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Mr. Swire: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Raynsford: No. The hon. Gentleman asked me about this earlier. I noted his comments and I am now responding to them, so I hope that he will listen.

I completely reject any implication that the present targets are insufficiently challenging. If we were to take no action, we could expect an additional 200 accidental

15 Mar 2004 : Column 40

fire deaths over the period up to 2010. Instead, the target on accidental fire deaths commits us to saving more than 1,000 lives throughout that period. I am pleased to say that we are making good progress because accidental fire deaths in the home are at an all-time low of 292 for England and Wales. I wholly reject the completely incorrect assumption put forward by the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge that, as a result of changes to the targets, there will be more deaths and more deliberate fires than would otherwise occur. That is not the case because the numbers are reducing. We are committed to reducing them and we are committed to saving lives, but we are also committed to realism, rather than to targets that are simply not achievable for a variety of reasons.

Mr. Hammond: The Minister cites the number of lives that his target will apparently save. Will he tell the House how many additional lives would already have been saved if the original date for achieving the target of March 2004 had been adhered to?

Mr. Raynsford: As I have just told the hon. Gentleman, the latest figures show that we have made significant progress yet again on reducing the number of lives lost. I am surprised that he does not welcome the fact that accidental fire deaths in the home resulted in only 292 losses of life in 2002–03—the lowest level on record. We are reducing the number of lives lost. If people set an unrealistic target, they could in theory claim to be capable of achieving more. However, the original target was not achievable. We realised that, so we set a realistic and extremely challenging target for reducing the number of fire deaths.

Mr. Swire: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Raynsford: No, I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already and I need to make progress.

Mr. Swire rose—

Mr. Raynsford: I have given way to the hon. Gentleman and answered his question. I am sorry that he is not in a mood to listen.

We are absolutely committed to reducing deaths, injuries and unnecessary fires. That requires real commitment and continued investment, and it ill behoves Conservative Members to try to make cheap points when we know that their spending commitments would not protect the fire service. The service would thus be starved of funds and unable to achieve the commitments towards which we are working. We are hearing a lot of synthetic and unconvincing rhetoric from the Conservative party on the matter.

Clause 21(2)(a) will require the Secretary of State to set out priorities and objectives for fire and rescue authorities in the national framework. The national targets on accidental fire deaths and deliberate fires are already in the first paragraph of the draft framework. The performance of fire and rescue authorities will be assessed by the Audit Commission, and the performance expectations set out in the national framework, which includes an explicit reference to the national targets, will be a key yardstick for the Audit

15 Mar 2004 : Column 41

Commission when assessing performance. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge to withdraw the motion.

Mr. Hammond: May I first deal with the Minister's remarks on new clauses 3 and 11? Let us get the pleasantries out of the way. On new clause 3, I am grateful to him for confirming that the Local Government Association code will apply to section 23 interventions. I know that many people outside the Chamber who were not entirely sure about the situation will be grateful that he has put his clarification on record.

Any discussion of targets seems to evoke a strange response from this usually mild-mannered and reasonable Minister because he goes berserk whenever we draw attention to the targets that were set as part of the public service agreement several years ago. The targets were set by his Government, not by us, someone from outside or civil servants. I hope that he will not try to tell us that that was not the case. He now tells us that those targets were unachievable and unrealistic. I wonder what the Treasury thinks about being told that the targets, which were offered in exchange for Treasury funding in a previous spending review, are unachievable and unrealistic. The Minister does not have a leg to stand on. One moment he tells us that he has not relaxed the targets for accidental fire deaths, but a moment later he tells us that he has and is justified in doing so because unforeseen circumstances have intervened.

4.45 pm

Mr. Raynsford: What targets for reducing fire deaths is the hon. Gentleman's party committed to and what discussions has he held with his shadow Treasury colleagues on the resources necessary to deliver them?

Mr. Hammond: We are in a situation in which the Government have set targets in the national framework that are lower than those agreed in a previous public service agreement. We are trying to ensure that the Government are held to account for future changes that they are minded to make to the targets set out in the national framework in the way that they made changes to the existing targets last summer.

Mr. Swire: Perhaps my hon. Friend can give me the answer that the Minister was clearly unwilling to do. We learned from the Minister that the original targets were aspirational. In that case, why was New Zealand able to halve the number of accidental fire deaths in its homes over four years? The Government's extension must be a de facto reduction in targets.

Mr. Hammond: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the New Zealand example. That country has been much quoted over the past 18 months in relation to fire, and for good reasons. Many people outside and inside the House might think that the Government, as a natural corollary of their modernisation programme, based as it is around redirecting resources to save lives, would not want to relax the targets for reducing accidental fire deaths, but to tighten them so that they are tougher and more

15 Mar 2004 : Column 42

demanding. The purpose of new clause 11 is not to change the targets, but to ensure proper scrutiny of them so that the Government cannot do what they did last summer and simply sneak in a reduced and relaxed target.

The hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross) asked why I selected those two targets. It was because they are the two targets that the Government set out in the fire and rescue draft national framework. Although reduced, they are the same targets qualitatively as the two targets included in the previous public service agreement.

The debate on new clause 11 has been useful. Members of the public and Members of the House will draw their own conclusions on what is or is not a reduced target. Members of the public and the media are used to looking carefully at the spin that the Government put on any numbers, figures or targets.

The Minister addressed several of the detailed points raised on new clause 1, but he did not address the principal concern. The national framework is above all a strategic framework for the delivery of fire services. It is right and proper that such a framework should be fully scrutinised by Parliament. It is simply not good enough that Parliament will be kept informed, as he put it, as the framework evolves and is eventually introduced and modified. Parliament needs scrutiny and control of the process. His protestation that a negative resolution would be too time-consuming and in some way too costly for such an important measure, which is key to the modernisation of our fire and rescue services, is unacceptable. The Government have not made a case for rejecting new clause 1.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 156, Noes 254.

Division No. 86
[4:50 pm


Allan, Richard
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Bellingham, Henry
Beresford, Sir Paul
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Cameron, David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife)
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Curry, rh David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fox, Dr. Liam
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hammond, Philip
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendry, Charles
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howard, rh Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Llwyd, Elfyn
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maples, John
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
O'Hara, Edward
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, rh Michael
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Rendel, David
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Teather, Sarah
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, David
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Mark Francois and
Hugh Robertson


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Bennett, Andrew
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pickthall, Colin
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Soley, Clive
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Fraser Kemp and
Derek Twigg

Question accordingly negatived.

15 Mar 2004 : Column 45

New Clause 2

Retained firefighters

'(1) The Secretary of State shall by order, within six months of the coming into effect of any part of this Act, establish a body to be known as the Advisory Panel on the Recruitment and Retention of Retained Firefighters.
(2) The body shall be made up of such people as the Secretary of State shall appoint to include—
(a) at least two persons appearing to the Secretary of State to be representatives of fire and rescue authorities or organisations representing fire and rescue authorities;
(b) at least two persons appearing to the Secretary of State to be representatives of retained firefighters or organisations representing retained firefighters;
(c) at least two persons appearing to the Secretary of State to be representatives of private sector employers or organisations representing private sector employers;
(d) at least two persons appearing to the Secretary of State to be representatives of public sector employers or organisations representing public sector employers.

15 Mar 2004 : Column 46

(3) The body shall meet as the Secretary of State shall direct to advise the Secretary of State and fire and rescue authorities on all matters relating to the recruitment and retention of retained duty firefighters.'.—[Mr. Hammond.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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