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Civil Defence (Thermo-Nuclear Weapons)

Volume 530: debated on Thursday 15 July 1954

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asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had with President Eisenhower about civil defence against thermo-nuclear weapons: and what arrangements he has made for a continuing exchange of information on this subject.

The present arrangements with the United States for exchange of information on these and other aspects of civil defence will continue, and we shall welcome any more detailed exchanges which current revision of United States legislation may permit.

While thanking the Prime Minister for his reply, may I ask whether he discussed with the President the question of the advantages of a national organisation for civil defence, which the United States appears to favour, over the older local system of civil defence, which appears to be favoured by the Home Office, but which has been outmoded by the hydrogen bomb?

My talks with the President were private, informal and confidential, but I think I may go so far as to say that they did not plunge into any minute details of these matters.

Is it not about time that we were honest with the public and told them that there is no defence against thermo-nuclear weapons and that, if there is, nobody yet has said what the defence is?

As to no defence, there may be something to be said for that, but there are deterrents, and if it is certain that they can be applied, deterrents may possibly bring us out on the right side of the river.

Did not the Prime Minister inform President Eisenhower of what he has informed this House, that the real reason why Britain is in danger is because the American bombers are here; and did the right hon. Gentleman inform President Eisenhower also that it would be far more dangerous for American personnel to be here than to be in the Middle West, in Chicago or in New York?

The decision to establish an Anglo-American bomber base was taken by the late Administration—

and I supported it at the time, and we have loyally carried out the undertakings then given. I did not mean anything in my last statement—to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—to imply that there was no defence in the sense that it was not the duty of every city in this country to have every preparation made to aid its neighbours, especially if it is willing to accept assistance from them.

Does not my right hon. Friend recall that in 1938 the same pessimism was shown in this country, some of it by some hon. Members opposite, about civil defence, and that it was triumphantly disproved then by showing that stout hearts could meet any situation?