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Civil Defence (Casualty Collection)

Volume 529: debated on Monday 5 July 1954

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Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Draft Civil Defence (Casualty Collection) Regulations, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th June, be approved."—[Miss Hornsby-Smith.]

10.0 p.m.

The debate which has just been concluded has been carried on on the assumption that Scotland does not exist, that we have no need for civil defence Regulations and that generally speaking all the difficulties that have been encountered in England do not apparently exist so far as Scotland is concerned. Although we have not the Home Secretary in charge of our civil defence, we have a Minister whom we have no reason to believe is more energetic or more able to resolve the contradictions of civil defence than the Minister in England.

I do not see why there should not be the fullest possible explanation to the House as to how these Regulations, dealing with the problem of casualty collection should not be fully explained to the House, because the debate that has just taken place fills us with great alarm and great despondency. The substance of these new Regulations is that the local authorities shall be instructed to supply information about casualties. This Statutory Instrument says that the business of the local authorities will be:
"to supply the Minister with information of their requirements in respect of stretchers, material and equipment for the purpose of putting such plans into operation, or for the purpose of such training as aforesaid, and an estimate of The extent to which their existing stocks thereof need to be supplemented for the purpose of meeting their estimated requirements."
We should first have a really serious attempt by the Minister to explain these Regulations. It is not good enough to have Regulations affecting the civilian population and what might happen to that population in the event of air raids carried in this House just by a nod. Imagine an instruction of this kind coming to any local authority in the centre of London.

We have just been told by the Home Secretary that if a hydrogen bomb drops an area of 10 square miles will be affected—

Imagine the predicament of a local authority that happens to be within that radius. What is to happen, for instance, when the City Council of Westminster and the local authority of Clapham, where I live when I am in London, have to answer questions about what their provisions are for dealing with casualties? Judging from the statements made today, all the areas within a radius of 15 miles will have to say that their whole populations are problematical casualties. We have heard comments today about shaking the morale of the country. This will be the greatest predicament for the City of London since the Great Plague. The time when they sent round the carts and cried, "Bring out your dead" will be nothing compared with what is likely to happen after one of these air raids. Apparently, according to the statements made today, the Government have no adequate measures to deal with this matter.

What is a casualty? Is it a person who is killed or a person who is injured? I am interested, because I wish to know what is likely to happen to great industrial cities like Glasgow. We have had no opportunity to question any responsible Minister about civil defence in the West of Scotland. We are interested about what is likely to happen in big seaports in England, because the same may happen in Scotland. Although it is not clear whether these Regulations apply also to Scotland, we are con cerned about what is likely to happen to great seaports following an air raid.

I can imagine members of the City Council of Glasgow, communicating with the City Council of Liverpool to know what reply Liverpool proposes to make on this question of casualties, so that they may know what sort of answer to give. I submit that the Minister is placing an intolerable burden on local authorities. The assumption has been that the seaports of this country will be destroyed. One hon. Member suggested that the sensible thing would be to establish a series of Mulberry Harbours round the coast. I am interested to know what will happen to the civil population in the meantime.

The Minister is sending out these instructions to county councils and borough councils. They are asked what preparations they are making for casualties. How cart a borough council in London or in a city like Coventry, answer such a question? When local authorities endeavour to get such information from the speeches of the Home Secretary and the Joint Under-Secretary, they will come to the conclusion that this is a question which it is impossible to answer. I do not think that the Minister of Health has been able to face up to this question at all.

Let me give an illustration from Scotland. As a result of a civil defence exercise in Glasgow, it has been estimated that if an atom bomb fell on that city every hospital would be put out of action.

Then I think that the hon. Member ought to speak of the cities of which he is thinking.

I was using as an illustration the city with which I am familiar in order to picture the situation likely to result in Bristol. Swansea, Liverpool. Newcastle-on-Tyne, London and Southampton. If Glasgow is ruled out as of no consequence and Scotland is regarded ac., not worthy of discussion in civil defence, I will bring the question back to Liverpool.

The civil defence exercise in Glasgow illustrates what might happen in Liverpool. The civil defence authorities in Glasgow have estimated that every hospital in the city would be destroyed. Where would the casualties—the dead and the wounded—be taken? These thoughts have not entered the minds of the Ministers who are supposed to be responsible for what is called civil defence. Presumably this is an attempt to face the very ghastly problem of how to deal with the dead, but until one has found out whether the Home Office is to sanction deep shelters, one cannot assess the number of casualties.

Any intelligent local authority will ask, "What is to be done about air-raid shelters"? If there are not to be any air-raid shelters and no specially protected basements and cellars, there are likely to be more casualties. The number of dead and wounded will vary according to such circumstances. Until such questions as these are answered, it is impossible to give the information required in this Statutory Instrument.

Then the question of whether we are likely to have casualties from gas must be taken into consideration. In the Civil Defence Estimates there is a very large sum for a very large number of respirators, so the Government are thinking in terms of gas. If that is so, any local authority will say, "If we are to be supplied with respirators, there is a possibility of attack by gas. How are we then to estimate the number of potential casualties from gas?"

An hon. Member has raised the question of casualties from other causes. It is well known that in the last war preparations were made for the possibility of germ warfare. Any member of any intelligent local authority thinking in terms of potential casualties will ask, "How are we to cope with the possibility of casualties from germ warfare?" We all know that the Government have been making certain experiments with bacteria away in a different part of the world. Nobody for a moment would say that the Government were conducting these experiments for the purpose of offence. They are only being conducted, like the dropping of atom bombs, in order to save human life. But we would like to know whether this country, like other countries, will have to face the problem of deaths from bacteriological warfare. I see that one of the villains of the piece—the Minister of Supply—is here. He may know some thing about what may happen to this country in the event of germ warfare being carried out.

I presume that if there were no danger of germ warfare, the Minister would not be carrying out these experiments. But suppose other countries are carrying out germ warfare experiments, too. They may be doing that to enable them to carry out a reprisal for what we may do. Any local authority that is thinking realistically of the next war, and not in terms of the façade that has been built up by the Home Secretary, will say, "If there is going to be war against which we must protect the civil population, what is the possibility of germ warfare?"

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not the hon. Gentleman going right outside the strict terms of these Regulations?

I was listening to the hon. Member. He was talking about casualties, and so far as I can make out, he was still in order. But he ought really to confine himself more strictly to the subject matter which is before the House.

I was not aware that I had strayed one iota. I have listened to the debate today, and I presume that when we talk about casualties we mean casualties—

The hon. Member must not fall into the error of supposing that this is the same debate as that which has gone on in Committee of Supply.

I am perfectly aware that what we are debating is the Statutory Instrument, a copy of which I have in my hand, and I presume that if I had digressed the rules of order before now, you would conscientiously have carried out your duty, Mr. Speaker, and drawn my attention to it.

I maintain that if the local authorities are going to be asked to supply information to a Government Department, they should do so in a spirit of realism, knowing what is going on in the world and knowing that our Government are very interested in bacteriological warfare, and that if our Government are interested in bacteriological warfare, some potential enemy is also interested in it and we ought to have some statement about what defensive measures the Government contemplate.

The hon. Member is now going a little wide of the Regulations. The Regulations provide for the collection of casualties in any future emergency of this character. That does not really carry with it a discussion of all possible forms of aerial warfare.

I am talking about casualties, and I am assuming that if there is the sort of war which Her Majesty's Government contemplate, bacteriological warfare will be carried out, and if that is so, there will be casualties.

Why does the hon. Member assume that this type of warfare will be carried out, when gas was not used in the last war? Secondly, will he say whether he is in favour of more or less civil defence arrangements?

I shall certainly answer those questions. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman has read the Estimates, be will realise that the Government expect casualties as a result of gas warfare, and are preparing for them.

That may be so, but if the hon. and gallant Member does not think that gas will be used in the next war, he should censure his Government for spending public money unnecessarily.

Perhaps I can explain my view of the hon. Member's speech by saying that he ought to confine his argument to saying whether or not he is in favour of local authorities making plans for the collection and disposal of casualties.

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for telling me how I should confine my arguments. What I am trying to get from the Government is a clear statement of their policy, in order to assess their arguments.

If the hon. Member sits down, he will get the answer.

I am asking very reasonable questions, to which the Minister should try to give reasonable answers. I want to know how the Minister expects local authorities to estimate what casualties they expect from hydrogen bomb attacks, bacteriological attacks and any other kinds of attacks. Until they are told how to do that, local authorities will be completely bewildered as to the way in which they should answer this complicated question. If local authorities are to do their duty, they must approach this matter in a spirit of common sense and realism.

If the Parliamentary Secretary gives us anything like a clear answer to these questions, she will earn the admiration of the House. We shall admire her capacity and ability to face the problem more than we can possibly admire the statements presented to the House today by the Home Secretary and tin Joint Under-Secretary.

10.23 p.m.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), with his usual somewhat gay versatility, has made a speech primarily for his constituents in Scotland on the subject of Regulations which concern only England and Wales. I assure him that I appreciate his very deep concern for local authorities, but I can say that they are nothing like so confused about the Regulations as he appears to be, because they have already agreed to them.

These Regulations provide a small, narrow, but very important addition to that part of the civil defence organisation for which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is responsible. They are made necessary by the development of atomic and hydrogen weapons. As a result of very close and intensive studies and exercises in the civil defence organisation we have been shown the necessity for an increasing strength in the stretcher-bearer and first-aid services. It is in -that narrow field of the civil defence organisation that these Regulations apply.

Should there be a heavy attack from atomic weapons it is clear that large areas might be made inaccessible to wheeled vehicles. It would, therefore, be very necessary to have much larger numbers than were formerly contemplated of stretcher-bearers, who would be needed for the difficult and possibly protracted task of carrying stretcher cases to ambulance loading points. The present service does not provide the additional personnel necessary for what would be, if I may coin a phrase, "long carries." The personnel of the rescue service will give first aid to persons trapped in debris, but there will be need to give first aid to untrapped stretcher cases and possibly also to people who having been trapped, have been rescued but cannot be immediately moved because vehicular transport is not available. There will also be need for stretcher bearers with mobile first aid units and for personnel to load and unload ambulances and, for personnel to load and unload ambulance trains at railheads.

These Regulations require county and county borough councils to make plans for the provision of a service for the collection and removal of casualties resulting from hostile action. To that end they are empowered by the Regulations to train members of the Civil Defence Corps in stretcher bearing and first aid duties. The services will be operated in conjunction with the ambulance services at present operated by the local authorities. The present ambulance section of the Civil Defence Corps will be expanded under this plan and will be renamed the Ambulance and Casualty Collection Team Section.

It would not be practicable even in wartime to recruit to the reconstituted section all the stretcher bearers that might be required in the event of a heavy attack on any particular area. It is, therefore, proposed that new members of the expanded branch of the civil defence services should form the nucleus of a body of stretcher bearer leaders who would be trained and ready to organise members of the public, who, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) pointed out in the earlier debate, would pour in in the event of an emergency. It would be essential to have trained leaders to direct them whither they could be of the best service.

The Minister of Health and the Home Secretary have consulted the appropriate local authority associations, the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross Society who do so much for the training of these volunteers in first aid work. They have their agreement to and full support for these Regulations. When the Regulations have been approved instructions will be sent to county and county borough councils explaining the measures to be taken, and for training personnel necessary to enable the authorities to carry out their functions.

I should hate entirely to disappoint the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, and, perhaps, I may be permitted to explain, on the authority of the Secretary of State for Scotland, the difference which arises in the Scottish system. In Scotland, there is no ambulance section of the Civil Defence Corps, and the ambulance service is the responsibility of the regional hospital boards, who would not be in as favourable a position as local authorities to recruit additional volunteers needed to act as stretcher bearers—

On a point of order. During the earlier debate, as you will probably be aware, Mr. Speaker, no Scottish Member, with one exception, was allowed to take part. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) in his first-class speech just now, asked whether he might use as an instance the case in Glasgow, comparing it with that in England. There was some doubt whether he was in order.

The Parliamentary Secretary has just made an announcement. She says she has been empowered by the Secretary of State for Scotland to explain the position of the Scottish ambulance services in connection with these Regulations, which we have just been informed by you, Mr. Speaker, apply to England and Wales only. What I should like to know is whether the hon. Lady is in order, and, if so, if it will be in order for other Members to discuss the Scottish position.

I think not. These Regulations have nothing to do with Scotland, as far as I can make out, and all reference to Scotland is out of order.

So your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, is that the Parliamentary Secretary is out of order as well?

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. It makes my task much easier to leave the hon. Member for South Ayrshire in ignorance.

10.30 p.m.

This is one more of the matters to which the Select Committee on Estimates drew attention and as a result of which the Regulations have been brought forward. The Parliamentary Secretary said that all those who had been consulted—the local authorities and the voluntary bodies—had all agreed that this was the best way to do the job. I hope that that is the case, but I still hope, nevertheless, that this matter may still be kept under review, together with all other matters concerned with the organisation of the operational forces of civil defence. It seems to me—and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was not quite so wide of the mark as may have appeared in the earlier debate—that this may not be the right way of doing this job.

As the hon. Lady herself said, the ambulance services are services mainly on wheels carrying the wounded to hospitals. The target area will be anything from about three to 30 miles across, and undoubtedly it will not be possible to get to the wounded who will be buried, except with the help of the rescue services. I wonder very much whether this service ought not to be much more closely tied up with the rescue service than with the ambulance service.

As the hon. Lady has told us that all those who are most concerned have agreed, I must take it that there has been very full consideration. Nevertheless, in view of the reconsideration now taking place of the whole of our civil defence arrangements, I hope that the matter will be kept under consideration. It shows how extraordinarily complicated and difficult our whole civil defence arrangements are that this matter, which is so closely linked with the work of rescue, has to be dealt with by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, whereas the rescue services are, presumably, the responsibility of the Home Secretary. This division of responsibility makes the whole arrangements and Regulations of this kind extraordinarily difficult.

I only hope that the matter will be kept under continual review and that we do not have to stick to this arrangement if the tactical exercises which are carried out and the review of civil defence that takes place next year show that it is a quite impracticable arrangement.

10.33 p.m.

When I first saw the Regulations, and even before, this matter had been mentioned to me by friends, and I have had letters on the subject from people who lived in cities that were blitzed during the last war. I have been told that we must now mention Scotland, but as I happen now to live in Glasgow I have had people talking to me from Clydebank, which was badly blitzed, and I have had letters from friends in Birmingham, which was also blitzed during the last war.

Regulation 2 (a), which relates to county boroughs and boroughs, states that it is
"to make plans for the provision in the event of hostile action or a threat of hostile action of a service for the collection and removal of casualties resulting from hostile action …"
Questions have been posed to me that there is no provision in the Regulations for what is to be done with the casualties that are collected. I have had about five letters on the subject. It is all right to provide for collecting casualties, but what is to become of them? The London County Council and all the county boroughs can have all their plans and their ambulance services, but the Home Secretary has told us tonight that a hydrogen bomb dropped on the centre of London would have a destruction area of a radius of 15 miles, or 30 miles in diameter; so that all these plans for collection within the City of London would very likely be completely destroyed.

What is the capacity of small boroughs outside London to maintain a service for collecting and removing casualties to a suitable area where they can be treated? How are we to treat a city like London, with its 8 million people, which one hydrogen bomb could almost completely destroy over a radius of 15 miles? It is impossible to conceive of how local authorities around Scotland could, independently and individually, provide an ambulance service or a stretcher bearer service as would be required under such conditions from, say, Croydon to London. Or, it might be from Haslemere, working into the centre of London.

That would mean passing over 15 miles of rubble before these stretcher bearers could get to the scene of their work. Why, we should need to have bulldozers in use before the stretcher bearers could move! Then, of course, there would be gamma rays floating around, and if there had been an explosion over the Thames, millions of gallons of water would have been thrown up, and would be falling down; and that would be radioactive. What is the use of stretcher bearers in all these terrible circumstances?

I say that it is entirely unrealistic to think in terms of this number of people who would be able to get from the perimeter to the centre, on foot, to carry out casualties on stretchers.

If that is what the hon. Member thinks, and if we are to have a battlefield in every city in Britain, are we to rely on the civil population after the battles of London, Birmingham, and Glasgow? I should have thought we should have needed assistance from the Royal Army Medical Corps, and the Royal Ordnance Corps.

Is this to be a service merely to collect the casualties of hydrogen bombs, or bacteriological bombs, or poison gas? I ask that because there is nothing in these Regulations about where the casualties will be placed. [An HON. MEMBER: "In hospital."] Somebody says, "In hospital," but I can imagine the position in South Wales. Supposing the coastal towns, Cardiff, Swansea, and Newport, were badly damaged by hydrogen bombs, there would be very little hospital accommodation. Where would those victims be taken? There would be no room in houses, and hospitals there already have long waiting lists. It is no use the Government bringing in these proposals unless we are to be told where the casualties would be taken.

In Birmingham, during the last war, there was a terrific problem in accommodating those who had been injured.

Let us just try to imagine what the position would be after a hydrogen bomb explosion. It would be infinitely worse, and I say that it would be better for the Minister to withdraw these Regulations until such time as the House can be told how the casualties are to be treated after collection. This is like a draft Regulation on the collection of refuse; there is not even a hint as to how the casualties are to be treated. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) spoke about bacteriological warfare, and high explosives, and gas, as well as the hydrogen bomb, and I would reiterate that there will be casualties of many different types. There might conceivably be a hydrogen bomb explosion, the dropping of bacteria, and a gas attack all at the same time, and, with the resulting contamination, people would have to be isolated from those with different injuries.

There will have to be a plan so that, if there is a "bacteriological ring," that area can be isolated and the people in it not mixed up with those suffering from shrapnel wounds.

I am not sure if the hon. Member is arguing against the Regulations or not. Is he saying that the casualties should not be collected?

No, Sir, I want the wounded to be cleared, but what I am saying is that these Regulations are insufficient for the purpose in view.

There is no precedent at all, but so far as I am aware no hon. Member has argued with me.

What I am arguing is that these Regulations are incomplete. It is not sufficient to tell the people that if they are injured they will be collected. It is not good enough to say to the public, "If there are heavy air raids you will be collected." The public want to know that if they are injured they will be treated adequately. In view of the present shortage of hospital accommodation, and the fact that in war-time many hospitals will be destroyed, the people are wondering whether these Regulations really mean anything.

The other matter which concerns me is that it is not right to throw this tremendous task back upon the local authorities. I take the view that if, unfortunately, we are dragged into war by any foreign Power, then in this country it will be really totalitarian war. There will be no question of any ad hoc organisation. Every able bodied man and woman will have to be conscripted—

Surely that is going far beyond the Regulations, which make provision for the collection of casualties. The hon. Member is now dealing with a much wider topic and it cannot be supported by the Regulations now before the House.

I am sorry if I am out of order, but I sometimes find it difficult to keep in order, Sir. What I was dealing with was this responsibility for the maintenance of the organisation for the collection of the wounded being put on the local authorities. I take the view that in a future war, if we are unfortunate enough to be dragged into one, there will have to be a national organisation covering the whole of Britain that the State, in the event of war, would have to take over civil defence and treat it like a military operation. It could not just rely upon the local authorities. The areas of destruction will be so big in the cities where the capacity of the organisation is so great. I dare say the L.C.C. or the Glasgow Corporation, with their huge organisations, could do this work, but the areas over which they have control are the areas which will be destroyed.

The smaller local authorities, like county boroughs, with their limited financial resources and restricted hospital services would not be in a position to provide these services for the large cities. It should be the function of the Ministry of Health to provide adequate services throughout the country for the treatment of casualties and other services and the onus should not be placed upon the local authorities.

As was said in the last debate, there is too much tendency to think in terms of the blitzes of 1940 to 1943. Surely we are all agreed that if this happens, and the hydrogen bomb has been threatened and it may be used, there will be nothing left of this sort of organisation in our large cities. The large cities will depend entirely on the small boroughs and counties who will never build up sufficient equipment on their own initiative.

This is in the case of a concentrated attack which means more than one bomb.

That makes it worse.

If two or three bombs are dropped on London, and London has the biggest services for collecting casualties, and London is wiped out, then the casualties will never be collected—unless the services in London are duplicated outside London. That means duplication. We do not want the services inside London. We want services around London and outside London and those local authorities are not in the position efficiently to build up services of collection and the treatment of the inhabitants of the City of London if the City of London had a concentrated attack by hydrogen bombs.

I suggest that the Department takes back these Regulations because they have come as a frightful shock to many people. It is said that they are over sensitive about the phrase "collection of casualties" and removing them. People know the hospital situation. I was told only this week of someone waiting four months to get into a London hospital.

If the Minister cannot withdraw these Regulations, I hope that he will at least do something to allay the fears of many people that this is too casual and seems rather like a document from a refuse department to say that refuse will be collected. I think that the Regulations are badly drafted and not likely to raise the morale of the people or show the Government's intention to protect and look after the civilian population in case of war.

10.49 p.m.

I would have thought that these Regulations dealt only with the collection and removal of casualties and no question of to where they were removed. In the event of war, emergency hospitals are built. A large number were built in the last war; huts are put up in the country areas and they provide the places to where casualties are removed. I agree, however, that it is a pity that we have a Minister of Health answering on Regulations when we have had the Home Secretary answering on it, also. The sooner we have a Minister of Civil Defence answering the better.

The Regulations say:
"It shall be the duty of every local authority, at the request of and in accordance with the directions of the Minister—
  • (a) to make plans for the provision in the event of hostile action or a threat of hostile action of a service for the collection and removal of casualties resulting from hostile action …
  • (b) to train members of the Civil Defence Corps whose services are made available for the purpose in stretcher bearing and first-aid duties to be performed in connection with the discharge of functions under these regulations …"
  • I take the view that the sooner everybody is trained in these duties the better it will be for all of us because the people who will be trained in the Civil Defence Corps may be wiped out if large areas are wiped out with the hydrogen bomb. We heard earlier about the dropping of this bomb on Charing Cross setting fire to Epsom Grand Stand. In that case, the number of casualties will be so colossal that it will be well beyond the Civil Defence Corps and I have long pressed for all the population to be given civil defence training, particularly in first-aid. It may cost money but I have great sympathy with what was said earlier in the day by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), that we are spending only £29 million on civil defence as against £1,500 million on weapons of offence, and the sooner we can get a good deal of it shifted to civil defence, the better.

    10.50 p.m.

    I am intervening in this debate because of the interjection of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), who was asking where the casualties were to be taken. The hon. Gentleman suggested that they should be taken down the mines. I do not know whether he would like to withdraw that?

    It was not intended in the serious way the hon. Gentleman took it. I merely made the interjection in a critical sense towards the hon. Gentleman who was speaking because it seemed to me obvious that, if there were casualties, they would be taken to wherever they could be treated at the time.

    That is very different from what the hon. Gentleman was saying at the time, because my hon. Friend was arguing that very point. Indeed, if one looks at paragraph 2 (b), it is clear that not only are people to be trained in stretcher-bearing but, as I am sure the Minister will agree, in rendering first-aid treatment as well. So it is obvious from the wording of the Regulations that some place has to be provided to take the casualties; otherwise there is no sense in collecting them.

    Secondly, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) objected to the examples used by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). He suggested that there might not be casualties from gas warfare as gas was not used in the last war. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to paragraph 2:
    "It shall be the duty of every local authority, at the request of and in accordance with the directions of the Minister—(a) to make plans for the provision in the event of hostile action or a threat of hostile action …"
    I am certain that this sentence covers every type of case that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire mentioned. Preparations were made against gas in the last war; in fact all of us spent hours of our time in such preparations and I myself had to undergo a course of training because of the threat of gas. That is what the Minister is seeking to do in these Regulations, to take into consideration every possible type of action from which casualties might arise, and he is asking that local authorities should make an estimate of the number of casualties. I am certain that the Minister would not deny it.

    When it is suggested that my hon. Friend might have been wrong in raising his points as these Regulations apply to England, all I can say is that we have had a long debate today on civil defence, when none of my hon. Friends were called on, neither were hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent Scottish Divisions. Yet the House will appreciate from the contributions that have been made now that Scottish Members could have made a useful contribution to that previous debate. So we shall expect a short reply from the Minister to the questions we have asked tonight, first as to whether my hon. Friends were not right in raising these points, and secondly, what preparations local authorities are expected to make at the request of the Minister to provide emergency hospitals or temporary accommodation at which these casualties will be treated.

    10.54 p.m.

    If I may speak again, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) has made it clear that he and some of his colleagues thought that, as they could not get into the previous debate, they might try to get into this one. With great respect, many of the points they have raised are not covered by these Regulations.

    Such as the treatment of casualties in the Hospital Service. The Hospital Casualty Service and the plans for dispersing the hospitals during a war are part and parcel of major civil defence plans but are not any part of these Regulations. So far as these Regulations are concerned, they merely extend the Service in what I should have thought hon. Gentlemen opposite would have welcomed as a practical step resulting from the possible results of atomic warfare.

    With the previous weapons of war it was possible to bring ambulances within reasonable distance of the casualties, and the staff trained as drivers and assistants to those ambulances knew that their casualties, in the main, were reasonably near to where their vehicles could come. New weapons have made it necessary for us to envisage a wider and larger field of stretcher-bearing staff, who would be trained in first-aid and stretcher-bearing in order that they could take casualties over a wider field, where it would not be possible for vehicles to go, to the ambulances waiting as near as possible for them to get to the site of the incident. This is a practical extension of the civil defence programme for which so many hon. Members have asked today. It has no direct bearing on the planning and evacuation and dispersal of the hospitals themselves.

    I am appalled at the lack of confidence which hon. Members opposite appear to have in the local authorities. The local authorities who we are asking to carry out these services are the people concerned, interested in and attached to the problems of their local community—county boroughs and county councils—authorities who coped admirably with the tasks confronting them in the similar services in the last war, and to which this is a very small addition of their existing services. Hon. Members opposite have agreed in the House, and agreed under the former Government, to these services being placed in the hands of the county boroughs and the county councils. This is but a very small extension of the ambulance services and the civil defence organisation placed under the local authorities.

    I believe that this is a practical but important addition to the civil defence services—one which local authorities feel they can reasonably add to their programme, and, if hon. Members want figures, every local authority has its own target figure for its peace-time strength. We are asking target areas to increase the stretcher-bearing and first-aid services by 50 per cent. and the non-target and more distant rural areas by 20 per cent. of their peace-time target as a minimum peace-time strength under the programme outlined in these Regulations.

    I hope very much that hon. Members will realise that this is a small but limited extension; that it has no bearing on the dispersal of the hospitals, which is quite a different matter provided for under other aspects of the civil defence service, and that, so far as the local authorities are concerned, they have signified their willingness to co-operate fully in this extension of the service in which, so far, they have whole-heartedly co-operated.

    Question put, and agreed to.


    That the Draft Civil Defence (Casualty Collection) Regulations, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th June, be approved.