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Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Responders) Order 2008

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Martin Caton
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben (Minister of State, Department of Health)
Buck, Ms Karen (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab)
Clarke, Mr. Charles (Norwich, South) (Lab)
Cooper, Rosie (West Lancashire) (Lab)
Cryer, Mrs. Ann (Keighley) (Lab)
Dorrell, Mr. Stephen (Charnwood) (Con)
Harris, Mr. Tom (Glasgow, South) (Lab)
Johnson, Ms Diana R. (Kingston upon Hull, North) (Lab)
Lamb, Norman (North Norfolk) (LD)
Laxton, Mr. Bob (Derby, North) (Lab)
Mulholland, Greg (Leeds, North-West) (LD)
Penning, Mike (Hemel Hempstead) (Con)
Redwood, Mr. John (Wokingham) (Con)
Streeter, Mr. Gary (South-West Devon) (Con)
Twigg, Derek (Halton) (Lab)
Wright, Jeremy (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con)
Rhiannon Hollis, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Third Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 17 November 2008

[Mr. Martin Caton in the Chair]

Draft Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Responders) Order 2008

4.30 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Amendment of List of Responders) Order 2008.
The Order is a necessary, technical measure to ensure that any ambulance trust that applies for and obtains foundation trust status retains its responsibilities under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 for what is known as a category 1 responder. The Civil Contingencies Act imposes a series of duties in connection with emergency planning and responsiveness on local bodies, such as the police, fire brigade and local authorities, which are category 1 responders. NHS foundation trusts, which were first established in England in 2004, have different status from other NHS trusts. They were established as independent public benefit corporations; they are free from central Government control; and they are accountable to their local population. The Act classifies NHS foundation trusts as category 1 responders only if they
“provide hospital accommodation and services in relation to accidents and emergencies”.
That does not take account of the potential for foundation trusts to provide ambulance services. In 2007, we announced that NHS trusts that provide ambulance services would be able to apply for foundation trust status from April next year, so this minor amendment to the Civil Contingencies Act is needed, and I commend it to the Committee.
4.31 pm
Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): May I tell the Minister at the outset that we support the Civil Contingencies Act, although I wish to ask a few probing questions about the necessity for the order, as I believe that there is provision for its powers in existing guidance? As a former fireman, I have experience of being on a category 1 response and, as the Buncefield fire took place in my constituency nearly three years ago, I wish to praise the emergency services for their work there. Indeed, nearly all of the emergency organisations involved are covered by the Act.
First, section 5.4 of “NHS Emergency Planning Guidance 2005” says that NHS organisations “not designated” as responders should in any case act as if they were. I am not quite certain if such provision is already in place in the Act. If it is, why the necessity for the order? Secondly, annex 3A, which deals with category 1 responders under the Civil Contingencies Act, separates foundation trusts from ambulance services. If that is to be amended, specifically because ambulance trusts are becoming foundation trusts, such provision is already made for health bodies in the annex. If the Minister deals with those two small anomalies, either now or at some point in the future, Her Majesty’s Opposition, would be quite happy.
4.33 pm
Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): I need not delay proceedings, as the order makes a necessary amendment to take account of the fact that ambulance trusts can now become foundation trusts. There is therefore no need to detain the Committee further.
4.34 pm
Mr. Bradshaw: The implication of the first question from the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead derives from the original foundation trust legislation, which went through the House at a time when we did not envisage that ambulance trusts would necessarily go for foundation trust status. That policy subsequently changed, which is the reason why we are happy to make this adjustment. In answer to his second point—and I will write to him about this—I suspect that the point is that that was guidance, not legislation. What we need is legislation to be absolutely confident that if ambulance trusts become foundation trusts they will be subject to the Civil Contingencies Act. Guidance alone would not be sufficient to guarantee that.
Mike Penning: I accept that that is probably the case, but I should like clarification. May I clarify one more point? If a body become a foundation trust, we could move it into the civil contingencies category 1 response. Would that be the case, too, for NHS Direct, should it pursue its application for NHS foundation status? I understand, however, that it has withdrawn that application on the basis that it was part of the civil contingencies response. Is that correct, or is it something on which the Minister needs to write to me?
Mr. Bradshaw: I shall have to write to the hon. Gentleman about that, too. I imagine that if NHS Direct qualifies in the same category of responders under the Act, and that that proviso was not allowed for in the original foundation trust legislation, we may find ourselves in Committee, doing exactly what we are doing today.
Mike Penning: I just want to clarify the fact that, when the Minister writes to me, that that would not prevent NHS Direct from becoming a foundation trust.
Mr. Bradshaw: That has not prevented ambulance trusts from becoming foundation trusts, which is why we have had to introduce the measure. If a decision were made that NHS trusts should do that, and we needed to introduce a statutory instrument, we would do so in the normal way. As for the hon. Gentleman’s point about the separateness of ambulance services in foundation trust legislation, I shall have to write to him, as I cannot give him the clarification that he seeks.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee rose at twenty-four minutes to Five o’clock.

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