Civil Defence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th January 1968.

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Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough 12:00 am, 18th January 1968

For the most part we accept what the hon. Gentleman has said, that the service, though reduced to a care and maintenance basis, will still be there to play some part in the unhappy event of a crisis hitting us. The hon. Gentleman and his Department must have in their minds that, with this being included in the package deal to do with devaluation, it has caused doubts, and will cause greater doubts in many quarters.

The argument that the hon. Gentleman has used was one for doing what has now been done some time ago. It was not only last week, for example, that it was realised that the period of crisis was here, and that there were considerable savings that could be made, which would prevent the training of future personnel to keep the thing going. It is such a pity to do this to such an intimate and personal thing as civil defence. There are many civil defence workers in the various services, and householders running their various groups. For this to have the appearance of having been thrown into this devaluation panic decision, makes it appear as though this vitally important matter, which has frightened so many people, is being run to this point of care and maintenance before it would have otherwise been the case, had devaluation not come about.

I do not say this by way of criticism of the arguments of the hon. Gentleman, but he and his Department will have to go to a lot of trouble to convince the nation that the arguments that he has just given from the Box are the arguments that have brought about this reduction in the service. As things stand, saving this money in order to help us over this period, brought on for reasons which have been debated for the last two days. does not really fit in.

For what contribution it makes, it would have been sensible if it had been left out of the package deal and brought in in a month or two months' time. It would have been accepted as a possibly good decision, not a decision forced on the Government in order to make still further contributions to getting over this national crisis. I hope that the Home Department will carry its efforts a little further than the hon. Gentleman's speech and let it be seen that the argument that he has adduced to the House is one that stands on its own and is not part of a panic measure to get us over a crisis, which has nothing whatever to do with the millions who would be slaughtered in the even of a nuclear onslaught.