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7.53 pm

Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) for allowing me a couple of minutes to make a few supporting remarks.

I am familiar with the Defence NBC school at Winterbourne Gunner where I have trained with my own trusty respirator, which was, of course, made at the excellent Avon Rubber in Melksham. The EH20 escape hood was developed jointly by Winterbourne Gunner and Avon Rubber. Subsequently, at the time of its relocation to Ryton, the Police National CBRN Centre appeared to change its mind on that piece of kit, which it had jointly brought to life with Avon Rubber. Such dither on something so important is cause for great concern, and I hope the Minister will comment on that.

The tender was accepted by the Treasury and was subsequently reneged on by the Home Office, and yet the Scottish police and the English ambulance service have proceeded with it in full. Either they have got it right or the English police have got it right; they cannot both have got it right. At a time when we are supposed to be looking at a co-ordinated response to the threats we face, it strikes me as somewhat odd that we should be adopting such a mosaic response to threats of this kind—so much for a joined-up approach to homeland security.

The EH20 escape hood is designed for escaping safely from a hazardous environment, and it is good for about 20 minutes. It was developed following the Tokyo subway disaster of 1995. The Minister will remember that the wash-up from that incident seemed to suggest that the emergency services’ responses were somewhat lacking, and that the toll from the incident might possibly have been due in part to the failure to plan adequately for such eventualities. Such threats still stand, but where is the means of protecting escapees
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and first responders? The Minister needs to understand that there will be first responders at such scenes who will wish to go in and render assistance.

What message does the Minister think his indecision and delay send to partners in the UK defence industry? Our defence and security industries are meant to be in some kind of partnership with Ministers as we face the various novel threats of today, yet here we have the Government establishing themselves as a somewhat unreliable customer who reneges on deals. That seems to be a strange way of approaching a partnership. We can be sure that the industry will have noted the way Avon Rubber has been treated by the Government, and that it will wish to amend any tenders that it makes for this kind of Government work accordingly.

In the absence of a dedicated homeland security Minister, the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing is responsible for this matter, as he is responsible for preparedness. I have to say that this sorry episode makes me wonder what he is up to.

7.57 pm

The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Tony McNulty): I shall address the concerns expressed by the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), but I shall ignore the contribution of the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison), as he has failed to show the common courtesy of the House by not asking me whether he could take part in the debate. I do not know whether he asked the Chair.

As is customary on these occasions, I would like to congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes on securing the debate. As he said, I am familiar with the matters that he has raised, having met him on 16 April 2007 to discuss the EH20 escape hood, and having corresponded with him on several occasions since then. He will perhaps not be surprised to hear me say that I can add nothing new to those exchanges.

As I have previously indicated to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, although I agree that the situation that has arisen is regrettable, it is not one in which the Government have a direct role. The Government have always worked in close partnership and co-operation with the police to ensure that they have the necessary resources, training and equipment to perform their various roles. However, chief constables retain ultimate discretion over tactical decisions and operational requirements and procedures. They make the day-to-day decisions about priorities for their forces, the deployment of their staff and the use of the funding available to them to deliver their objectives.

The Home Office has, of course, worked particularly closely with police forces over the years to tackle the threat of terrorism, including the possible use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials or weapons against this country. As part of that, the Home Office has centrally funded the development and procurement of police personal protective equipment—the so-called CR1 ensemble—which enables police officers to operate in hazardous environments. However, it is not the case that the Home Office centrally supplies all police equipment; nor does it supply all equipment used for counter-terrorism purposes. Central funding and procurement arrangements apply to a limited and agreed set of equipment.

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Forces are themselves generally responsible for the training and equipping of their officers, as appropriate to their duties. The costs of doing so are met from the annual police grant paid to each force. It is entirely a matter for each force to decide on its individual needs and priorities for day-to-day policing in its area, and to determine whether to acquire additional quantities of centrally supplied equipment or to supplement it with alternative kit. I would far rather rely on the judgment of each and every one of those chief constables in assessing the equipment and resources that they need, rather than on the judgment, however impassioned, of Back-Bench Members of this House. That is the role of the chief constables. I slightly resent the aspersions cast on the integrity of every one of those chief constables and the decisions that they make in real and serious circumstances for the protection and welfare of their local communities.

In 2003, the Association of Chief Police Officers identified a potential risk to police officers who might be exposed to hazardous environments without notice and would therefore be unprotected from the effects of dangerous materials. In its resulting report, ACPO recommended a range of measures including raising staff awareness of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents and promulgating guidance on what to do following a CBRN attack. ACPO also identified a need for portable safety equipment for officers who are not normally expected to deal with CBRN incidents. On the latter point, a scrutiny of the marketplace at the time failed to identify an available, suitable product that could be issued to front-line officers for use, should they find themselves caught up in such an event. A decision was therefore reached to seek to develop a bespoke product.

A multi-agency steering group led from the police national CBRN centre at Winterbourne Gunner was convened to mount a procurement process. After competitive tendering, that resulted in the award of a contract to Avon Protection UK for the EH20 escape hood.

A framework contract was put in place by the Office of Government Commerce enabling not only police forces but other public sector bodies to purchase quantities of the hood. I am informed that to date orders to the value of £2.9 million have been placed by the police, the ambulance service and the Ministry of Defence, equating to around 50,000 hoods.

The establishment of the police national CBRN centre at Ryton has had no bearing on decisions on the EH20 hoods. The contract was already in place at the time and decisions on procurement, as always, rest with the individual forces. The right hon. and learned Gentleman states that the contract is misleading in that it stipulated that at least some 170,000 units would be purchased. Although the contract does indeed provide estimated sales volumes and overall value, it also makes it clear that there can be no guarantees of the actual number of units purchased. That is entirely the norm in a framework contractual agreement. Given that the requirement for the EH20 was derived from a police health and safety assessment and that individual chief constables are responsible for the health and safety of their staff, it is right that forces should be responsible
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for purchasing the products according to their respective needs and their professional assessment and judgment.

The police national CBRN co-ordinator has taken steps to ensure that all forces are aware of the existence of the EH20 hood and of the framework contract arrangements. He had carried that out before I met the right hon. and learned Gentleman and, at my behest, has done it again since. Although I agree that greater clarity and precision during the procurement process would have been desirable, it is unlikely that such a situation could occur again given the more rigorous approach now being adopted for any centralised police procurement processes for CBRN equipment.

As I stated at the outset, the operational responsibility for day-to-day policing rests with chief constables, as does the decision on appropriate equipment and procedures for their staff. Decisions on whether to purchase the EH20 hood are therefore solely a matter for individual forces. It would not be appropriate for the Government to seek to interfere with that operational independence or in the commercial arrangements entered into by Avon Rubber by way of the framework contract.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes past Eight o’clock.

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Local Government

The House divided: Ayes 278, Noes 151.
Division No. 101]


Ainger, Nick
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Mr. Dai
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan

Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCarthy, Kerry
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Twigg, Derek
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.

Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek

Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Hughes, Simon
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard

Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spink, Bob
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter

Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Wright, Jeremy
Question accordingly agreed to.
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