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Home Guard And Civil Defence

Volume 480: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1950

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asked the Minister of Defence when he will be in a position to make a statement about the resuscitation of the Home Guard.

On a point of order. Does not the word "resuscitation" mean bringing back from death? May I point out that the Home Guard are by no means all dead?

I am not responsible for this Question. The hon. and gallant Member should put his query to the hon. Member who put down the Question, and not to me.

The Government have decided that a Home Guard should be raised on a part-time basis in a future emergency. The Home Guard will not be enrolled before an actual emergency arises, but planning measures are being put in hand at once, including the appointment of a Home Guard Adviser in each Army Command at home, which will ensure that a substantial force can be enrolled, organised and armed within a few weeks of the order to proceed.

The Home Guard will form part of the Armed Forces of the Crown, and its functions will be broadly similar to those which the Home Guard performed so admirably in the recent war. They will be concerned mainly with supporting the Regular Forces by relieving them of certain subsidiary tasks, and with giving assistance to the civil authorities in a wide range of duties. The Home Guard will be raised and operated on a Territorial basis, and will be administered by the War Office through the medium of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. Command will be exercised through normal Service channels.

The Government recognise that the duties which may have to be performed by part-time services in a future emergency cannot accurately be estimated in advance, so as to enable a precise allocation of part-time manpower to be made between Civil Defence and the Home Guard. The plans for each Service will, therefore, have to be made with a considerable degree of elasticity.

In the meantime, the Government desire to make it plain that no one should refrain from volunteering now for part-time work in the Civil Defence services or in the Special Constabulary on the ground that he might more suitably serve later on in the Home Guard. The training which potential Home Guard members would receive by joining Civil Defence services or the Special Constabulary would be of considerable value if they should later wish to join, and can be accepted for, the Home Guard on its formation.

Will the Minister make it quite plain that those who wish to join the Home Guard and who meanwhile engage themselves in Civil Defence duties will not be prejudiced in their chance of joining the Home Guard immediately it is resuscitated?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows that there is an important point here. Many men would prefer to join the Home Guard rather than any other organisation. Is there any undertaking—I could not quite follow the statement—that in the meanwhile, if they do join the Civil Defence Service and the Home Guard is then constituted, they can transfer to the Home Guard?

Yes, Sir. That is the intention. Anyone who wishes may transfer from Civil Defence to the Home Guard, provided that there is a place in the establishment. I imagine that no difficulty will arise.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the preliminary plans to which he referred include the checking of addresses and the availability and the health of potential members?

Whether it is intended to go into all those details I cannot say, but I imagine that some of them will have to be dealt with.

Would it not appear from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that this is not a plan for the Home Guard at all? It is merely a plan for an officer in each command to advise, which presumably he is already doing, and unless the right hon. Gentleman will enrol men, either through the Government or voluntarily through the British Legion or in some other way, he will not get the men, because they will all be going to other jobs.

We think not. The fact is that the War Office, among other things, are proposing at once to work on the requirements of equipment and so on, and the command officer who is to be appointed in each of the home commands will be entrusted with the task of making the necessary plans.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the implication of what he has just said? Surely there is nothing more calculated to wreck the organisation of Civil Defence than the sudden exit of large numbers of men, should an emergency arise.

We think not. At any rate, first things come first. It is not intended—and we have given the matter very careful consideration—that the Home Guard should be raised before an emergency. On the other hand, we think that it is very desirable that the Civil Defence organisation should be in active preparation.