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Mr. Hancock: Will the Minister give way?

Ms Blears: Let me first deal with a point that I believe the hon. Gentleman made.

Several hon. Members referred to the role of the Red Cross in the aftermath of the terrible events in Madrid. We should be a little wary; voluntary organisations in other countries sometimes have a different role because of the way in which those countries' public services have developed over many decades. I understand that the Red Cross in Spain is a mainstream organisation with facilities such as blood banks, ambulances and the ability to respond. That is slightly different from some of the voluntary organisations in this country.

We should not for one moment undermine the ability of our statutory services to respond to emergencies. I hope that not one hon. Member—certainly not the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne)—suggests that the ambulance service, the fire service, the police service or any of our blue-light services are not up to the job. They do a fantastic job in responding to emergencies and they have well established procedures and agreements for mutual aid, for example, to draw in ambulance services and the police service from neighbouring areas. I was worried when the hon. Member for New Forest, West appeared to imply that the statutory services were not in a position to provide an excellent service. I hope that he did not have that in mind.

Mr. Swayne: I am sure that when the Minister consults the Official Report tomorrow she will find nothing in my remarks to lead to the inference that she has drawn. Will she outline the capability of the ambulance service and the fire service specifically to deal with nuclear, biological and chemical incidents?

Ms Blears: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that the fire service has received an extra £56 million for the new dimension project for its new vehicles. I believe that 5 per cent. of the police service have been trained to respond in the circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We recently doubled the number of gas-tight suits for the emergency services. The hon. Gentleman knows that we continuously increase the preparedness of those organisations.

I want to speak briefly about the civil contingency reaction forces—CCRFs—because much has been made of whether they could assist in an emergency. I know that the hon. Member for Newark has been concerned about that. Allegations have been made that many are deployed overseas and are therefore not in a
24 May 2004 : Column 1362
position to respond. The CCRFs were up and running and fully mobilised by 31 December. I understand that there are 14 reaction forces, with 500 members each—approximately 7,000 people. I am told that 850 members are currently mobilised overseas or on active service in the UK. We are therefore considering a relatively small minority of those forces. I am also told that some of the CCRFs have a pool of reservists bigger than 500 members because they realise that operational and deployment capabilities might reduce them. The 51 (Scottish) Brigade uses an opt-out method. It says that everyone is in the CCRF unless they do not wish to be. Consequently, the pool of reserves is much higher.

It has 670 and 690 personnel available to serve in each unit; the fact that 78 are currently deployed on operations therefore has little impact. I am glad to be able to reassure the House that the CCRF will be able to carry out that work for us.

The points raised by hon. Members today have illustrated their real commitment to ensuring that we involve the voluntary sector in our work, and I am happy to give them an assurance that we shall do so. I very much appreciate the spirit in which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough tabled her amendments, but I really cannot support their inclusion in the Bill.

7 pm

Mr. Hancock: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; she is being very good humoured. I am sure that all hon. Members will be interested to read her speech tomorrow because, like many others, I am slightly bemused by how the Government are going to co-ordinate the voluntary sector. During the very long reply that she has given this evening, she has not once mentioned how that is to happen. The House is entitled to an explanation if she is going to urge us to vote against the amendments.

Ms Blears: The amendments before us propose incorporating a duty to consult the voluntary sector. I have explained that that would be invidious, as the voluntary sector is a diverse area of 141,000 different charities, in which 69 per cent. of the activity involves only fundraising. Furthermore, in social services and education, voluntary activity is not necessarily focused on civil protection. It would therefore be inappropriate to include such a requirement in the Bill. New clause 1 proposes the creation of an emergency volunteer force, and I hope that I have explained why that would be a bureaucratic, extra imposition that would lead to a lack of clarity and consistency, rather than building on the capabilities of the voluntary organisations that we have already.

In response to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock), I have made it clear that, in the preparation of the guidance that will form an essential part of the overarching framework of our civil protection, we will ensure that the voluntary sector takes on a central role, because we recognise that the people of this country want to make a contribution to looking after others and protecting the safety of our nation. I therefore ask hon. Members not to press the new clause to a vote.

Patrick Mercer: I am extremely interested to hear the Minister's summing up of the various arguments that have
24 May 2004 : Column 1363
been put forward, and extremely disappointed to hear the Government's reaction to the amendments, whose provisions are sensible, practical and cheap. On 11 September 2001, one reason why the authorities were able to react so quickly and effectively to those unprecedented incidents was that there were widespread reserves of policemen, ambulance men, firemen and national guardsmen. One of the reasons why things were not worse in Madrid was that Spain had learned the lesson, over the previous couple of years, that additional manpower was necessary to deal with such events. Similarly, following the Bali bomb, Australia has raised a complete new force of people who will help its equivalent of the blue-light services to make headway in such situations.

With one or two exceptions, everyone who has spoken tonight recognises the need for the Government to be able to exercise and physically implement the plans that they are putting forward. The fact remains, however, that not one additional man or woman has been added to the Government's inventory to help in circumstances that will, frankly, be unprecedented.

Mr. Swayne: Does my hon. Friend share my dismay at the Minister's attempt to reassure us about the civil contingencies reaction forces? The example that she gave of 51 (Scottish) Brigade merely reinforced the fact that the numbers involved are purely notional, because anyone who happens to be a member is counted as being available, although in reality that capacity exists only on paper.

Patrick Mercer: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I am sure that he will have heard that the motto for the civil contingencies reaction forces is "Overstretched and Overseas". The Minister would do well to ponder that not one extra person has been added to the Government's inventory to fight in such circumstances. I am particularly interested to note that she did not answer my question on why, if the voluntary sector was being further and further integrated in order to work with the blue-light services, as she claimed, no personal protection equipment had been introduced. The fact remains that this is utterly unsatisfactory. I cannot accept what the Government say, and shall seek to divide the House.

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

The House divided: Ayes 141, Noes 283.

Division No. 183
[7:05 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Barrett, John
Beith, rh A. J.
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Malcolm
Burnside, David
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James (Beverley)
Curry, rh David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Evans, Nigel
Ewing, Annabelle
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Foster, Don (Bath)
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gidley, Sandra
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendry, Charles
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Howard, rh Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Llwyd, Elfyn
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wishart, Pete
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Hugh Robertson and
Mr. Mark Francois


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Bell, Sir Stuart
Bennett, Andrew
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, rh Jean
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hodge, Margaret
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
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
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, rh Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, rh John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Joan Ryan and
Mr. Nick Ainger

Question accordingly negatived.

24 May 2004 : Column 1366

New Clause 2

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