House of Commons - Explanatory Note
Fire And Rescue Services Bill - continued          House of Commons

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Supplementary

Clause 36: Prohibition on employment of police

60.     This clause re-enacts section 32 of the Fire Services Act 1947 and provides that no member of a police force may be employed as a fire-fighter. If an off-duty police officer were employed by a fire and rescue authority, for example as a retained (part-time) fire-fighter, difficulties might arise at the scene of a fire or other emergency due to confusion over which employer had the primary claim on the officer's services.

PART 5: WATER SUPPLY

Clause 37: Duty to secure water supply etc.

61.     Subsection (1) re-enacts section 13 of the Fire Services Act 1947, requiring fire and rescue authorities to take all reasonable measures to ensure the adequate supply of water for use in the event of fire.

62.     Subsection (2) allows an authority to use any suitable supply of water, whether provided by a water undertaker or any other person. Whilst it provides for payment of reasonable compensation for the water, this is limited by reference to section 147 of the Water Industry Act 1991, which expressly forbids charging by a water undertaker in respect of: water taken for the purpose of extinguishing fires or for any other emergency purposes; water taken for testing apparatus used for extinguishing fires; or for fire-fighting training. This subsection re-enacts section 15(1) of the 1947 Act.

Clause 38: Supply of water by water undertakers

63.     This clause re-enacts section 14(1) and (4) of the Fire Services Act 1947 and allows a fire and rescue authority to enter into an agreement with a water undertaker for the supply of water (as covered by clause 37). Subsection (2) allows for any agreement to include terms for payment, other than for the purposes covered by section 147 of the Water Industry Act 1991.

64.     Subsection (3) makes any obligation of a water undertaker, under an agreement, enforceable by the Secretary of State under section 18 of the Water Industry Act 1991. This gives the Secretary of State power to make an enforcement order to secure compliance with any statutory or other requirement.

Clause 39: Emergency supply by water undertaker

65.     This clause re-enacts sections 14(3), 30(4) and 30(4A) of the Fire Services Act 1947. Subsection (1) places an obligation on a water undertaker to take all necessary steps to increase supply and pressure of water for the purpose of extinguishing a fire, if requested to do so by a fire and rescue authority. Subsection (2) allows a water undertaker to shut off water from the mains and pipes in any area to enable it to comply with a request to increase supply and water pressure. Subsection (3) safeguards the fire and rescue authority or any person from any liability for anything done by a water undertaker in complying with its obligations. Subsections (4) and (5) make it an offence for a water undertaker, without reasonable excuse, to fail to take any steps which it is obliged to take and provides for a level 5 fine (currently £5,000) on summary conviction.

Clause 40: Supply by other persons

66.     This clause re-enacts section 15(1) of the Fire Services Act 1947 and allows a fire and rescue authority to enter into agreements with persons other than water undertakers in order to secure the use of water; to improve access to water; or to lay and maintain pipes and to carry out other works in connection with the use of water.

Clause 41: Fire hydrants

67.     Access to the water supply is by connection to a fire hydrant. Hydrants may be fitted by a water undertaker at the request of a fire and rescue authority. Clause 41 (1) requires a water undertaker to mark the location of every fire hydrant with a notice or distinguishing mark and under subsection (2) the costs of doing this can be charged to the fire and rescue authority in whose area the hydrant is situated. This re-enacts provisions in section 14(3) of the Fire Services Act 1947.

68.     Subsection (3) enables the Secretary of State to make regulations providing for uniformity in fire hydrants and the distinguishing notices and marks indicating their location. This re-enacts section 14(6) of the 1947 Act.

69.     Subsection (4) makes any obligation of a water undertaker under subsection (1) and (3) enforceable by the Secretary of State under section 18 of the Water Industry Act 1991, which gives the Secretary of State power to make an enforcement order to secure compliance with any statutory or other requirement. This re-enacts section 14(4) of the 1947 Act.

70.     Subsection (5) makes it an offence for any person to use a fire hydrant other than for the purpose of fire-fighting or any other purpose of a fire and rescue authority; or other than for any purpose authorised by the water undertaker or other person to whom the hydrant belongs.

71.     Subsection (6) makes it an offence to damage or obstruct a fire hydrant. Under subsection (7) a person guilty of an offence under subsection (5) and (6) is liable on summary conviction to a level 2 fine. Subsections (5), (6) and (7) re-state section 14(5) of the 1947 Act.

Clause 42: Notice of works affecting water supply and fire hydrants

72.     This clause re-enacts section 16(1) to (3) of the Fire Services Act 1947 and requires any person who proposes to carry out any works for the purpose of supplying water to any part of the area of a fire and rescue authority to give at least six weeks' written notice to the authority under subsection (1). A person proposing to carry out any works affecting a fire hydrant is required to give at least seven days' notice in writing.

73.     Under subsection (3), if it is not practicable for written notice to be given, the person is regarded as having given such notice if he gives it as soon as practicable. It is an offence under subsection (4) if, without reasonable excuse, a person fails to give notice as required. Under subsection (5) a person is liable on summary conviction to a level 5 fine.

PART 6: SUPPLEMENTARY

Powers in the event of emergency

Clause 43: Powers of fire-fighters etc in an emergency

74.     This provision provides authorised employees of a fire and rescue authority with the powers to deal with fires, road traffic accidents and other emergencies. It replaces section 30(1) of the Fire Services Act 1947 which was limited to dealing with extinguishing, or preventing the spread of, fires, and recognises the wider range of duties of fire-fighters, including the work which fire and rescue authorities do in responding to road traffic accidents.

Powers of entry

Clause 44: Powers of entry

75.     This clause allows an authorised officer of a fire and rescue authority to enter premises to obtain information that is needed for the discharge of the core functions of fire-fighting (clause 7), dealing with road traffic accidents (clause 8) and specified emergencies (clause 9). In the case of premises where a fire has occurred, the clause also allows a fire and rescue authority to gain entry in order to investigate the cause and progression of the fire that has occurred there. Such entry cannot be forcible and 24 hours notice must be given to the occupier, unless otherwise authorised by a Justice of the Peace.

Clause 45: Powers of entry: supplementary

76.     Clause 45 sets out the powers and the obligations of an employee of a fire and rescue authority who has entered a place under clause 44 to gain information or investigate the cause and progression of a fire. The powers and obligations are similar to those applicable to investigations under health and safety legislation.

False alarms

Clause 47: False alarms of fire

77.     Clause 47 re-enacts section 31 of the Fire Services Act 1947. This clause provides that a person who knowingly gives or causes someone else to give a false alarm of fire to a person acting on behalf of a fire and rescue authority is liable to a level 4 fine, prison sentence of 51 weeks or less, or both.

Consequential provision

Clause 49: Abolition of Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council

78.     Clause 49 abolishes the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council, which was established under section 29 of the Fire Services Act 1947 to provide general advice to the Secretary of State on matters relating to the operation of that Act. The Council also served as statutory consultee prior to the exercise by the Secretary of State of certain of his regulation-making powers under the 1947 Act (for example, with regard to pensions). Where such regulation-making powers are re-enacted elsewhere in the Bill, the Secretary of State will be under a duty to consult with such persons as he considers are appropriate.

PART 7: GENERAL

Clauses 59 and 60: Wales/Extent

79.     The Bill extends to England and Wales only with the exception of the provisions regarding pensions in Part 4 (clauses 33 to 35) and consequential provisions, which also extend to Scotland as pension policy is a reserved matter. Clause 59 gives the National Assembly for Wales the powers of the Secretary of State in the application of the Bill to Wales.

FINANCIAL AND PUBLIC SECTOR MANPOWER EFFECTS OF THE BILL

80.     The Bill is not expected to have a significant impact on either public expenditure or manpower. Through the process of regional organisation and the introduction of Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMPs), it is expected that fire and rescue authorities will be given the flexibility to place greater emphasis on prevention and accrue expenditure savings as a result. IRMPs in particular should allow authorities to meet more effectively the particular service demands in their area. Whilst there may be a possibility that some fire and rescue services (typically smaller, rural authorities) could incur some short-term cost increases as a result of adopting the provisions in the Bill (such as an enhanced role in promoting fire safety), such costs should be offset in the longer term by the efficiency savings that the Bill will bring about.

81.     With regard to any cost and manpower implications of new duties and powers to respond to emergencies such as the new dimension of terrorism, the Secretary of State is able to purchase, and will continue to own, the necessary assets required by the Fire and Rescue Service. Where there are revenue implications arising from the use of such assets for New Dimension purposes, they have been or will be met by the Secretary of State.

REGULATORY IMPACT ASSESSMENT

82.     The Fire and Rescue Services Bill takes forward the commitments of the White Paper and will involve no additional costs to business, charities or the voluntary sector.

EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

83.     Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The statement has to be made before second reading. Mr Secretary Prescott has made the following statement:

"In my view the provisions of the Fire and Rescue Services Bill are compatible with the Convention rights."

COMMENCEMENT

84.     Clause 58 contains provisions relating to the coming into force of the Bill. Clauses 53-61 come into force on Royal Assent. The remaining provisions come into force on such dates as the Secretary of State by order appoints.

 
 
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Prepared: 12 January 2004