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Mr. Hogg: Of course, there is another point: Whips never speak in the House, so they will never be accountable for what they have done.

Mr. Shepherd: But they will clearly need stooges, and we have them listed in the explanatory notes. The stooges, it appears, can be the First Lord of the Treasury and any of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, so the Whips can remain mute as they work on the regulations that will give this country security.

I have made the profound point that I want to make. Of course, we had all assumed that there was proper provision to be made for the organisations of this country. My own local authority is desperately short of money. Where will the funding come from? That point has been made. I have given no time to that side of the Bill, but I do not doubt that proper provision should be made for emergency planning. As for part 2, if the House were to divide on it I would gladly and willingly vote for it—and twice if I were Irish.

7.44 pm

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey) (LD): Like my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) and many colleagues around the Chamber, I welcome the fact that a Bill such as this has been brought before us. Indeed, my hon. Friend and I, and our colleagues, had been pushing for such legislation and complaining that it was taking so long in arriving. We were glad when the Government eventually announced that they would introduce a measure; we were glad that that measure was subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny; and we are glad that that process did its work well and that the Bill has been improved as a result.

Like colleagues on both sides of the House, however, I am clear about the fact that we have a long way to go yet. I do not intend to spend long reinforcing the points, which were extremely well made, about the need to ensure that when we have Bills that provide for extreme reactions, they are hedged about with the most careful protection. This place is one of the best protections that this country can be offered, and we ought to ensure that we offer such protection.

I shall dwell therefore on more mundane and practical matters—not least, colleagues will be unsurprised to know, those involving our capital city, where the issue is live and in respect of which I have a particular responsibility. May I identify, then, the three headings which have emerged from the debate and which I want to reinforce? First, we have provided for duties of local

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authorities, but not for those at a regional level. We ought to do so: whether or not those regions have elected representatives, as London does and as some northern regions may soon do, we need to have their powers set out because regional planning is clearly a necessary part of civil defence and emergency planning. We ought to ensure that the Government's obligations are set out in legislation too.

Secondly, we must spend as much time as we need in Committee on the definition and extent of the emergency and the emergency powers. The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) made the point well that a triple lock that is subject to a single person's subjective view is a triple lock in name only. If we are to have real locks and real safeguards, we need different people to have the keys to those different locks. Parliament is meant to be a key that locks and unlocks powers and unleashes them in relation to the general public.

The third issue is funding. I shall return to that later, if I may.

What is the test of what we should do as a country and as a capital city in terms of emergency planning and civil defence? Of course, the public service and the voluntary services should be properly prepared, but also the public need to be informed so that they can be alert but not alarmed. Those of us who live and work in or represent the United Kingdom's capital city are conscious that ours is not by any means the only prospective target or area where these matters are relevant, but this is, by definition, the most important place, as well as the most vulnerable.

London is the city with the monarch, the Government, Parliament and the civil service. It has the greatest concentration of business and financial interests. Those are self-evident, but the city is also the tourism centre of the UK. In many ways, London is the gateway to Europe. Since last Thursday, it is also a bid city for the Olympic games. Security is highly relevant to ensuring that the Olympic games bid succeeds, as we remember from the Munich games and unhappy events in the past.

As colleagues have reminded us, London also has to ensure that it continues to be the city where people of all races, all faiths, all cultures and all political traditions can come and speak their mind, knowing that this is a city of freedom. We need to get that balance right as we legislate on these difficult matters. We need to show that London is as safe as is practically possible and to see the benefit of that preparedness, but we must not go over the top.

I worry that when perfectly proper concerns—for example, that we might be subject to the new modern tradition of terrible activity through suicide bombers—are expressed, we should not hear too much that suggests that such things are inevitable for our city. I have worked with others to ensure that the emergency services and all the others involved can prepare us appropriately against such fatalistic and foolish people. However, we must always reaffirm and seek to show through the military, the emergency services, the intelligence services and the others that although there is always a risk, people would not expect such a thing to happen either in this city or anywhere else in the UK.

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I pay tribute to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for identifying the need for the inter-agency London Resilience team to look after the capital city. However, as a consequence, the public need various things. They need to know that regularly updated information about the preparations is available. We do not yet have the communication right—I shall return to that point. The public need to see exercises being carried out regularly, not as an emergency, to ensure that our airports, railways, underground, roads and city are properly prepared. I am glad that such an exercise took place in the City a few months ago, although I do not think the public have yet been accurately informed of the lessons that were learned. Lessons were learned, however, and that is good.

Patrick Mercer: Is the hon. Gentleman content that, two and a half years after 11 September and about 10 years after the events on the underground in Japan, we have held only one practical exercise?

Simon Hughes: No, I certainly am not. If I did not make that explicit, I apologise. I am arguing that regular exercises should be held in all the places I mentioned—our airports, our main-line railway termini, on the underground and at our seaports—and that the public should know about them in advance and see them happening. Fire alarms are held in every school and public building in the land; we all receive regular preparation for very local emergencies, and that needs to happen nationally, too. The British public do not over-react—they do not become overly alarmed or irrational—but they need to know what is being done for them and it needs to be done with them. I accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, which is something for which I have been arguing for many months outside this place.

We also need to ensure that the media are regularly well briefed about the latest developments and the current state of readiness and that their questions are answered.

What do all those points imply? I hope that by the end of our consideration of the measure, the regional tier will be a prerequisite. Just as there are other special arrangements for the capital city—for obvious reasons—provision for London needs to be slightly different. We are the only region of England with a regional assembly and a directly elected mayor and that changes the nature of the processes of consultation, decision making and accountability. The London Resilience team, the London Resilience partnership and the "London Prepared" website need to be reviewed regularly both by regional government and by all the London local authorities.

I cannot stress too highly the need for appropriate funding; both the Joint Committee and the Defence Committee made that clear. Many of us have received a briefing from the Local Government Association, which states:

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Colleagues have made the same point about local authorities elsewhere. Transport for London, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and the Met police are all part of the Greater London authority family; the London ambulance service has a key front-line job, and in addition there are 33 local authorities, including the City. All of them make the same point—it is not a party political matter: they are willing to take on the responsibility but the Government must give them the resources to do the job. For example, according to the LGA's figures, fire authorities in England and Wales need £250 million to do the basic job of preparation for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack, but that is five times the amount that they have actually been given. That is only the fire service. If the Government are serious about Britain being prepared, they have to be serious about providing the resources. It is no good their criticising local authorities for putting up council tax if the Government do not give them the money to do a job that the Government require them to do.

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