Yes, Sir. Members of the Civil Defence Services are themselves most anxious to play a more active part in the war effort and I have plans in active preparation for enabling them to do so, though, as I will explain, the matter goes a good deal beyond employment at the depots. The overriding requirement is that the Civil Defence services must be sufficient in numbers, adequately trained and immediately available in case of need. Hence there can be no wholesale and unconditional release of whole-time Civil Defence personnel. There is, however, a great deal that can be done by careful and detailed organisation to make the services of this personnel available for other work without conflicting with this requirement.
Under existing arrangements members of the Civil Defence services may under specified conditions be employed on certain kinds of constructional work at the Depots or they may, with the consent of the employing authority, be released for approved industrial employment, subject usually to the requirement that they must return immediately to their Civil Defence duties in case of emergency. The provision of work at the Depots is necessarily restricted in scope owing to the structural limitations of the premises and the small numbers employed in each. Schemes are, however, already in operation and I am examining further plans for providing various suitable forms of work for those who must necessarily remain on stand-by duty.
The main line of advance must be by the method of releasing Civil Defence workers for approved industrial employ- meat away from the depots and I am making arrangements in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service for developing this method to the utmost extent which is consistent with the requirements of the Civil Defence services. I contemplate that except in cases in which unconditional releases are possible the persons released should remain under obligation to perform part-time Civil Defence duties in accordance with the normal rules (including any further training that may be necessary) and should be liable to recall at short notice in case of emergency and their new employment must therefore usually be local and such as to make these conditions practicable. I am confident that with the good will of all concerned real progress can be made on these lines. The original conception of Civil Defence as primarily a part-time service, so faithfully observed in many parts of the country, remains. Where it has not been sufficiently applied, it must be expanded, subject to the requirements of particular services such as the National Fire Service. It will not be in the public interest to give full details of the proposed new arrangements, but I shall hope to keep the House generally informed of the proposed new dispositions.
I think that the basis for the arrangement must obviously be that in the case of a new enemy attack on a large scale this machine must function properly. I think, therefore, that if a man is released, subject to any arrangement between local authorities and us, he must have the obligation to continue part-time service under his local authority at present and to return to full-time service as and when required. That is one of the reasons I do not think he can be allowed to work full-time too far away from where he is engaged on Civil Defence.