The Bill's Provisions
264. The draft Bill however fails to meet the objectives
summarised above because the provisions relating to the regional
tier are contained in Part 2, which deals with crisis response
- not crisis planning. More specifically, the Bill creates the
role of Regional Nominated Coordinator (RNC) in England, and Emergency
Coordinators elsewhere in the UK, to be nominated at the time
an emergency is proclaimed. The Government's Consultation Document
says in terms that the regional tier will have a non-statutory
role, including "to identify gaps and interdependencies,
to assist with the brokering of mutual aid agreements
to establish a strong cadre of staff familiar with emergency procedures".
265. The main thrust of Part 1 of the Bill is to
harmonise and integrate the planning and response functions of
the local tier. It is an enabling provision which allows the achievement
of consistency by means of regulations and guidance issued from
the centre. It is clear that the Regional Resilience Forums and
the Regional Resilience Teams (RRT) are also intended to provide
a planning function, but their omission from Part 1 results in
a lack of clarity over their responsibilities in the planning
field. A further source of confusion is that, in England, the
RRTs are more accurately defined as the 'regional presence' of
national government, not a part of 'regional government' in the
sense either of reporting to elected regional assemblies or as
a means of devolving power to the regions from the Centre. At
the local level, the RRTs could well be regarded as a means of
furthering centralised control over locally elected bodies, while
supposedly only having a 'coordination' function after an emergency
has been proclaimed.
266. Beyond the regional offices of which they are
a part, the RRTs also report to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat
of the Cabinet Office, the Regional Coordination Unit (RCU) of
the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, as well as 'other' lead
Government Departments in Whitehall. The regional tier will thus
involve interaction between four elements: "the Regional
Resilience Unit, the Regional Resilience Forum, the Regional Civil
Contingencies Committee and the Regional Nominated Coordinator".
Such a complicated chain of command and control is a cause for
267. The Government's Consultation Document argues
that "the regional role in planning has to be clearly defined
and well understood by other Responders, particularly at the local
and national levels".
As noted earlier (in paragraphs 91-102), the Bill does not achieve
such clarity. The relationships between the three tiers of response
are obscure, potentially undermining the objective of ensuring
consistency of approach across all levels of the resilience framework.
This uncertainty and complexity was identified in the Defence
Select Committee's report
and reinforced by other evidence. It will create conflicts of
identity between local and national representation, while singularly
failing to establish an alternative 'regional' culture. The mechanism
for the nomination of the Regional Nominated Coordinator is not
properly articulated and appears merely to mirror the 'lead government
department' concept embedded in the national level framework,
while many believe that in crisis conditions a proven crisis manager
is preferable to a specialist in the discipline most closely connected
to it (as outlined in paragraph 254).
268. There are two other concerns:
- As noted above, the RRTs consist
of appointed officials, while local authorities are led by elected
representatives of the District or County. The Bill needs to set
out the formal relationship between the two, not only in contingency
planning (Part 1) but in responding to a local emergency as well
as a proclaimed emergency under Part 2.
- The envisaged regional tier will not in all circumstances
suit the demands of a particular emergency, or even the contingency
planning to cope with it. The Deputy Chief Constable of Lincolnshire
summed it up when he said "the regional structure is useful
as a mechanism to get people together, to talk together, but it
might not necessarily be the best in terms of response".
The logic of contingency planning dictates that adjoining areas
should coordinate plans for mutual assistance if one or other
is overwhelmed. But there are many examples of adjoining County
authorities who do not share the same Regional Office. We recognise
that the Government's own administrative arrangements are based
on these areas, which also mirror the Army's Brigade boundaries.
But the Bill needs to recognise that a "one size fits all"
approach is undesirable and provide for greater flexibility in
response arrangements for regional (proclaimed) emergencies.
269. The formalisation of a regional
tier of government as part of the UK's resilience framework is
an important initiative and is potentially of great value, not
least in allowing for the proclamation of emergency over a smaller
area than the nation as a whole, but also in achieving economies
of scale between Responders at a time of crisis. It also has the
potential to promote consistency in the overall level of civil
protection planning. But the structure and responsibilities require
further development to avoid the pitfall of creating an unnecessary
and unwanted bureaucratic layer that contributes little to the
resilience framework. Most importantly, the extent (or otherwise)
of the regional tier's involvement in local contingency planning
must be spelled out.
270. We therefore recommend that:
- Part 1 of
the Bill should clarify the respective planning responsibilities
of the local authorities and the regional tier, and include a
statutory duty for civil protection at the regional level.
- The regional
tier should be simplified in terms of structure.
- The chain of command and communication
between national and regional tiers needs to be clarified, and
linked to the proposed Civil Contingencies Agency.
- Part 2 of the Bill should include
the flexibility to proclaim emergencies in geographical rather
than administrative areas in circumstances which so dictate.
280 Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Consultation Document,
chapter 1, para 2, p 9. Back
Ibid, chapter 4, pp.23-23. Back
Ibid, chapter 4, para 5. Back
Memorandum from the South East Regional Resilience Forum, Ev 266,
Chapter 4, p 22. Back
7th Report of Session 2002-03 (HC 557), pp. 12-14. Back
Q 78, Mr Alan Goldsmith (ACPO). Back