All local authorities, except two, have completed and returned the questionnaire. It is expected that the two outstanding questionnaires will be returned by the end of the month. I imagine that my hon. Friend's concerns relate more to the answers in the questionnaires than to the questionnaires themselves.
I could not disagree more. I did not see the programme, but we do not need a television programme to tell us that, in the event of nuclear war, the destruction will be horrific. We also do not need a television programme to be fully aware that even the most elementary civil defence preparations could save millions of lives and greatly reduce injury and suffering.
How can local authorities adequately answer questionnaires or plan for civil defence if the Home Secretary refuses to share with them his planning assumptions about likely targets in their areas, the casualties likely to result from an attack and other consequences? If the major air threat is from conventional attack, as the Home Office now asserts, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what is the evidence for that assumption, why it differs from the NATO strategy and how, once an air attack against this country has been launched, local authorities are expected to decide whether it is a conventional or a nuclear attack?
All NATO countries make proper provision for civil defence, and we intend to do the same. My original answer showed that, even if the hon. Gentleman has difficulty in answering the questionnaire, local authorities seem to be doing so, which suggests that it has been directed to the right quarters.
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the background to my question is that the Soviet Union has 300,000 tonnes of chemical weapons and is continuing to add to them. Presumably there is some purpose attached to that. Despite what he has already said, will my hon. Friend ensure that the new consolidated guidance to local authorities covers protection of the public in the event of chemical attack?
That aspect is being worked on. If those initiatives are successful, there will be an addition to the circular. My hon. Friend raises an important point in stating the Soviet Union's chemical weaponry capability. It is worth bearing in mind that we unilaterally renounced chemical weapons in the late 1950s, but that does not seem to have had much impact on the Soviets. One wonders where unilateral disarmament stands in that scenario.
My hon. Friend has already mentioned that we unilaterally renounced all our chemical and biological weapons at the end of the 1950s. Is he aware that the military commanders are most concerned about the situation in relation to what the troops, especially in Germany, would suffer? Will he give careful consideration to the steps required similarly to protect the civilian population?