame us.
§ Mr. Hughes
That part of my argument is undermined, but if we amend the Bill it will go to another place and Lord Montgomery will have another opportunity.
I want to speak about the Bill in relation to Scotland because in our last debate on civil defence it seemed to be taken for granted that Scotland did not matter. It is true that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart) was in the wings waiting to reply to criticism but we thought that we 2219 should have the opportunity of having the Secretary of State for Scotland with us during that debate.
I want to deal with one or two points concerning Scotland because Scotland is vitally affected and some of the problems are of peculiar relevance to Scotland. I understood from the Home Secretary that there would be three training schools, but when I asked him about Scotland he rather slipped away. We are, of course, used to having Scotland ignored and we thought it was the usual thing, but I understand from a remark that has been made privately by one of the Ministers representing Scotland that Scotland is to have one training school.
What would be taught at that school? May we know whether we are entitled to divert our young manpower from useful civil occupations to take part in something which Bernard Shaw once described as something which may never come off and which if it does come off will not be like the rehearsal? I am a citizen of London for the greater part of the week and I live in the borough of Holborn. I understand that we shall be obliterated immediately in the event of another war, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), a former Home Secretary, has pointed out, the whole of the 50 miles radius of outer London is going to be destroyed by the first day's bombing. I do not know whether mobile columns are to come into Holborn and rescue people from that situation.
This matter affects Scotland. I cannot escape from the atom bomb when I go to Scotland, because I happen to live in my constituency of South Ayrshire and there is the aerodrome of Prestwick. What is likely to happen in the neighbourhood of Prestwick? As hon. Members know, Prestwick has become one of the most important bases for the American Air Force in Britain.
If the stategy of the next war is anything like the strategy which has been outlined by prominent military leaders, the process of the war for which we must try to understand the background of civil defence, will be that each side will try to destroy the other's bases. In my constituency we have to face the unfortunate possibility that Prestwick will be one of the principal places for attack by a 2220 possible enemy, because from Prestwick will go the American bombers to destroy Moscow, Leningrad, or any other of the centres of the U.S.S.R.
What will the mobile column, referred to in the Bill, do in that part of the world? Why has Prestwick suddenly become so dangerous? It is because of the presence of the American Air Force. Recently, Ayrshire County Council had a discussion on training for civil defence, of which it takes a very critical view. The civil defence convenor was asked what special training has been undertaken in Prestwick as a result of the new danger to that part of Scotland. There were six questions put and to every one of them the answer was that there was no special training at all in civil defence in Prestwick.
I listened to the Minister for some reassurance as to what is likely to happen to the civilian population in the West of Scotland if an air attack comes to Prestwick. Every Monday, when I come down from Scotland, I go to Prestwick. I see the American Air Force there and I wonder whether the presence of the American Air Force there is not a greater danger than a protection to the people of this country. That is one of the fundamental issues which, of course, I shall not elaborate in this debate.
What about the industrial areas of Scotland? We were told by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) that we should distribute industry. How will it be possible to distribute the military potential in the West of Scotland? How is it possible to distribute the dockyards of the Clyde? How will it be possible to distribute Prestwick Airport, or to distribute the big tank factory of Dalmuir? It cannot be done, but these are questions which will be asked by the National Service men when they come for training.
§ Mr. Speaker
It may be that these questions will be asked, but I think they are rather remote from the Bill before the House. The Bill does not really cover dispersal of industries in the area of the hon. Member's constituency or anything of that sort.
§ Mr. Hughes
I understood that, Sir, but I was trying to follow the remarks made by the only Scottish hon. Member who has previously spoken in the debate. He was arguing that as an alternative, 2221 or supplement, to this Bill there should be some proposal for the distribution of industry in Scotland. I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for having transgressed and for being led astray by the hon. Member for Edinburgh. South.
What are the mobile columns to do in the event of an H-bomb raid on a city like Glasgow? In Glasgow, there are I million people. In the Valley of the Clyde is concentrated four-fifths of the industrial population of Scotland. The Civil Defence Superintendent for Glasgow has said that Glasgow could not do anything in the event of an H-bomb dropping there. We have all the hospitals concentrated in the centre and the social services concentrated in the centre. If we are to have mobile columns as suggested by this Bill, I should like to know what they are to do. In the last civil defence exercise they were to be concentrated in Renfrewshire. When talking of mobile columns we ought to have a precise idea of what the National Service men who are to be organised in them are to do.
If the Minister representing Scottish interests is to speak in the debate, I should like him to tell us how mobile columns are to deal with the possibility of a bomb dropping on Glasgow, as a result of which every hospital in the city and all the social services in the city would be destroyed. Where are the people to be taken? Is the mobile column to organise the flight of displaced persons, or refugees, to the Highlands, or where are they to be taken? It is useless to bring in a Bill to allocate certain functions to certain people unless we know what they are going to do. If these mobile columns have no specific purpose, the men conscripted for them would be better employed in useful industry.
The argument has been put forward that the headquarters for this new civil defence organisation is to go underground. We have had a previous Secretary of State for War arguing that the next war is to be fought underground. What exactly does that mean? How can a war be fought underground? Are the mobile columns to be underground? Exactly what is to be done with this fleeing population, whose homes have been destroyed, whose houses are in flames and who are subject to all the effects of radioactivity?
2222 These are vital questions which have simply not been touched by this Bill. Any criticism that has been made of this Bill, even the severe criticism made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and the criticism made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), erred on the side of moderation. One criticism which has been made by an authority on the operations we might have to face is as follows:If we visualise an atomic war the importance of civil defence is apparent. That subject is grossly neglected today. Indeed, there is no Civil Defence organisation in the territory of any N.A.T.O. country as far as I know.That is not a criticism made from the Opposition; that was the criticism of Field Marshal Montgomery himself.
A previous Home Secretary has described this Measure as a Bill to deal with an earthquake. If these are to be the conditions, ought we not to face realities and tell the people of this country that the defence of this country in the event of an atomic bomb attack is largely an illusion, and that it is better for this country to be neutral?
It is said that a war would be in defence of this country against Communism, but I believe that the bad features of totalitarian Communism would be infinitely better that total obliteration. I believe that that is the point of view of the great majority of the people of this country and that is why they are not coming into the civil defence organisation. They see the futility of this, and it is obvious, when in this Chamber we find a very small percentage of hon. Members present. Hon. Members seem almost indifferent to the problem. If they realised the real importance of this debate this Chamber would be as full today as it was when we debated the question of Members' salaries, and all hon. Members know that that is true.
There are certain people who have taken precautions. The other day I was reading about the air raid precautions taken by the Pentagon, the headquarters of the military organisation in the United States of America. About 60 miles from Washington a wonderful dug-out has been constructed underneath one of the mountains. Presumably, from there will be elaborated the strategy which is likely to affect the civil population of this country. 2223 Presumably, decisions would be made—if, unfortunately, this war were to develop—which would result in 50 million people in these islands becoming homeless refugees. I was surprised to hear the argument that civil defence was to enable a war to go on. What is the war to go on for?
§ Mr. Hughes
And the freedom referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman would lead to military dictatorship. How much freedom would there be with compulsory service for everyone on a mass of burning ruins? We are performing a service and a duty to the people of this country by conducting these very searching criticisms of this Bill tonight.
I believe that in an emergency everyone would want to help wounded people. Everyone would want to help people suffering from the effects of radioactivity—like the Japanese fishermen. Everyone would want to help the civilian population and to do his or her best in an emergency. We are not opposed to the real defence of the civil population. But we have arrived at a situation where because of our strategy over the last five years we have spent £5,000 million on so-called defence and now our experts say that we have little defence against the H-bomb. That was the warning given by the Prime Minister during the debate in which unanimously we passed a Resolution about the H-bomb.
I therefore suggest that while we are ready to co-operate in anything which means the saving of human life, or anything which is sensible, we have, if we are patriots, no right to support the imposter Bill which is now brought before the House. It is our duty to subject it to the most searching criticism.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
This is a rather sad occasion. We are discussing the possibility of a third world war that no one wants, and instead of discussing the steps which should be taken to bring the East and the West closer together to prevent such a war, we are wasting our time trying to achieve something which hon. Members on both sides of the House know in their hearts is impossible. To me this is a very sad occasion.
2224 The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) repeated almost word for word what I was told by one of the leading Social Democrats in Bonn less than three weeks ago. In exactly the same words he said to me that Germany, in the case of another war, would be better to be neutral. That is exactly what half the German people are saying today. I told one of the most important Social Democrats in Germany that it would be utterly impossible for Germany, with her great war potential in the Ruhr and with her 60 million people, to remain neutral. It is just as impossible to expect that to happen in this country, and I beg the hon. Member for South Ayrshire to dismiss from his mind this escapism which, to him, may seem so attractive.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is the hon. Member aware that great countries in Europe, like Sweden—which strategically is next door to the U.S.S.R.—are neutral? Switzerland is neutral and Holland is neutral—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
This appears to be gong very wide of the scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. Osborne
I hope, Sir, that you will allow me to make that one retort to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, and to remind him that the Germans also are hoping to escape from their responsibilities.
No one would suggest that this little Bill will solve the problems of civil defence. It is, as I see it, only a beginning. The most important thing which the Government have to do, and hon. Members on both sides of this House have to do, is somehow to get our people to realise that there is a part which they can and ought to play in civil defence. As I find in my own constituency, and in the Midlands where I live, at present there is no practical interest evinced by ordinary people in civil defence. The most important thing which we have to do is to arouse general interest in it and a willingness by people to serve their country in case of need.
I should like to ask my hon. Friend when he replies to answer a question posed by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who I consider made a good point when he asked if civil defence 2225 training could be given at the same time that Service men are doing their normal service training. Would it be possible to do that without impairing their normal work in the Armed Forces? The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) rather over-stated or misstated the position. He said that it was criminal for us to talk about using the H-bomb, or the atom bomb, in case we were attacked, and that if we did, then civil defence measures as proposed in this Bill were absolutely useless. I think that is a fair summary of what he said.
I wish to put this question to the hon. Member for Coventry, East. In view of the fact that we in this country and the people of the West are so vastly outnumbered by the peoples of the East in what the hon. Member called conventional weapons, if we were attacked by those conventional weapons, does he think that we should limit our defence merely to conventional weapons—knowing full well that they could not give us any security at all—when we have in our hands something which might afford us such security?
§ Mr. Crossman
The question was answered by the Leader of the Opposition in his great speech on 14th September, when he said that the problem of the world is that when one is really up against it there is not a nation which will not in the last resort use the most diabolical weapons in its possession. I would not deny that at such moments people will use such weapons, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether we believe in a strategy which says that any act of local aggression by the Communists—not directly against us, but anything which is decided by the Americans to be an act of aggression—shall produce a deluge of H bombs and A bombs.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It seems to me that the discussion is going a little wide of the provisions of the Bill. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) can answer the question put to him, but he must not develop it into a second speech.
§ Mr. Crossman
Certainly, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but surely I have the right to deal with a second point which arises from the fact that an hon. Member sitting on the Government Front Bench interjected "Nonsense." Surely I am entitled to answer the Government Front Bench on that point.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman can answer the question, but he must not make a second speech.
§ Mr. Crossman
I will answer the question concisely. My reply to the Member of the Government is that he had better read what Field Marshal Montgomery and General Gruenther have said, and also the Government's own White Paper. The White Paper told us last February that the next war will start with an interchange of atomic bombardments. How could we know that if we were not prepared for it to be thrown in at the first moment? It is utterly criminal to base our strategy on the immediate use of these weapons and to leave 50 million civilians totally defenceless against the retaliation which we know will come.
§ Mr. Osborne
That does not convince me at all. The hon. Gentleman need not pull his face as he is doing now. It may be partly due to the fact that his explanation is not quite good enough. I agree with my hon. Friend on the Front Bench. The Americans have never said that they would drop the bombs immediately there was another local incident. I challenge the hon. Member to produce evidence of that.
§ Mr. Osborne
The hon. Member for Coventry, East speaks with some feeling and some authority on these things, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Coventry is very much affected by the question of civil defence. The hon. Member for Coventry was contending that it is useless having civil defence of this type if we are to be the first to use atomic weapons. I was trying to give an illustration of the point.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The Bill deals with provision for civil defence. Whether the provision is adequate or not can be discussed, for that is what the Bill deals with, but we cannot go beyond that.
§ Mr. Crossman
With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, while you have been out of the Chamber many hon. Members have discussed the significance of the Montgomery and Gruenther speeches and were ruled to be in order by the occupant of the Chair at that time. Are we not in order in continuing that discussion now?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The discussion is getting very wide of the provisions of the Bill. I cannot say what happened earlier. The Bill makes provision for dealing with civil defence, but it does not deal with what is going to happen and who is going to be an aggressor in a coming war.
§ Mr. Crossman
With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the Bill fails to provide adequate civil defence. The case of the Opposition is the abject failure of the Bill to provide adequate defence in the light of the strategic anouncements by Montgomery and Gruenther. Surely, in order to show the total inadequacy of the Bill, we must be entitled to indicate the strategy upon which it is based?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is in order to say that the Bill is inadequate, but the discussion to which I have listened was getting very wide of the point.
§ Mr. Crossman
If the strategy was different from what I asserted, maybe the Bill would be adequate. Surely Government supporters have the right to say, "What you say about Gruenther and Montgomery is untrue. We think this is a wonderful Bill. It is the right sort of civil defence. There is not really any danger." That is what the hon. Member was trying to say, and I would defend his right to say it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is not the impression that I gathered. My impression was that the discussion was very much wider than that. If the discussion were limited as suggested, it would be in order.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am terribly sorry if I have transgressed the rules of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. What I was going to say has been destroyed by the interventions. 2228 Obviously the Government do not claim that they have the perfect answer to our civil defence needs. I press upon the hon. Member for Coventry, East that, despite what Montgomery and Gruenther may have said, he should again study what the Prime Minister said this afternoon. Was the hon. Member present to hear the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. Osborne
That is unfortunate; the hon. Member ought to have been here. I would rather take what the Prime Minister says about our strategy than what anyone else says.
§ Mr. Crossman
The Prime Minister has also told us that the Suez Base, which is 100 miles long and 150 miles wide, is utterly obsolete as a result of the H-bomb. I should have thought that that judgment on the Suez Base would mean that this fiddling little Measure is obsolete too.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
It is surprising how few hon. Members are present for this debate on civil defence, which is a very serious matter. I do not see anything in the debate this afternoon which can justify any sort of amusement; it is a very serious matter.
I live in the burgh of Clydebank. A few miles from my home is a huge shipyard. In the area there is Singer's sewing machine factory, the tank factory at the R.O.F., Dalmuir, and Albion Motors. We in Clydebank live amid some of the most important industries in Scotland. The Dunbartonshire County Council has expressed to the Secretary of State for Scotland grave doubts about the adequacy of civil defence there. In Clydebank we certainly have grave doubts about the present Government's wisdom and their attitude towards the defence of the civil population.
My wife belongs to a branch of the Civil Defence organisation in Clydebank. She reads Government pronouncements and speeches by American and British generals, reported in the newspapers, 2229 and she is conscious of the fact that if war broke out she and the 50 or 60 women working together in the Civil Defence organisation in Clydebank would be obliterated and civil defence could not function.
In Clydebank, we have shipyards, armaments factories, a motor factory, and a sewing machine factory which would be turned over to armaments in the event of war. Boys are taken from these factories to do their National Service, but if war broke out not one of them would be allowed to remain in the Army, for they would be called back to work in the factories and the shipyards. Would it not be far better to train in civil defence locally, because they know they will never be called up if war broke out? They are highly skilled toolmakers, boilermakers, ship's carpenters, turners and fitters who would not be taken into the Army. Most of those who have done their National Service have spoken about how their time was wasted.
If the Government were really concerned about defending our industries and our population in the face of an atomic attack, these skilled workers in the industrial areas should be trained in their awn areas to play a part in the defence of the industries and the homes in which they live.
§ Mr. Bence
It is a waste of time to train these young fellows in the Forces in tasks which they will never be called upon to perform. During the last war I worked in a factory. I was not allowed to go in the Army. They would not have me. I was a toolmaker by trade, and if I had tried to get into the Army they would have stopped me. They would not have people like myself at any price. If by subterfuge we had got into the Army they would have called us traitors and saboteurs. Yet here we are, training these young men in functions which they will never perform. If the Government were serious they would see that these young men were trained in civil defence to protect their homes in the areas in which they live.
2230 But could they do that even if they were trained? I doubt whether they could do it on the Clyde, because if an atomic bomb or a hydrogen bomb were dropped in the Clyde Valley everybody in the area would be obliterated. The only hope of providing civil defence in that area would be to take the people up to the old Kilpatrick Hills and house them in wooden hutments, so that as soon as war broke out the whole population could be evacuated to those hills, and brought back by bus to work in the towns as long as the factories remained.
§ Mr. Bence
They would be all right in the old Kilpatrick Hills. But what is provided in this Bill is impracticable. The Clyde Valley is industrialised right up past Glasgow, and it would be impracticable to organise mobile units in that area with the traffic lanes and the railways so close together. As my hon. Friends the Members for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) and West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) knows, if an atom bomb or even a high explosive bomb were dropped in this narrow area where the factories are tucked in so closely together, it would be impossible to maintain communications between Glasgow and Dunbarton.
I was not there when the Clydebank was blitzed in 1941, but I have seen photographs of it, and I have been told that it was almost impossible to get through because it was so narrow. I have spoken to people in that area and I know that they are gravely disquieted by what the Government seem prepared to do for the defence of the population, particularly when they hear of figures such as those which I will quote from a little book published by one of my hon. Friends who is held in the highest esteem for his integrity and his devotion to the cause which he serves. It is called "Bombs over Britain."
The figures are as follow: In 1949–50 we were spending £736 million. That is called defence expenditure. The figure for civil defence expenditure was £3 million. A sum of £736 million is spent on preparing forces which may bring in retaliation an attack upon us, and to defend our population from that attack we spend £3 million. In 1952–53, £1,410 million was expended on instruments of attack.
2231 I know that the military experts say that the best form of defence is attack. That may be for the soldier, but for the civilian population, with the high flying bombers and the hydrogen bomb, the worst form of defence is to have a highly effective attacking weapon and nothing to protect the population from the inevitable retaliation brought about by that attack.
§ Mr. Bence
I quite agree. If anyone thinks that we are able to find out the exact points where any possible aggressor has stationed his hydrogen and atomic bombers to bomb us, I quite agree that to intercept the first attack and stop the bombers coming over would be highly commendable. But I doubt whether anyone has the information to launch such an attack at the points where the potential aggressor has prepared to launch his hydrogen bombs. Therefore, I do not think that that argument holds water.
I was rather concerned about an interjection from the benches opposite when one of my hon. Friends said that if we had a hydrogen bomb war it would mean total obliteration. I can understand a person who says that rather than accept a certain form of society which curbs and crushes the human spirit, it is better to die. But hydrogen bomb warfare seems to me to be worse than obliteration. Hydrogen bomb warfare means not only the destruction of millions of people, not only maiming the body, but, through radioactivity, generations of people may suffer all sorts of illnesses and ailments. There may be generations of children born with all sorts of infirmities and deformities.
Hydrogen bomb warfare involves not only our destruction; it involves impregnating many generations to come with the most cruel and vile deformities. It may mean untold misery for centuries and perhaps longer. It is the duty of statesmen, whether in this country or in other countries, to pocket their pride and to do everything in their power to make this sort of thing unnecessary. For goodness' sake, before it is too late, let our present Government take what steps it is humanly possible to take to make this sort of thing unnecessary.
2232 As my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan) said, the young men in the areas to which I have referred could not do anything in such a war. Let us be honest with ourselves, and let the statesmen in other countries be honest with themselves and with their peoples. If we start throwing these things about the world, there is no defence of the present population and there is no prevention of the evils which may be brought upon generations to come.
I do not know why so few Members are present this evening, but I am sure that most of us here have children, and some have grandchildren. No doubt many of us hope to have great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. I remember a statesman saying, many years ago, that we are here on earth as tenants. It is not ours to do as we like with. We have inherited this earth from a past generation. We are here for a short time, and we shall hand it on to the next generation. Are the world's militarists going to hand it on with radioactivity circulating around it and in it? What right have we to commit future generations to this frightful thing?
The incidents in Japan have illustrated the very awful thing with which we are playing, and I hope that as a result of the debates this afternoon our statesmen, together with those of the United States and the U.S.S.R., will appreciate the dangerous path they are treading. I hope that the time will come, in my lifetime, when this problem will be resolved and the statesmen, generals, admirals and air marshals of the world will allow the working people of all countries to live in peace and protect them from the madmen who would launch these terrible weapons upon humanity.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
In introducing the Bill the Home Secretary failed to remove from some of our minds the doubts expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who implied that the Bill was being introduced primarily to provide machinery by which those persons in the Royal Air Force who cannot be absorbed in training shall be transferred as a supplementary force for the purpose of civil defence. That may be a wrong analysis of the purpose of the Government, but it 2233 is necessary to express it, so that the Home Secretary can make perfectly clear the real intentions of the Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) urged upon the Government that civil defence should remain voluntary and subject to the direction of the Home Office, and that the responsibility for its organisation should be placed squarely upon local authorities. I also hold that view. I regard the Armed Forces as a supplementary contribution to civil defence. I recall very vividly that before the last war two schools of thought existed, one, stemming from the City of Westminster in particular, urging upon the Government of the day that the Civil Defence organisation should form a fourth arm of defence and should be subject to military authority, and the other, which was expressed very strongly by the Trades Union Congress, and especially by the late Ernest Bevin, urging the Government to see that the Civil Defence organisation was completely civil and subiect to a civil authority—the Home Office—and not in any way to a military authority.
The second school of thought won, and I do not think anyone will deny the claim that the Civil Defence organisation matched the responsibility with which it was faced and the tasks that confronted it. It is easy to ask what is to be done to meet this or that emergency. One can call the spirits from the vasty deep, but will they answer? The responsibility for answering the questions raised in this debate rests upon us, as Members of Parliament, as well as upon the Government. We cannot escape responsibility, nor can the Government of the day, for providing defence measures to meet an eventuality which we hope will never arise—and to see that our citizens are protected from any possible menace.
Mobile columns were organised and trained in the last war. Building trade workers formed the main kernel of our Civil Defence organisation, particularly the demolition squads, the Auxiliary Fire Service and mobile columns. It may be of interest to some hon. Members to know that in 1944, in connection with D-Day, the then Commander-in-Chief of our Forces, General Eisenhower, requested that our mobile columns should be sent over to Europe. They went to Antwerp and other places and did a first-class job, winning the admiration of the 2234 French, the Dutch and the Belgian people, and especially of General Eisenhower. If the Home Secretary will look in the files at the Home Office he will see what a magnificent tribute General Eisenhower paid to the mobile columns for the great work they did in fighting fires and rescuing people at the time of the German air raids.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) expressed the view that civil defence should form part of the training of our National Service men, with which I agree, but I hope that whatever is done by the Government of the day to enlist National Service men for this purpose they will not depart from the basic principles, first, that the service shall be voluntary, secondly, that it shall be subject to a civil authority, and, thirdly, that it shall be carried out through the agency of local authorities.
I hold many different views from those of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes); I profoundly disagree with him on many points, as he knows. There is one matter, however, upon which we are in 100 per cent. agreement. He recognises, as do I, the importance of civil defence. I was very glad to hear him say that.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I do not believe in a civil defence which is organised by the methods of military conscription.
§ Mr. Hughes
My hon. Friend, quite unwittingly, is unfortunately mis-stating my position. I agree with rescuing people who are the victims of war, as do the members of the Quaker Friends ambulance units. What I certainly do not approve of is any military organisation or conscription.
§ Mr. Moyle
I am asking the Government to retain the civil nature of civil defence, because a most remarkable thing was that Quakers, and all members of the community irrespective of their religious convictions, shared the responsibilities of civil defence. There was none 2235 more active than the Quakers in civil defence. We have all to recognise that, whether or not there is any organised civil defence available, if a catastrophe happened, humanitarian emotions would impel people to go to the rescue of the injured. It would evoke that human emotion from which nobody can escape, but is it not far better that those who may be maimed or injured in any way should know that they have around them a body of people who are skilled in the arts of civil defence. That is my answer to my hon. Friend's point. I would not wittingly misrepresent my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire. Whom I esteem.
I know the difficulties created by what is now known as the Coventry-minded attitude towards civil defence, but that is not shared by local authorities generally throughout the country, and I think that the Home Secretary must manifest to the local authorities that he means business, and give an active lead. I re-echo the last note of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South, that there is an untapped source of citizens who will come into civil defence provided that they and the local authorities are convinced that the Home Secretary really means business, and is not just playing about with the task.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
The temptation to wander away from the rather narrow confines of the Bill has been very evident in most of the speeches we have heard. I do not want to fall into that temptation, great and attractive as it is, so, apart from saying that the best civil defence involves dispersal, and the dispersal of industry as well as of population, I shall confine myself strictly to what the Bill provides.
There is one aspect of its provisions that I do not think has been mentioned yet in the debate. We have had many speeches, particularly from this side of the House, which have expressed reluctance to see this responsibility transferred from civilian to conscribed military forces. That fact has to be seen beside the other fact that this Bill is not being opposed. The Motion for Second Reading is not being voted upon. The Opposition have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Bill. It is believed that 2236 it is largely a face-saving Measure, a little bit of rather late window-dressing. It is described as inadequate, as puny. Nevertheless, the Opposition are not opposing it for very good and sufficient reasons. Therefore, we shall get the Bill on Second Reading.
It is a Bill which, by its very nature and brevity, it is extremely difficult to transform by Amendment, and it will probably come back from Committee for Third Reading very little altered. Therefore, I think we should be spending our time most usefully if we considered the Bill as it is in its present form, and one or two of the realities of what it proposes to do.
We in this House of Commons ought to face the fact that it will be a very unpopular Bill. It will be unpopular because the great mass of the people inherently dislike and are instinctively reluctant to face up to realities which are unpleasant. The more unpleasant they are the greater is the reluctance to face up to the consequences of those unpleasantnesses. Therefore, there will be obvious reluctance on the part of most people to agree with what the Bill proposes to do. I imagine that the Bill is likely to be one of the most, if not the most, unpopular Measure introduced by the Government, and that is saying something.
It proposes to hand the responsibility for doing this job to members of the Armed Forces, and to selected members of the Forces—to members of one section of the Forces. There is nothing more unpopular among members of the Forces than being required to do something that they think it is someone else's job to do. Anyone who has been in the Armed Forces knows that, whether it is to be seconded to do a job at the docks or to any other work not of the nature of what the members of the Forces believe is their job, it is highly unpopular among them.
That being so, I think it would be sensible to make a determined endeavour to convince the Forces, who, if this Bill becomes law, will be made to do this work and to undergo this training, that this work is more of National Service than "square bashing" or some of the other things that members of the Royal Air Force at the moment are wasting their 2237 time in doing. There ought to be a very strong endeavour to convince them that this civil defence job is a useful service.
In view of the haziness which was evident today on the part of the Government spokesman, and as there was on the part of the Under-Secretary of State for Air, about the chain of command, I hope that, in dealing with the men engaged in this training, and while they are engaged in it, there will be a decision to cut out all the stupid, out-dated military traditions of the spit-and-polish nature.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the prototype for the mobile column was provided by men of the Royal Air Force and the Army, who did a splendid job? I am credibly informed that they thoroughly enjoyed it. Since the hon. Member is talking so much about unpopularity, may I ask whether he is aware of the resentment which is felt in the Army because so many Royal Air Force men are not doing their full period of service? This resentment will be offset by the the knowledge that some effort is being made to employ them.
§ Mr. Taylor
I agree that members of the Royal Air Force and of the Army would make a good job of it. They always make a good job of things which they undertake. No doubt they enjoyed it, because members of the Forces enjoy doing a job which is outwith the normal routine. It takes them away from their barracks.
§ Mr. Harvey
The hon. Member said a moment ago that the Bill must be explained to the R.A.F. because they would not like doing duties which they thought someone else should do. He cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Taylor
I was about to say that when the job ceases to be something out of the normal routine and becomes part of the normal routine, then it ceases to be popular.
It would be wise for us, in creating this new responsibility for members of the Armed Forces, to seek to create a new esprit de corps, a new spirit of comradeship and endeavour in a service of this nature, in order that the men will continue to feel that the job they are doing is worth while. When they go home to their parents they will do so with the 2238 knowledge that they are spending their two years' National Service on a worthwhile job.
I could say much more, and no doubt the Committee stage will give us an opportunity to deal with other points. Having taken a realistic view of the fact that the Bill will be given its Second Reading, I will content myself with expressing the hope that the Government will listen to the single point of criticism which I have made, because I think it is an important point.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
We have been debating all afternoon and evening the first of the Government's Measures to deal with civil defence in the world of the hydrogen bomb. This will by no means be the last occasion on which we shall have to debate Measures, Bills and proposals to deal with this subject. It is a ghastly and horrible subject with which to occupy the time of the House, but I fear that we shall be occupied with it to some extent.
I cannot congratulate the Government on their first effort to deal with it. The House cannot doubt the justice of the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) when he exposed the origins of the Bill. The House surely knows that the origins of the Bill are that something had to be done, on the one hand, about civil defence and, on the other hand, about the fact that the Royal Air Force National Service men were not being called up for any Reserve Service. In the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), that began to initiate a positive breakdown in the National Service Act. The sub-title, or even the title, of the Bill might well be "a Bill to amend the National Service Act." That is what it does, and it is on that narrow point that I want to address the Parliamentary Secretary.
The Home Secretary told us perfectly clearly what would happen under the Bill. I admit that it needed a certain amount of interrogation, but in the end it was clear—that the airmen who had done National Service and who were called up under this Measure for civil defence purposes would be called up, not for 21 days a year or its equivalent, which is their legal obligation, but for 14 days, 2239 and that any period in excess of 14 days would be purely voluntary.
After the Bill has been passed, we shall have the great majority of National Service airmen still doing no Reserve service, we shall have a category of airmen doing a modified Reserve service of 14 days instead of 21 days, and we shall have a few airmen called up into the Royal Air Force again to do their normal training. I see that the Under-Secretary shakes his head, but that is what he told us. I thought at the time that he must be wrong. But that is what the Home Secretary said, and we may feel that, perhaps naturally, the Home Secretary did not understand the conditions of Reserve service.
If that is the effect of this Bill, then I trust that on Committee stage we on this side of the House shall amend it in that respect, and make clear that any calling up of airmen or other National Service men for civil defence purposes to fulfil their reserve liability must be on a non-discriminatory basis. Surely that is an elementary principle.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley that unless we do that we are disintegrating the National Service Acts. It is a narrow point but one of some importance, and unless we can have a clear-cut assurance upon it from the Under-Secretary, I hope that we shall amend the Bill in that sense. We cannot have various categories of men who can arbitrarily get this or that amount of Reserve service liability imposed upon them. They must all get the same amount of liability.
I am quite sure that the youth of this country only supports the tremendously heavy burden which we put on them by National Service because we try to preserve an equitable basis for all. If this Bill cuts across that principle, it is something that the House ought to resist very strongly. I hope that we shall get a clear-cut assurance on this point.
That is practically all that the Bill does. It makes it possible to call up certain National Service men, for certain periods, for civil defence purposes. I think that is something which we are right on this side of the House not to oppose, because it is part of an effort— 2240 it is the very germ of an effort—on the part of the Government to begin dealing with civil defence with some sort of seriousness. I endorse very strongly the remarks made from this side of the House as to the total inadequacy of that in itself to deal with the matter.
Just think of what we are being asked to deal with. We cannot get out of our minds the remarks made by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery in the last few days. He once more reiterated the view that the strategy of the West—and he spoke as one of the most responsible senior officers in the West—was that nuclear weapons would have to be used, not in retaliation for an attack, but in retaliation against any form of aggression on the part of the East. That is a policy with which I totally disagree, but that apparently is the present strategy of the West.
Then Lord Montgomery went on to say, almost as an aside, "By the way, if we are going to do that, don't you think we ought to have some civil defence, too?" I hardly parody his remarks when I say that. That was a triumph of understatement. If the use of nuclear weapons is to be not in retaliation to their use on the other side, but as a counterweight for the over-weighting of manpower on the other side, then surely civil defence becomes an absolute matter of life and death to this country.
§ Mr. Strachey
Every other country certainly, but this one, I think, above all when we dwell upon its peculiar situation. For this matter to be introduced by the Home Secretary in this Measure, which, whether it is good or bad as a scheme, hardly touches the fringe of the problem, and for the new Minister of Defence to put in an appearance literally of a matter of seconds during the debate, suggests that the Government still regard civil defence as the Cinderella of our defence organisation as a whole. That is out of date, to put it mildly. Whether it should come under the Minister of Defence rather than the Home Secretary, or whether a special Minister of Home Security ought not to be established with membership of the Defence Committee, surely there can be some other way of presenting this baffling problem.
2241 I sympathise with the Government in producing Measures which will be effective and which will give the civilian population protection. Surely, this must be faced in a far more serious spirit than there is any sign of from the nature of the Bill, from the Minister who introduced it, or from the whole approach to this matter, which is being recognised more and more by the military authorities and is one of the very keystones of defence. The House deserves something better from the Government in this respect.
I disagree with the view that the West ought to use nuclear weapons as a sort of make-weight against the superior manpower of the East. That view may have had something to be said for it in the past, but now that the East also has its own nuclear weapons and there is very little in it as far as that equipment is concerned, the strategy and policy of this country ought to be to do everything possible to restrict the use of nuclear weapons by international convention, and to ban them altogether if that is possible; but that is certainly very difficult. Even while attempting to do that we should need effective civil defence because, when one imagines the difficulties involved, we have a long way to go to get the effective banning of nuclear weapons.
But since we are not even trying to do that at present, surely Civil Defence, from being the Cinderella ought in some ways to become the highest priority of all in our defence Services. Therefore, we can only regard the Bill as something totally inadequate for its purpose. While I do not oppose it, because it shows some sign on the part of the Government that they are beginning, at any rate, to think of the problem, yet we regard it as a thoroughly unsatisfactory Bill and we will attempt, in so far as it is possible, to improve it in Committee.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)
I have listened very carefully to the debate and in the long period of my membership I have never known the House so apparently unappreciative of the great risks to which the world is reaching. We know very little, even in highly scientific circles, about atomic energy and its relationship to physics and chemistry, and, indeed, to all the sciences.
2242 On meeting one of the great scientists who knows about these matters and discussing it with him, one would be appalled at the situation which faces the whole world with regard to present-day changes and possibilities, for although they can be used for day-to-day purposes, they can also be devoted to evil practices. It is not only a question of war but of the fight for life, of the peculiar form that life may take, of the number of new diseases that can be properly treated, internally and externally. Unless we are going to keep atomic relationships and science, whether they are chemical or physical, under control, then our present civilisation is doomed.
Exposure to some of these rays changes the character of human beings, even though it is occasional and is under control. But under detailed and careful supervision care has to be taken. Atomic warfare is going to change the whole of our lives, and yet we sit here and talk as though ordinary human life is not going to be entirely different. Minor changes take place when atomised chemicals are applied experimentally to certain individuals. The results which come from them are sometimes entirely different from those which we expect under present scientific methods.
Some of us have observed men—I have not seen any for years I must say—treated for certain cancerous diseases by these atomic rays. The changes are marvellous, but I have never yet seen one case where there was continued improvement for a lasting period. There was always a certain stage when the reaction became so severe that the changes could not be calculated, and the patient was an entirely different person to the one who received the treatment first.
This change between the life we knew in the past as compared with the future may be such that even scientists have to admit that they know very little about the things on which they are supposed to be experts. This atomic warfare and the changes in ordinary life which it will bring are going to be the terror of the future. It is difficult to imagine the possible changes that might arise through exposure to atomic rays, either temporary or permanent, but its effects will be widely felt.
I want to try to keep within the rules of order, Sir. I want to do my best not 2243 to make this a scientific dissertation, but I must warn the House that atomic science is fundamental in our new way of life. As atomic science develops, so there will be changes of life, not only in war but in peace. I know perhaps less than many of the atomic experts outside know, but I am able to grasp some of the ideas now gaining ground in scientific circles. Human life, as we have known it hitherto, is on the verge of great changes, not only from the point of view of medicine, in physical and chemical life.
Contact with the science of atomic development will be dangerous to the world and life as we have known it may become impossible. I have talked to some of the atomic experts, and I have read some of the most recent literature on the subject. We live in a most dangerous world, and all that we love of freedom and humanity may fail. As I know that some experienced Parliamentarians present think I am on dangerous ground, and as I realise that they want to take part in the debate, I will end by thanking you, Sir, for giving me an opportunity to utter this warning.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
I cannot be classified among the experienced Parliamentarians. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Well, I have not been feeling like a Parliamentarian during this debate. In fact, the horrible thought came to me just now that it was like being present at the performance of Haydn's "Farewell Symphony," where the musicians, one by one, fold up their stands, turn out their lights, and pass off the stage, finally leaving only the conductor.
It was very nearly like that with the party opposite tonight and we have not been much better ourselves on this side of the House. The House is not greatly interested in this matter, let us be frank about it, and it is an astonishing and terrible thing that, confronted by what is stimulating, or ought to be stimulating thought about really defensive measures, we and the general mass of the community react in an entirely opposite way.
I was deeply grateful to the hon. Member on this side of the House who insisted on widening the scope of the debate to ask why it was necessary to deal with this issue at all. I have said on previous occasions that I have nothing against the 2244 idea of preparing for defence, if there could be any, but certainly not by military means—I have never admitted that.
I am certainly not against trying to help those who have been stricken down by disaster of any sort, and particularly the disaster of war. My mind goes back to something that George Lansbury said about this matter, and he had a clearer mind than most of us on these problems. He was present at a pacifist conference and some of my fellow pacifists were telling him that they would not be organised under militarism for the purpose of air defence in the event of an attack on London.
Lansbury said, "In my borough we live below the level of the surrounding rivers and even of sewers which bring the sewage of London out to the sea. If there were an attack on us and one of the sewers were struck we should be all drowned in sewage. Do you mean to say that I must do nothing to prepare against a disaster of that sort?"
He argued that it was his business to be under authority and to be prepared to know what should be done in the event of a disaster of that kind so as to be of help to his fellow men. I felt that there was no further argument against him on the matter. But he was not discussing defence and it is not defence that we are discussing today. The very name that the Government and all of us persist in applying to this subject is wrong. If we called it "civil rescue" it would be nearer to the truth, rather than that we should pretend that we are defending the people against the consequences of the hydrogen bomb or, what might be even worse, the cobalt bomb.
It is true that many people are prepared to be satisfied with the argument that nations will never go to the extent of using the cobalt bomb because they cannot control it at all. I do not think that they can control any of these things, and where these processes of destruction are used I do not think that anyone can provide a defence, whether by means of this little Bill of conscription or any other Bill. In the long run, we fail to give to the people what is necessary to defend them in the catastrophic circumstances which may confront them.
I speak as a representative of a London constituency. Someone has mentioned today the 15 million people who are to 2245 be found in the Thames Valley and the disaster that awaits us, whether there is ultimate victory or not. Modern war is of such a character that since we are so ineffective about this so-called civil defence we ought to be resolved with a new spirit to find agreement by which we can avoid the disaster against which we are preparing. I should feel in a less despairing mood tonight if I felt that the Government were reaching out to seize the opportunities that offer to find an alternative to war. My feeling is that offers are made and conversations are suggested as a result of which men should be sitting round the table to defend us.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
I do not want to intervene, but however desirable it no doubt is to prevent war, the Bill does not deal with that subject.
§ Mr. Hudson
You rose to stop me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, just as I was leaving the subject anyhow, but while you, I think, were in the Chair the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) argued about the necessity of an alternative process to military processes, about the balance of Armed Forces and that it would be necessary even to do exactly what Lord Montgomery said the other day.
§ Mr. Hudson
Yes, Sir, but you intervened after the hon. Member had put that across. I do not complain that you intervened in my speech if you will let me say that the announcement of a doctrine of that sort in the House of Commons makes futile all our discussions about civil defence. If anyone, under any circumstances, contemplates the use of these dreadful weapons of war now available he is unfit to talk about the defence of the people. I rose to make that protest and to ask for a better spirit in the approach to this problem than the one we have been seeing tonight.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
In nine years in this House I have never known a debate in which one side so outweighed the other, not only in argument but in numbers. There have been about 16 speakers to six. My hon. Friend the 2246 Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) referred to the Government's pretence of defence.
It was in April this year that Sir John Hodsoll, civil defence expert if ever there was one, left the frustration of the Home Office and went to N.A.T.O. to be in charge of Civil Defence. Last Thursday, Lord Montgomery said that a special N.A.T.O. group had been studying the problem of civil defence and had come to certain conclusions. The first one was that civil defence had been grossly neglected. That was a damning indictment of the Government if ever there was one.
There have been discussions about General Gruenther. I not only took down his words, because I was at the luncheon at the Mansion House when he made his speech, but I checked it in the newspapers afterwards. He went out of his way to say, three days after Lord Mongomery that it would be necessary, if there was an act of aggression in Europe, to use atomic weapons to correct the unbalance of forces. Last July, Lord Montgomery said that in the event of war our Territorial Army would have to be used in the beginning for civil defence. The War Office immediately issued a statement saying that Lord Montgomery was speaking speculatively, but this time there has been no contradictory statement from the Home Office. Nothing at all—why?
Lord Montgomery says that this country and other countries of N.A.T.O. have grossly neglected civil defence, and the Government do not deny it. The Government have admitted—they must admit—that they have neglected civil defence. That is the background to this Bill and to the debate on this rather pathetic little Bill. After three years of Home Office dither and muddle the problem for the Government is very serious. The Government are in danger of losing our support because, like the public, we do not believe the Government are doing all they could or should. Disillusionment and a spirit of non-co-operation are increasing in the local authorities.
In this Chamber my hon. Friends and I have often warned the Government that the most important task which lay before them was to convince the public that there was something which could be done and that the Home Office was doing it. In July, 1952, in the first debate on civil defence after we became the Opposition, 2247 I pointed out—so did other hon. Members —that the manual on atomic attack was based on the 1945 bomb and that it must be brought up to date. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls), who usually takes part in these debates, commented that once more this had been brought up in debate and the Home Office must give more information to meet the feeling that nothing was being done, and that nothing could be done. No manual was produced.
A few months later, when we came back in November, there was a question to the Prime Minister, and I followed it up by asking for an up-to-date manual showing what could be done to minimise the danger from atomic attack. The Prime Minister replied that it would be carefully considered, but, again, nothing was done. In December, 1952, and again in February, I pressed the Home Secretary to provide a manual that was up to date, and nothing was done. I have quoted the warnings given in this Chamber and it would be inappropriate to quote the warnings given outside. But we come to the Mabane Committee's Report in the spring of this year. That Report emphatically recommended that the Home Office should publish such a book in a cheap pocket-size form.
I was sorry that I could say, "I told you so" about Coventry when the Coventry trouble arose in the spring. The Home Office is to blame for Coventry. I am not defending Coventry. I think that they were wrong. But the Home Office is to blame; and if the Home Office does not react to this jolt then the rot will set in in other local authorities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) and others have referred to the position of local authorities. Let me mention my own constituency, where they are not Coventry-minded but are very worried. Only on Monday of this week, in the local paper, the "Lincolnshire Echo," a Northcliffe paper, there appeared this statement:Some of us in Lincoln went to the civil defence exercise the other evening—and we were not impressed…I don't think many people would learn very much which would be of use to them in such an emergency from the sort of exercise we had here. I am not 2248 'Coventry-minded,' but, like Lord Montgomery, I feel that something different from what we have now will be needed.How long can the Home Office have the co-operation of local government if the Government continue to give the impression of dithering over this important matter of civil defence? More and more people believe that civil defence is a facade. They are asking, if it is a question of money why have taxes been removed from the wealthiest in the community? If it is not a question of money, is it merely bungling?
Introducing the Bill the Home Secretary was very naïve in his reference to the source of the men for these columns, the Royal Air Force reservists. He ignored the action of the Prime Minister when he was Minister of Defence. Year after year the Prime Minister, from this Bench, when he was in Opposition, had referred to the necessity for building up the front line in our Armed Forces. Year after year he appealed for greater bayonet strength, for greater front-line strength. He always ignored the importance of the need for fire power and the ability to maintain fire power through reserves.
The first thing that happened when he went to the Ministry of Defence was that the Air Ministry started to dress up their front line and cut down their facilities for training reserves. The Under-Secretary of State—as I have already mentioned in an intervention—announced that seven flying training schools were to be closed and then that 17 out of the 22 ground training schools were to be closed, and they were. The number of R.A.F. National Service reservists who had had no training at all got greater and greater.
Last January, when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) and I estimated that there must be over 100,000 R.A.F. National Service reserves, I put down a Question to find out how many there were and how many had had training. The answer was 110,000, and of these 6,000 had been called up in 1952 and 10,000 in 1953. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and others have used these figures to attack the Service Departments for their handling of reservists. In his speech today my hon. Friend referred again to 2249 the Reserve policy, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee. West (Mr. Strachey).
It should be remembered that it is an official request from the Opposition that there should be an inquiry into the working of the National Service Act. It is clear from the debate that the position is becoming worse. It is disclosed to us that apart from these most unfair incidences of service, the periods of service that men will do under the scheme is arbitrary and varied. We are not opposing the Bill, but supporting it. However, we certainly want an undertaking that the Government will look into the organisation of the National Service Act, in view of the facts disclosed during the debate.
Another matter which has become obvious over the last few years is that civil defence is the unwanted child of the Home Office. I do not suggest that it should not be there, I do not suggest where it should be, but I suggest that that great Department, the first one in the State, is not happy with civil defence today. There is an illustration of that in the fact that the book on the Home Office written by the present distinguished Permanent Secretary is 200 pages in length, but only 7½ pages are devoted to civil defence. Even Summer Time and the calendar get 1½ pages.
Civil defence has been neglected. Of that there is no question. I will not repeat what is well-known about the employment in extra-mural activities of the last Home Secretary. Every difficult job that the Government had he did; so much so that a special staff had to be put aside in the Home Office to deal with the work which he dealt with which was not part of the Department. It was an incredible situation. We cannot afford, in future, the failure of the civil defence authorities to assert themselves within the Home Office and within the Government. I am glad to see that the Minister of Defence has come into the Chamber. Perhaps the former Minister of Food has gone to the Home Office to pave the way for transferring civil defence or the Home Office to another Department.
One of the points which the Home Secretary made with which my hon. Friends and I completely agree was about the value of the mobile column. There is little difference about that. Whatever 2250 we consider as the object of civil defence —whether it is to meet high explosive air attacks on the lines of the last war, or atomic attacks or attacks by nerve gases—the mobile column is essential.
My hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins), Oldbury and Halesowen and others were emphatic that we should not overlook the value of the traditional local authority organisation. In meeting the high explosive attacks the traditional organisation served us well and it would serve us well again. To meet atomic attacks the traditional organisation based on local authorities would help but it would not be the answer, but it is not a question of mobile or static defence. I fear that sometimes that mistake is made. It is not a question of choosing between mobile and static defence. There is a most important place for both, and that is so whether the attack is high explosive or atomic.
That is why we always welcomed the setting up of the experimental mobile columns. I should like the Joint Under-Secretary to give a little more explanation on this. I do not understand why it has been abandoned. Have we really learnt everything there is to learn from having an experimental mobile column?
The Joint Under-Secretary has several questions to answer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) referred to the chain of command. The Under-Secretary of State for Air intervened, but I do not think we were any clearer at the end. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] It is a difficult point, but we must have the answer. The Under-Secretary of State for Air apologised to me for the fact that, for very good reasons, he would be unable to be present at this time.
I have some further questions to put to the Joint Under-Secretary. Do I understand that in peace-time the R.A.F. administer the columns, but the depot is run by civilian commanders and staff? Is it right that in war-time the columns are to be mobilised by the Air Ministry in R.A.F. formations which happen to take the shape of the mobile columns? The previous Home Secretary told us in July that in peace-time the C.-in-C. will work with his opposite number in the Air Ministry to develop the plan for the mobile columns. I do not understand 2251 that. Who is his opposite number? is it the Air Council Member for Personnel? Is it the C.-in-C. of the Royal Air Force Regiment? Who is it? I know something of the structure of both Departments, but I cannot see where they would fit in.
We are told that in wartime the C.-in-C. would have control over the C.D. mobile columns. In those circumstances, what would his opposite number at the Air Ministry do? What would happen if the columns were under not central government, but regional government? As the Joint Under-Secretary will realise, the Royal Air Force is organised at home not on a regional basis but on a functional basis, with Fighter Command, Bomber Command, and so on. I presume that these points have been worked out. I should be very surprised if they have not. I should like to know the answers to them.
What about the possibility of having more than a cadre limited to trained officers? The Home Secretary mentioned them in July. At the time my right hon. Friend and others criticised that as being too little and asked what steps were being taken towards having cadres of trained n.c.os. and potential n.c.os. My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) wanted to go further; he wanted a cadre of mobile columns. I should like to know what possibility there is of having such a cadre.
Also, why begin it in the spring? Why not on 1st January? Surely the Epsom depot is well equipped? It has been operating for two years. I saw it on 1st January, 1953. What is wrong? Why should we wait until next spring? This is real procrastination. The Government must listen to the protests of the people who say that they must get on with this work. It is no use procrastinating and waiting until the spring. Is it thought that there would be better weather in the spring? Surely Epsom is delightful in January.
There is one point I have not yet touched on. I divided the types of attacks into traditional high explosive, atomic and nerve gases. Sometimes we think only of high explosives and atomic attack and forget the possibility of attack by nerve gases which can act on humans 2252 as insecticides act on insects and could destroy all human beings and animals but leave intact the industrial plant, houses, railways, roads and utilities of all kinds. We know how difficult it was even to enter into Germany and get her economy going in view of the physical destruction wrought. Must it not be tempting to a potential enemy, if he has overcome the technical difficulties, to use nerve gases which would leave our industries and our industrial wealth intact?
I want to know what training in gas protection is to be done by the reservists, for it must be done. I asked about this matter last time. The Under-Secretary did not deal with it then. I hope it is not a question of ignoring the problem. It is a singularly unpleasant subject, but we must prepare now to begin our work of defence against nerve gases.
My hon. Friends the Members for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), as well as others, were very moved by the last explosion in the Pacific which caused the death of the Japanese fisherman. From what I hear from Japan and the East, the fisherman's name may become in the future a symbol of the loathing felt for the dominant white races by the then dominant coloured races. But there is another possibility—the possibility that the fisherman's death, emphasising the appalling destruction of the hydrogen bomb, may bring us nearer to the rule of law.
Never again can statesmen go to an international tribunal or court knowing that if they fail to win their case they can win their point through war. Now, there can be no victors in a major war— only vanquished. For the first time in history, public opinion in our national states, knowing the consequences of atomic war, would allow statesmen to accept defeat at an international tribunal or international court of law.
Many of my hon. Friends who spoke tonight, while not going out of order, appeared to those of us who had applied ourselves to the text of the Bill to be taking a much wider look at this problem. I think there is a case for such a wide consideration. We should regard this not merely as a technical problem, but as a great human problem.
2253 This Bill goes only an inch of the way, and I warn the Government that the public, like this House, are restless and are beginning to say, "Where is your policy for survival?" It is not a selfish or an unreasonable request. It is no more than any Government owes its people. The Home Secretary referred to this review. We hope we shall get it soon, because if the Government have not got such a policy they had better get one now, or get out.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
The subject of civil defence is a difficult one, and is one on which the Government welcome criticism. We have been criticised on both sides of the House, and I think that criticism represents the very live feeling entertained by hon. Members in all parts of the House that there should be action in this connection. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), when measuring the numbers, might, I think, have measured the weight of criticism from either side of the House, and the result might have been different.
I certainly welcomed the speech of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He has experienced the difficulties which arise in the organisation of civil defence, and what he said will be useful to those who are concerned with this matter. There is a temptation to approach civil defence problems from one of two extremities of opinion. On the one hand, there are those who contend that no measure of civil defence can be effective against nuclear weapons. That view has been expressed this afternoon. On the other hand, there are those Who contend that we ought to maintain, in time of peace, continuously and for an indefinite period, a vast physical and financial effort of a purely passive nature.
Both those extremes have been advocated simultaneously by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman); indeed, he has advocated them in the course of a single speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I am sorry to see that he is not in his place. It is said that extremes meet at an infinite distance from reality, and it may be that that is appropriate. Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that both these extremes of opinion are fallacies and ought 2254 to be rejected. On the contrary, we are convinced that in the event of war, whatever weapons are used, there will be areas where an effective civil defence organisation will be needed and, indeed, will be essential. Conversely, to use the words of the former Home Secretary, it would be foolish to attempt the impossible task of providing immunity.
Those two propositions are the principles governing our policy in this connection. We believe that the Government's duty is to find a balance between these considerations and to shape our civil defence plans in accordance with that balance. The problem of finding the balance is a very large one. It goes far outside the range of this Bill, although it has been canvassed to a certain extent in the course of this debate. That problem is the essential background of the proposals contained in the Bill, and, therefore, it is right that it should have been discussed.
Looking at the Bill against that background, two questions stand out. The first is: is the Bill, in itself, a Measure which will improve or which can be used to improve our existing Civil Defence organisation? The other main question, which has been discussed today, is whether we should pass the Bill and make a start with the proposed scheme before the full review, which is now taking place, has been concluded. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said that he thought we ought not to proceed, pending that review.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Lincoln, have pressed the Government for an early statement in connection with our civil defence policy generally. I certainly do not complain of being pressed in that sense. On the contrary, I appreciate that hon. Members rightly feel that a statement is required.
However, decisions on civil defence must be an integral part of our whole defence policy. If civil defence is indeed the fourth arm of defence, the one thing we cannot do is to make a statement on civil defence policy and settle that in advance of a general statement on defence 2255 policy. That was recognised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields, very fairly, I thought, in his speech.
I think it is fair to draw a comparison with the earlier history of this matter, because the hon. Member for Lincoln rather suggested that the Government had been dragging their feet whereas the previous Government had not. I do not make a party point of this—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] The hon. Member for Lincoln made an attack on the Government, and it is perfectly fair in this connection that I should state the full facts.
The late Government decided to reconstitute civil defence in 1947, and they introduced the Civil Defence Bill in 1948, Action was started under that Measure in 1949, and two years later the matter had got, so far as the mobile columns with which we are dealing now were concerned, to the planning stage at the end of 1951. I make no complaint about that. I appreciate the very real difficulties which exist, but I do not think it lies with the hon. Member to suggest that we have been very dilatory in what we have done in three years when it took him five years to reach the planning stage.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Surely the hon. Gentleman has got to take into account the general conditions in the world, and that what was one thing in 1949 is a very different thing in 1954.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I ask the hon. Member to believe that I really and sincerely mean that I do not charge him with being dilatory. All I am saying is that it is a difficult matter, and that he found it just as difficult when he was on this side of the House as we find it now. The truth is that this review involves fundamental changes of policy affecting our whole economy, affecting almost every Department of State, and these changes cannot be made very quickly. There is no truer platitude in administration than that the best is the enemy of the good. I certainly recognise that, and I quite agree that we ought not to delay and delay until we think we have got a perfect plan. At least I have the support of the "New Statesman" when I say that the hydrogen bomb has brought about a 2256 complete transformation, and in this field of civil defence that complete transformation will take some little time to consider.
§ Mr. Crossman
As the hon. Gentleman is citing the "New Statesman" in his support, I would point out that although we pay £1 prize for a contribution to "This England," we do not necessarily give our support to the statements in it.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I assumed that the purpose of the insertion to which the hon. Member refers was that it was thought that there was no need for it to be said because it was so obviously true.
Of course, the Government would have liked to have made a tidy start with a comprehensive statement dealing with all the principal aspects of civil defence. Any Government would like to do so, but it was not possible. It seemed to us that we ought to go ahead with this first step now, and I believe that most of the House will agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who so strongly advocated that action.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that he could not put any of his plans forward for civil defence pending a general policy of defence. Do I understand that the Government have no general policy of defence yet?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The right hon. Gentleman is surely aware that a general statement on defence has been promised. That being so, the only point I made was that it would be wrong to deal with this one aspect of it at present.
Whatever shape civil defence arrangements may ultimately take, this much is certain: in any war in which nuclear weapons are used, there will be stricken areas requiring large-scale reinforcements. These areas have been referred to as fringe areas, but I do not think that is an apt term, because clearly the so-called fringe areas would be much greater than the area of devastation.
The necessary reinforcements can be provided only in the form of mobile columns. The Government are well aware that the scheme contemplated in the Bill goes only a part of the way necessary to provide adequate mobile 2257 forces. Neither in numbers nor in training will the product of this scheme measure up to the needs of war. I want to make it absolutely clear that that is the Government's view.
It is right to remind the House that this is the first step beyond a purely experimental stage in the realm of the peace-time organisation of mobile columns. It will not be enough, but it is fairly substantial as a first step, involving 100,000 men within the space of the next seven years.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
If I said that for the hon. Member to receive a commission in the Army would not measure up to the needs of war, I should not imply that for him to receive a commission would be a waste of time.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Much of the argument on the efficacy of the mobile columns has been based on the experimental mobile columns. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how the training which is to be given to these men doing part-time service compares with the training which was given to the 150 men who were used in the experiment?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
That is one of the matters with which I hope to deal.
The great advantage of this scheme, and the reason why it can be introduced immediately, is that it is a step which can be taken now without weakening our striking forces in the slightest degree. The men concerned are all men who have no part in the mobilisation plan: they can be made available for civil defence purposes and so enabled to play their part in national defence in the first phase of war.
Certainly bigger and better-trained mobile forces will be required, but that involves consideration of using men at present ear-marked for a different role. Obviously that is a difficult and complex question and it ought not to hold up the progress of this scheme.
2258 The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) referred to the importance of Clause 1 (5) of the Bill. That is the subsection which removes any doubt as to whether Service men can receive Civil Defence training. I certainly agree with him that it is absolutely essential that there should be no doubt on that question. The curious thing about the Bill is that until its passage into law there is probably no doubt on that point, but if we are to provide, as we do in Clauses 1 and 2 for particular cases, those provisions may shed some doubt on the generality of this principle. Therefore, it is necessary to put in subsection (5) so as to ensure that there is no doubt.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
If the right hon. Gentleman is asking my personal opinion, I should say none whatsoever.
It has been said that we are setting about this problem in the wrong way and there should be a whole-time operational organisation in itself. I think that is one of the twin propositions of the hon. Member for Coventry, East. The fact that the Government recognise the need of a wider Measure for securing an adequate mobile force which will be available in time of war does not imply that we must have a permanent standing civil defence army in time of peace.
§ Mr. Crossman
Is it the view of the Government that the one thing which we need not have ready in case of war is any civil defence for the civilian population? Why is this the one thing which we need not have ready if a war started? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I cannot try to put right every non sequitur which flits through the fertile brain of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Attlee
The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. He is now stating that the organisation which he is to set up will not be effective if war should come. That is what I gather. He said that we should not exclude the fact that we shall have mobile columns. We want to know about the provision of them. This seems to be rather based on 2259 the view that there would be plenty of time after a war had started to get these part-time trainees trained efficiently and in their columns. I thought that was a view which was exploded in 1940.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I entirely agree that the purpose of this Bill is to meet exactly that point. [HON. MEMBERS: "After war starts."] The Government did not hold the view that it was necessary to have a permanent standing army of civil defence. That is not to say that we do not have mobile columns in training and reserve which can be called up if an emergency arises. We cannot have a number of mobile columns standing round the country doing nothing.
§ Mr. Bellenger
What happens to these mobile columns after the R.A.F. decide they want their men back?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I think that it would be better if I proceeded with my speech in my own way. To do what was suggested and take a proportion of National Service men and allocate them to civil defence service on a permanent basis would be manifestly wasteful. To do so on an equivalent basis to hat provided for under the scheme contemplated here would mean taking many fewer men and keeping them for two years on end working on civil defence.
Perhaps I may give an example to show how wasteful it would be. The experimental mobile columns, which have met with general approval, each existed for less than one year and were fully efficient as mobile units after less than three months' training. So that to give men a two years' training period would be a complete waste.
The first purpose of this scheme is to earmark and to give a fair measure of training to a substantial body of men for immediate full-time service in mobile units in case of war. Certainly the scheme is not the last word—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
—but it is a considerable advance on what has been proposed so far by anyone else. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]
I should like to say a word about the adequacy of the training. The majority of the men called up under the scheme 2260 will receive 140 hours of actual training in their special techniques. I should deal at this stage with a point which has been raised several times. The National Service Act permits a total of 60 days' Reserve service with a limit of 21 days in any one year, but I have ascertained that the Royal Air Force practice—this is general, so I am informed—is to call up a man for 14 days only. In other words, there are three periods of 14 days and the seven days are not made use of. I am given to understand that that has been the position for a considerable time. That being the case, it would obviously be quite unfair, apart from anything else, to call up these men for any longer period than the 14 days.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I am dealing with R.A.F. men. In the time available —the 140 hours—those to be trained in rescue work should attain a through grounding in methods of life-saving and in the work of operating as members of a team. Men trained in fire fighting will have received not only basic firemanship training, but also the whole of the second stage training, which is at present given by the fire authorities to their A.F.S. volunteers. Those men who will be called up for the third period, to which my right hon. and gallant Friend referred, will obtain experience in operating mobile columns. They will be called up and exercised in their units.
The Government are satisfied that this will give a reasonable degree of individual efficiency; and it must be remembered that these men will constitute only the rank and file of the mobile columns. More comprehensive training will be given to the officers and the noncommissioned officers; they will be trained under separate arrangements. Their training will also be more specifically related to the movement and tactical deployment of mobile forces. When the scheme is in full operation—that is, after the preliminary two years—we will have the third year men, so that they can exercise in their own units.
As regards the numbers of men made available, the scheme is being proceeded with as one which provides the largest number of men who can be made available without impinging on other needs of the Services. In other words, we want 2261 to get ahead immediately with what we can do without prejudicing other arrangements.
That means that there will be excluded from the scope of the scheme those R.A.F. reservists who will be required by the R.A.F. on mobilisation for their own needs. Also necessarily excluded are a number of reservists who, although they may cease to be required by the R.A.F., will be too far on in their period of part-time service to be able to complete the necessary period in civil defence. Their exclusion is unfortunate. Lastly, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields said, rescue and fire fighting is very arduous work indeed, so that the unfit cannot be taken, except for a limited number who may be suitable for ambulance training, but they will be strictly limited.
In the light of these exclusions, the numbers made available constitute the maximum practical allocation within the scope of the scheme. If it appears that there are more of these reservists available, we shall certainly gladly take them.
I should like to answer one or two questions put to me by the hon. Member for Lincoln. He asked why the mobile column is to be abandoned and whether we have really learned all we know from it. The answer to that is that it was an experimental mobile column. We have now had two columns each for a year, and on that basis we have no more to learn. There is certainly a great deal to be learned about mobile columns, but there is no more to be learnt in that way. We shall go forward and we shall certainly learn a great deal as this new scheme develops.
The hon. Member then asked me about the establishment of mobile columns. I have the figures here, but I do not think the House would wish me to give them. They are somewhat lengthy and they show each kind of column for the rescue and fire-fighting services and how they are broken up for the purpose. He asked me why we cannot start in January. The answer to that is we should like to, but unfortunately we cannot because it will be necessary to get the premises ready 2262 for training. The premises at Epsom are not adequate for the purpose. The experimental column was a small column on a more or less permanent basis, and clearly the premises will need a good deal of modification before they are ready for this new scheme. The hon. Gentleman also asked me about training in nerve gases. I am afraid I had not appreciated that that would be in order on Second Reading, and I will have to get the details of that rather technical question and write to the hon. Member.
I have tried to indicate to the House that the Government are fully alive to the limitations of this scheme, and also that we can keep within those limits now. But, within the limitations which I have acknowledged, this scheme is wholly worthwhile. It constitutes a first step in the direction of earmarking and training a reserve of full-time mobile civil defenders.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Some 15,000 men will receive the first stage of their training this year, the second stage the following year, and there will be actual columns in existence in the third year.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I think that is 1957. The scheme also brings into our defence structure, and allots a valuable role to a number of men who might otherwise be unable to make their due contribution to the defence of the country in the first stage of a war. The scheme is certainly not the final answer. It is the longest step which has been taken since 1948, and I confidently recommend it to the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Kaberry.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.