Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum submitted by the Cabinet Office (10 June 2002)


Sir David Omand

  In his reply to Mr Roy's question (1452), Christopher Leslie referred to the role of Sir David Omand in supporting the work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat.

  The programme of work in hand to ensure that we continue to respond effectively to civil contingencies is one to which the government attaches the highest priority. Departments have achieved good progress since 11 September, which measures being co-ordinated centrally by the CCS. The work is detailed and particularly complex given the inter-dependencies involved across central government and at the regional and local levels. In recognition of this, and to confirm that the correct balance of effort is being achieved, the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service, Sir Richard Wilson, has asked Sir David Omand on his behalf to provide strategic direction and support to the CCS. Sir David will be reviewing current priorities within the programme and will be advising the Home Secretary as Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Committee accordingly.

  Sir David's recent experience is as Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, as Director GCHQ and before that as the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Policy MOD.

Emergency Planning Funding in Durham

  In responding to Mr Jones (Question 1436), Mr Leslie undertook to provide further information on the funding of emergency planning in Durham.

  As Mr Leslie explained in oral evidence, the overall level of Civil Defence Grant for 2002-03 is being maintained at last year's level, some £18.97 million. This represents a substantial increase in the £14 million available two years ago, and demonstrates the Government's clear commitment to emergency planning.

  Local authorities were advised by officials in December 2000 that grant levels for 2001-02-when, following a legal challenge by Merseyside Fire and Civil Defence Authority, the grant was allocated on a demand-led basis—would "be an interim measure and authorities will therefore need to assure themselves that any commitment to new expenditure is sustainable in the longer term." County Durham and Darlington received £305,342 on this basis in comparison with the £226,113 they had received in 2000/01 when a formula was used.

  During the passage of what is now the Civil Defence (Grant) Act 2002 through the House of Commons, Mr Leslie made clear that he intended to distribute grant by way of a formula. The re-introduction of a formula will result in emergency planning being funded systematically and strategically across England and Wales. In comparison with 2000-01, the 2002-03 formula raises the flat-rate elements for each local authority and for each shire district within a county boundary. The balance of available grant is then allocated, as before, in proportion to each authority's Bellwin threshold.

  The allocation of a formula has inevitably resulted in some authorities receiving more, and others less, than last year though it was ``dampened'' so that no authority would lose more than 10 per cent nor gain more than 20 per cent. Mr Leslie consulted the Local Government Association about these proposals and the formula reflects the views they expressed. Under the new formula, County Durham and Darlington received £276,728 which, although a 10 per cent reduction on the 2001-02 amount, still represents a substantial increase on the amount received when a formula was last used.

  Traditionally, many local authorities have contributed money to their emergency planning service from their own funds to supplement the Civil Defence Grant, but this is a matter for local decision.

Emergency Planning: the Allocation of Responsibilities

  Mr Jones (Question 1460) asked about the allocation of responsibilities for emergency planning and their effectiveness.

  Since 11 September, the CCS has worked consistently with other government departments, the emergency services, local authorities and the Devolved Administrations to set up a series of regular liaison meetings (bilateral and multilateral) to discuss and resolve significant or cross-cutting issues. Through this process, CCS has developed a broad knowledge of the problems which require either a centrally inspired solution or facilitation by CCS. In making sure that this process of networking is successful CCS has arranged, taken part in, or observed a number of exercises to test current arrangements and has contributed to recommendations where improvements could be made.

  Most emergencies in this country are handled at a local level by the emergency services and by the appropriate local authority or authorities with no direct involvement by central government. Where central government does become involved because the incident is of such scale or complexity as to require central co-ordination or support, it is essential that everybody should be clear in advance which department will be in the lead. The Civil Contingencies Committee has set in hand work on an up to date list of pre-nominated lead government departments in order to reflect the devolution settlement, the changes to the machinery of government made by the Prime Minister after the 2001 general election (including the creation of the CCS), and incidents which were not covered in the earlier Dealing with Disaster guidance document. That work is now well advanced and will be reported to Parliament and the Committee as soon as possible in terms which reflect the changes in Departmental responsibilities announced by the Prime Minister on 29 May.

The Proposed Role of Elected Regional Assemblies

  Responding to Mr Knight's Question (1476), Mr Leslie undertook to provide further information on the role of proposed regional assemblies.

  The government's White Paper ``Your Region, Your Choice'' explains that Elected Regional Assemblies (ERAs) will take on the main co-ordination role in regional contingency planning, working closely with Government Offices (GOs). This reflects and will build on the key responsibilities ERAs will have for taking a strategic lead for the region, for ensuring—through their executive and influencing roles—that strategies are implemented, and for joining up the many partnerships which have already developed at regional level. ERAs will therefore have the authority, the mechanisms and the networks to play a major part in disseminating good practice—both from within and outside the region in question—and in making sure key messages from the centre are received and acted upon.

  In working closely with GOs, ERAs will be able to build on the enhanced regional arrangements that the review of emergency planning has identified as a priority; individual GOs will be in the lead here until responsibility transfers to an ERA. An important task for the GOs will be to improve communication between central Departments and the region, and between emergency services, local authorities and other key partners within the region.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 24 July 2002