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Mr. Swire: Hear, hear.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: My hon. Friend, who represents East Devon and uses the A303 more than I do, says, "Hear, hear." The problem is that it does not matter how good the Bill is, how marvellous the legal arguments are or how brilliant we are at enacting the Human Rights Act 1998. These measures will not work if we cannot sort those difficulties out.

I do not care if we have a one-tier or a two-tier system. If there is a disaster in my constituency, I want to know what is happening and who is on the ground. I did some research on whether we could use the military in the surrounding area. Such matters were eloquently described by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne). We have 40 Commando just outside my constituency at Norton Fitzwarren in Taunton, but it is not there regularly enough to be relied on. The next nearest military base is Salisbury or Exeter, which is for the Territorials, but we do not have enough Territorials in our area to make the difference that my hon. Friend described. We certainly do not have the police resources, and the county councils are, at the best of times, stretched. Somerset county council cannot spend the money required to enact the legislation. I am not saying that this is a bad Bill—I agree with it—but I am saying that the practicalities mean that it cannot be implemented.

Another thing intrigued me. I have just been reading the Phillis report, and one total failure in connection with the two potential disasters that I have mentioned to was the response of the media. I rang my local radio station, which said, "We're not sure what we would do if there was a problem." I asked the local TV stations, HTV and the BBC, what their role would be. They said, "We would get a steer from central Government."

The Phillis report, which has been published today, says this:

As the Minister may be aware, Phillis is calling for the disbandment of the Government Information and Communication Service. That is up to the Minister to resolve, but the problem is that there is no central steer.

If someone wants to get the message out, that has to be done through radio and television so that it gets down to the local forces, which can then deal with the problems. When I had a constituency problem, the system did not work. As it turned out, that did not

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matter. If there had been a real problem, what were the contingency arrangements for trying to get 30,000 people out of a town where a nuclear flask might have gone upside down? I did not know then; I still do not know.

I plead with the Minister not only to enact the Bill, but to give it the teeth to do its job. Do not presume that in an accident or a disaster, things will just happen.

Mr. Hogg: I must make this point to my hon. Friend. I entirely take the point that the media must be in a position to give advice, but, at the same time, we must not restrict the media's ability to criticise if the powers being taken are unjustified.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: I wholly agree; the media should be able to put both sides of the argument.

If the Bill does not work on the ground, it will fail the people whom we are in this place to protect. Our constituents are our responsibility. More than half my constituency was cut off during the major part of the foot and mouth epidemic. We could not move cattle—we could move nothing—until I went to see the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and she made the decision to open a road. In that national crisis, I got no sense from officials—from the emergency planners, vets or anyone else—but when I spoke to the Secretary of State in a canteen in this place she made that decision and it all happened the next day. That cannot be right under any form of legislation.

The Bill should be enacted, but not at any price; that would be legally and morally wrong, and we would be letting down the people whom we are here to defend.

9.30 pm

Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Liddell-Grainger); he made many eloquent and practical points, and I shall pick up on some of them later in my speech.

These are difficult times and they require difficult measures, but we have to strike a balance, and any Bill that comes into force must be entirely practical. My hon. Friends the Members for Stone (Mr. Cash) and for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) sensibly registered their reservations about the powers in the Bill. They pointed out that the powers must be scrutinised and tightly watched so that the historical examples that they deployed are not repeated.

We heard powerful speeches from the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and my hon. Friends the Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page). They all considered how the Bill was put together and how it was likely to impose itself on us.

I point out to the hon. and learned Member for Medway that terrorism certainly breeds violence and feeds on fear, but fear and uncertainty can perhaps be dealt with by information, education and training. Fear can be dispelled and terrorism can, to a certain extent,

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be brought under control. Anyone who has served in, or lived in, Northern Ireland during the past 30 years could tell Ministers about the successful public information policy there.

In an extremely powerful speech, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham made the practical point that a special committee of Privy Councillors should be established to approve the regulations, thereby adding an extra element to the much-vaunted triple lock. Similarly, the passion of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills cannot be doubted.

All those speeches concentrated entirely on the theoretical aspect of the Bill. If I have any criticism of the speech of the Minister for the Cabinet Office it is that it was as theoretical as it was lengthy. The Bill does not address practical issues, many of which were brought out by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) and by other Members who spoke in the debate.

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) asked, why has it taken 860 days for the Bill to get this far? Why is there no central figure to whom we can respond? The Minister referred to clear leadership, but who is that leader? Which figure will offer that clear leadership?

During the recent problems relating to sky marshals, the Secretary of State for Transport tried to talk us through a security issue, and several other examples have been mentioned. Where will that clear leadership come from? Why do not the Government establish, under the Bill, a particular Minister with particular responsibility for these problems?

The hon. Members for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) and for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) have all referred to ring-fencing the funding for local authorities. Again, that should be done in the Bill. We cannot impose such problems and difficulties on local authorities without ensuring that that money is ring-fenced.

The right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) and, indeed, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) have done excellent work both in the Defence Committee and in the Joint Committee. I was joined on both Committees by the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones). Again, he made the point very clearly about the funding for local authorities. We cannot ask local authorities to do something unless we are willing to give them the money.

My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire asked exactly where the physical muscle will come from to carry out the measures on the ground when emergencies occur.

We have heard from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne).

Mr. Kevan Jones: Gallant?

Patrick Mercer: Yes, gallant.

The civil contingencies reaction forces will simply not function. Where are those gentlemen at the moment? When a bomb goes off in Bermondsey, they are more likely to be in Basra than on the ground where they are

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needed. The Bill is the Government's only attempt to provide extra manpower. That is why things such as Project Unicorn have come into the public province, talking about gentlemen's agreements and trying to generate work forces in other ways.

How much thought have the Government given to establishing something like an emergency volunteer reserve? We have the remnants of such a reserve in the shape of retained firemen and, indeed, special constables. The right hon. Member for Walsall, South has talked at some length and passionately about making the private security industry part of the wider police and security community.

Where is the clear, new and innovative thinking that will give us people who can rally round when such trouble occurs? Of course that would not be completely without cost. The hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Campbell) made the point that there would be expense—yes, of course, but let us see some of the ideas that have been so clearly articulated in the public forum taken on by the Government and physically addressed; otherwise, the Bill will end up looking like a paper tiger. On one side, there are powers that I broadly support—of course, I have reservations—and, on the other, there are emergencies that will occur, but there is nothing linking the two.

Our fire, police and ambulance services and our armed forces need to be reinforced, probably with an imaginative and driven idea, which could be remarkably low in cost. On top of that come our regular forces. If every soldier, sailor and airman was asked to stand up now, about 60,000 hands would go up in the United Kingdom, I guess. Why are they not brought into the planning process? Again, several hon. Members have made that point.

The public education campaign is terribly important. It is no good the Minister depending on the emergency media forum coming into play once the emergency has occurred; it has got to happen beforehand. Let us see what Project Unicorn has to say about the communications strategy:

I have heard comments about that document being leaked and therefore unreliable, but the Minister knows that the people who have gone into that committee at the behest of the Metropolitan police are all respected, experienced and decent people.

I urge the Minister to listen. I urge him to listen to the ideas that the Australians have had. Every Australian has received a "Dear Fellow Australian" letter from the Prime Minister telling them what the problem is and what to do about it.

That brings me to my final point. It is no good having a communications policy if training does not go hand in hand with it. Have the Government considered in the Bill the use of virtual reality, how cheaply it can be employed and how it may, as part of contingency planning at local authority level, be built in as one of the requirements?

One of the accusations that has been levelled is that any training or pre-preparation is likely to help the terrorists in their cause, a point that was made clearly by

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the hon. and learned Member for Medway. I do not believe that that is the case. At least three or perhaps four times in the 20th century, the British population was trained to deal with weapons of mass destruction. My mother, as a 12-year-old girl, was trained on how to deal with a gas attack. That was in 1938—before war broke out. It is crucial that the Bill pays attention to the practical elements of training people before and not during an incident. If people are treated responsibly and are treated with respect by the Government and taken into their confidence, fear will be dispelled. People will understand what the problem is. I reiterate the point: anybody who has lived in Northern Ireland will understand it.

Before the Bill goes any further, will the Government and the Minister look to see what can be done practically, and at what cost—otherwise we will end up with a Bill that simply has no teeth? If we are going to dispel fear and not scare the pants off people at the prospect of terrorism, it is crucial that the absolute practicalities of it are understood. That is why children in primary schools are taught, under the scheme called "Firewatch", what to do if boiling oil is spilt on them from a chip pan. They know counter-intuitively as a result of that training to get down, keep away from other people and to roll out the flames.

We face precisely the same problem with contamination. The Government's only advice that I can discover is, "Go in, stay in and tune in." If we have been contaminated, that is precisely what we should not do. People must understand that, if they are contaminated, they must keep still and be treated on the spot. They must not go in; they must stay precisely where they are. Unless people are properly trained, the problem will simply be exacerbated.

There is much about the Bill that I believe to be good. There is much about it that, with the correct scrutiny and with the correct amendments made in Committee, can deliver useful legislation that will stand this country in good stead—as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam said—in extremis when the most serious emergencies come upon us. However, until such time as we address the questions of resourcing, training and, above all else, communications, the Bill will continue to fail. I do not believe that it needs to.

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