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Civil Defence (Ministerial Responsibility)

Volume 650: debated on Thursday 30 November 1961

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Q5.

asked the Prime Minister which Ministers are responsible, in part, for civil defence arrange- ments; for what sections of civil defence they are individually responsible; and by what method such individual responsibilities are co-ordinated.

My right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland are responsible for civil defence functions under the Civil Defence Act, 1948, except in so far as other Ministers are designated by Order in Council for particular functions. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the Ministers who have been so designated. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has a general responsibility for co-ordinating the defence plans of all the civil agencies of government.

Does not the Prime Minister recognise that this is one of the most serious issues facing this country at present and that the present arrangements are chaotic? Will he not accede to the plea that has been made by myself and other hon. Members to appoint a separate Minister to undertake the whole issue of Civil Defence?

Since the functions must necessarily be spread over a great number of Departments, I think it a delusion to believe that appointing a separate Minister or a new Department would be an advance in administration. I think it much better to continue this system with the Home Secretary acting as general co-ordinator.

Is the Prime Minister aware that children of the civil population of Glasgow under the previous arrangements were to be evacuated to the Holy Loch? Does he think that a sensible arrangement?

Following is the information:

Minister

Main Functions

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food(i) The provision and distribution of food, and animal feeding stuffs.
(ii) The provision of emergency feeding services including equipment.*
The Minister of HealthMeasures to deal with casualties and disease.*

Minister

Main Functions

The Minister of Housing and Local Government(i) Evacuation.*
(ii) The billeting or rehousing of the homeless.*
(iii) Services in connection with the demolition, clearance and repair of damaged property.*
(iv) The maintenance of water supplies.'*
(v) The maintenance of sewerage.*
(vi) The provision of information centres after attack.*
(vii) The burial of the dead.*
The Minister of Power(i) The provision and supply of coal, gas and petroleum.
(ii) The provision and supply of electricity. *
The Minister of Transport(i) Measures for the maintenance of roads.*
(ii) Measures for the continued operation of railways, road transport, docks, harbours and merchant shipping.

* In England and Wales only. In Scotland these functions are discharged by the Secretary of State for Scotland.