We attach great importance to the 870 posts which provide the field reporting element of the United Kingdom warning and monitoring organisation. They are maintained at a high state of readiness and used regularly by the Royal Observer Corps for training, including national and NATO fall-out reporting exercises. Modernisation of communications between the posts and group controls is part of the improvement in home defence announced by my right hon. Friend on 7 August.
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that proper public recognition should be given to those volunteers who man the Royal Observer Corps and who play such a vital part in our civil defence arrangements? Should not the Home Office defend the observation posts more vigorously and with less feebleness than was used to defend the Sittingbourne post against other arms of government that want to surround it with gipsy caravans and all the associated paraphernalia?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the tribute that he paid to the Royal Observer Corps. It is important that it should be acknowledged. I know about the case in my hon. Friend's constituency that causes him concern. The Royal Observer Corps post at Sittingbourne was threatened not by gipsies but by the screening of trees that Kent County council initially proposed to put up. At one stage that was thought likely to interfere with the operation of equipment. It was therefore made the subject of an interim objection. Fortunately, that was put right and the Home Office did not feel obliged to continue.
In the recent "Operation Square Leg" exercise were not all the observation posts, on paper, obliterated—along with the majority of the United Kingdom—by "tactical" nuclear weapons that were supposedly dropped on this country during a "tactical" exercise? Is it not part of a most cruel confidence trick to promote the idea that the civil defence corps would have any role in a nuclear war? Is not our best means of defence to get rid of our nuclear weapons, which make us a prime target?