§ 2 and 4. Mr. Zilliacus
asked (1) the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now indicate an approximate date by which the discussions with the local authorities' associations about civil defence evacuation policy, which he informed the hon. Member for Gorton, on 21st November, 1957, were proceeding, will be completed and when he expects to be able to make the statement he indicated he would be prepared to make on their completion;
1266 (2) whether, in view of rocket developments since 21st November, 1957, the Government are still basing their civil defence policy on the assumption, as explained by him in answer to the hon. Member for Gorton on that date, that there will be long enough advance notice of the outbreak of hostilities to enable it to evacuate 12 million people.
§ 14. Mr. Swingler
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made in the revision of civil defence evacuation plans since the decision to establish rocket bases in various parts of the country.
§ 20. Mr. Mikardo
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his discussions about civil defence evacuation policy with the local authorities' associations, announced by him in reply to the hon. Member for Gorton on 21st November, 1957, have as yet included discussions with East Anglian local authorities as to the advisability of making this an evacuation area, in view of the presence of rocket and bomber bases; and whether he will make a statement.
§ 22. Mr. S. Silverman
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has now been made in co-ordinating with the Ministry of Defence his plans for evacuation in the event of war, having regard to the inevitability of limiting defence against air attack to air bases, and in view of his re-examination of these questions with the local authorities.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I have no further statement to make at present, since as I informed the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North East (Mr. Baird), on 19th February, the Government are re-examining the proposals for evacuation which were discussed with representatives of the local authority associations so as to ensure that all the relevant factors are taken fully into consideration.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Has not a very long time elapsed since the right hon. Gentleman announced that these discussions were in progress? Can he not indicate even an approximate date? Are these discussions merely for the book, or are they seriously intended to arrive at some conclusion?
§ Mr. Butler
The first stage of discussions was with certain local authority associations. Now we are at the stage of the Government examining the position, and later we shall have to consider it with specific local authorities or with the associations again. I do not think there has been any undue delay.
§ Mr. Swingler
Is there any purpose to be served by throwing dust into people's eyes about the nature of these discussions? Did not the Minister of Defence say on 11th February:… we could not honestly say to the people of this country that in the present state of scientific knowledge there is any effective means of defending the country as a whole"? —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1959; Vol. 599, c. 1174.]As it is undoubtedly the fact that the Minister of Defence bases his policy on a threat to initiate nuclear war in certain circumstances, would the Home Secretary say what his attitude is to this situation?
§ Mr. Butler
I am aware of the reply made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on the date to which the hon. Member refers, but this does not mean that much could not be done to mitigate the effect of a nuclear attack on the civil population as a whole. Civil defence is an integral part of defence plans, and, as this year's Defence White Paper says, no major change is contemplated in the structure or the rôle of civil defence. That is the position and we should make a great mistake in thinking that civil defence has no important part to play in helping to allay the anxiety of the population and, if there were an emergency, to deal with that emergency.
§ Mr. Silverman
While no one would expect the hon. Member to tell us, in advance of the negotiations, what the result of the consultations is likely to be, can he tell us upon what principle a review is taking place, having regard to the perfectly clear and frank statements of the Minister of Defence, already referred to? If we are only going to defend air bases, can the Home Secretary say whether the population is to be evacuated to the air bases or whether the air bases are to be evacuated to the population?
§ Mr. Butler
If things were as simple or as whimsical as the hon. Member puts them, there would be no reason for taking 1268 this matter seriously. One of the reasons why the review is necessary is that it would be very lacking in sense if evacuation took place to a vulnerable area of the kind suggested by the hon. Member. It is precisely for that reason that we are having a review of the whole scheme in order to bring it thoroughly up to date.