Civil Defence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1968.

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Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party 12:00 am, 29th February 1968

I did not say that, and I do not think that I would draw such a conclusion. The size of the insurance premium one pays at any particular time is always related to one's capacity to pay. Sometimes one can insure more than at other times. I do not wish to be drawn into giving any undertaking, as the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone did, that this force would be re-formed. If the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) was trying to tempt me into giving such an undertaking, I can only tell him that I must decline to walk down that primrose path.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister included in his statement of 16th January, in the light of these considerations and of the financial situation, the announcement of a substantial reduction in the level of our civil defence preparations. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that this is certainly not one of those shadow cuts to which he referred but a very real cut. I emphasise this again because there seems to have been some confusion about it. The preparations for civil defence have not ceased. We have decided to reduce civil defence, but not to abandon it. The previous programme was growing steadily and would have gone on growing in cost.

I appreciate the difficulty of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone in considering the figures involved. They are somewhat confusing because at times they are described in terms of England and Wales expenditure, at other times they relate to Scottish expenditure, yet on other occasions—and this is a most difficult concept—they are related to public expenditure, which includes total expenditure by central and local government. If I give the figures of total annual public expenditure—local and national—it will be seen that the programme on which we would have embarked during the next financial year would have been of the order of £25 million to £27 million, and that includes Scotland.