§ 12.2 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Draft Civil Defence (Public Protection) Regulations 1967, a copy of which was laid before this House on June 22, be approved. Your Lordships will recall that on December 14 my noble friend, Lord Bowles, made a Statement in the House about civil defence and, in particular, about the decisions which the Government had reached, in our review of home defence preparations, on local authority civil defence and the Civil Defence Corps. I was very sorry that I was prevented from being here to in- 1366 form your Lordships of those decisions on matters which are very dear to me, and I was most grateful to my noble friend for so ably discharging that duty for me at very short notice. In his Statement, my noble friend said that under the new scheme for civil defence which he outlined, local authority employees would be asked to play a bigger part in helping local authorities to carry out their civil defence functions.
On March 22 in the debate on the Motion on Civil Defence moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, I said that the foundation of our civil defence preparations is the provision of an effective, emergency system of control. This system of government in emergency, for that is what it is, would provide, if the need should ever arise, the essential control of life-saving operations, and, at a later stage, it would provide a framework of civil administration, so that the available surviving resources could be used to the best advantage of the community, so that men, women and children might have the means to go on living and so that we might move, however slowly, towards the restoration of some form of ordered life. The controls at local authority level are a vital part of this system, and local authorities must arrange to discharge their civil defence responsibilities, so far as they can, through the medium of their own staffs. In this way, we could make full use in emergency of the invaluable knowledge and experience gained in peace by those who work in local government.
The Regulations now before you are necessary to make explicit the duty of local authorities to train their staffs to help in manning the control system. This training is necessary because in the dire conditions which would follow nuclear attack there would inevitably be drastic changes in the scope and nature of the duties of local authority staffs. We recognise that they may not be able to man all the controls at all levels without assistance, and local authorities will therefore continue to look for help to members of the Civil Defence Corps, to whom we are deeply indebted for the great public service which they give so readily.
The draft Regulations place the function of training local authority staffs on 1367 the councils of counties, county boroughs, London boroughs, the City, and certain specified county districts, which are named in these Regulations. Local authorities under Regulation 2 will be required, in carrying out their functions, to comply with any direction given by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. If the draft Regulations are approved, my right honourable friend will issue directions, in the form of a circular to local authorities, about the training of staff.
Apart from the express provision for training, the draft Regulations follow broadly the Civil Defence (Public Protection) Regulations 1949, which they will replace. We have taken the opportunity to make some amendments to bring the 1949 Regulations up to date. It is over seventeen years since those Regulations were made, and in that time we have seen the hydrogen bomb succeed the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the development of missiles instead of aeroplanes as the means of delivery.
Perhaps I may very briefly draw attention to some points on which noble Lords may find it helpful to have some explanation. Regulation 1, with Schedule 1, will confer on the specified local authorities the civil defence functions which are set out in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of the Regulation. It authorises the making of plans, and the taking of necessary preparatory measures, whether or not an attack has occurred. It requires the local authorities to maintain the system of reporting and control for the carrying out of life-saving measures and measures for survival of which I spoke earlier. Regulation 1 also confers the functions of rescuing trapped persons, taking certain protective measures against the effects of radiation and biological or chemical warfare, and instructing and advising the public on the effects of hostile attack and on the protective measures which they could take. This last function would include, for example, the giving of advice about the preparation of fall-out rooms in houses in a period of tension.
1368 There are other Regulations which have been in existence for some years requiring local authorities to provide training in the civil defence field for their staffs—for example, the Civil Defence (Emergency Feeding) Regulations 1951. The consultations with the local authority associations and the National and Local Government Officers Association on the draft Regulations have been satisfactorily completed, and I should like to thank them for their very helpful co-operation. The associations representing the authorities on whom the draft Regulations confer functions do not dissent from the proposals. The National and Local Government Officers Association is content on the understanding that it will be for local authorities to seek the voluntary co-operation of their staffs in this training. The draft Regulations do not seek to place any statutory obligation upon local authority staffs.
These Regulations, together with the draft Regulations which have been laid before Parliament by my right honourable friend, the Minister of Health, for which my noble friend Lord Sorensen will seek approval later, are designed to enable local authorities to implement the new arrangements for local authority civil defence which were fully discussed in our March debate. The Government are confident that by carrying out these measures we shall maintain, on the most economical basis, a pattern of civil defence preparations which, if there were a nuclear attack on this country, would enable many millions of lives to be saved. As such I commend these draft Regulations to your Lordships for approval. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Draft Civil Defence (Public Protection) Regulations 1967, laid before the House on 22nd June 1967, be approved.—(Lord Stonham.)
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for having given the House so much detail in regard to these Regulations. We wish them well.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.