Orders of the Day — Civil Defence (Grant) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:09 pm on 28th November 2001.

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Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Conservative, Rayleigh 8:09 pm, 28th November 2001

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Bill. New section 3B(4), on payment, states:

"An authority shall repay to the designated Minister any sum which . . . exceeds the amount to which the authority is entitled under that section for that year (whether or not by virtue of a varying determination under section 3(3)(b))."

If the Bill is designed to enhance the resources given to civil defence, why is it necessary for the Government to include a clawback provision? No Labour Member has defended that point so far.

This country has survived many threats to its security down the centuries. Now, we face a new and in many ways more invidious threat than we have faced hitherto. We need to guard against the threat of terrorism and asymmetric warfare, just as we have guarded against all other threats. That means spending more on civil defence, not less. When the total allocated to local authorities for civil defence last year—£20 million—is around half the cost of a single Eurofighter aircraft, we have got the balance of our planning wrong.

The first duty of Government, above all others, is defence of the realm. We forget that at our peril. From what I have heard today, I believe that we are in real danger of forgetting that tonight.