Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from Bristol City Council


  The Council supports the principles and overall thrust of the bill as set out in this chapter. The concept of resilience and the requirement for risk assessments both independently and through an integrated approach is right if we are to move forward in future civil protection duties.

  These will however require Local Authority's to widen their approach and duties expected of a larger number of staff than is currently involved, particularly when one embraces the definition of emergency and the expectant duties that fall from that duty.

Q1.   Is the definition of emergency the right one?

  In principle we agree but raise the following points: (3)(a)(ii) fuel oils

    —  This should include any oils, which may cause pollution or have an environmental impact.

    —  Other substances or derivatives, which, by virtue of their size or presence in quantity could cause similar problems.

    —  "water" should include all water; both riverine, estuarial and sea.


  As with Chapter 1 we agree with the generic principles and thrust of the proposed bill.

  We accept the need that outdated legislation needs replacing. In addition we acknowledge the need to identify clear roles for all responder organisations. However, this is a new duty on the majority of those identified as Category 2 responders, which will have costs attached and which we do not believe is adequately addressed in the Regulatory Impact Assessments.


  We agree that the obligations imposed on Category 1 and Category 2 responders offer the potential for more operationally effective and financially efficient planning. Ultimately, it depends on the nature of the relationships between the responder organisations as will be set up through the Local Resilience Forums.

  Turning to one specific aspect of this section, we note that Category 1 responders will be required to "prevent" emergencies. It is difficult to see, at this time, how a Unitary Authority, usually acting in support of the emergency services can routinely "prevent" emergencies. The Bill Team has assured us that the responsibility to "prevent" rests where there is currently a function and there is no function on Emergency Planning Services of local authorities, although other departments, such as Highways, may have such a role. On the basis of this assurance, and provided that the Bill clarifies the situation, we foresee no significant adverse impact of the proposal. We also note that a new duty to promote business continuity will rest on local authorities; we agree with this recommendation, recognising that this is an essential part of resilience capability. Once again, this new function will require additional central Government funding which we are not yet in a position to assess.

Q3.   Membership of categories 1 and 2?

  It is clear from our perspective that there are agencies that should be considered at Category 1 responders:

  Elements of the NHS need to be included here and we suggest that acute and primary care trusts and the Health Protection Agency. This may include the NRPB, although we note that they may become part of the HPA in due course.

  Port Police Companies (we have one in our area).

  Highways Agency, given the future role in supporting the Police.

  Category 2:

  The below should be included here:

  National Blood Transfusion Service.

  Major pipeline operators.

  It is noted in the draft bill that "Transport" is covered and there are three specific definitions but ferry operators are not mentioned, unless the "harbour authority" covers this area. If so it is not clear. Is there a need to include bus and coach companies, given the capabilities programme and "mass evacuation"?

  There is no inclusion of the roles and responsibilities of national government in the draft bill. Whilst we understand that it is perhaps unusual in English Law for statutory responsibilities to be placed on central government departments, we believe that history has shown that the lead government department concept has not worked in practice and that civil protection is too important an area of public life for statutory responsibilities not to be imposed on any of the agencies which have key roles in contributing to creating a robust culture of resilience in the United Kingdom.

Q4.   Do you agree the bill gives Government the right balance of regulation making powers to meet its aims of consistency and flexibility? If not explain how they should be expanded or constrained.

  Whilst we agree that the balance is correct, safeguards need to be incorporated to ensure there is adequate consultation during drafting of any Regulations that will be applied to this bill.

Q5.   Do you agree that consistent arrangements for multi-agency working should be established, through the creation of Local Resilience Forums? If not, how else should consistency be established?

  We have established multi-agency working in this locality and the proposal will further strengthen that relationship.

Q6.   Do you agree that the regulatory Impact Assessment accurately reflects the costs and benefits of the bill proposals? If not, how should it be changed?

  We accept that they are the best assessments, which can currently be developed by the Bill team, but we are not convinced that they accurately reflect the true costs that will be required to undertake the full range of duties within this authority.

  We know that there will be additional costs involved through a greater emphasis on multi-agency planning and exercising, as well as in the area of business continuity, but we cannot accurately quantify this at this time. A full resource requirement assessment must be undertaken, taking into account the higher commitment required to take civil protection far beyond what is currently expected.

Q7.   Do you agree that funding for Category 1 local authorities should be transferred from specific grant (Civil Defence Grant) to Revenue Support Grant? If not, why should specific grant be retained?

  We supported the proposal to transfer funding to the Revenue Support Grant. However, there remains a danger that unless an accurate financial baseline has been identified by local authorities, then the level could be eroded over time. Funding for civil contingencies must be ring-fenced in some way and Emergency Planning must remain and be promoted as one cornerstone of good local government.

  We are not convinced that the current level of funding, through the existing direct grant, supplemented by additional funding from local authorities, will be sufficient for the future. We know that there will be an increased duties to exercise under multi-agency and regional aspects of the Bill as well as within our own authority, and this will have a significant impact. We will continue to keep resource provision firmly in view and will undertake to try to identify where current funding is inadequate.

Q8.   Do you agree that the level of funding to support the bill is sufficient? If not, explain why you believe it is too high or low?

  The current level of funding of £19 million is not sufficient to support the proposed activity imposed upon local authorities by the Civil Contingencies Bill. The government has long insisted that the Civil Defence Grant is only a contribution to local emergency planning, and that local authorities are expected to supplement the grant in order to fulfil their emergency planning duties. Consequently local authorities have had to use money that would otherwise have been spent on Education or other local services in order to ensure emergency planning is adequately resourced. In truth, therefore, the actual cost of current arrangements greatly exceeds the current level of central government funding. This has been clearly identified within the recent LGA survey, conducted by an independent agency, of top-tier emergency planning authorities.

  There is a clear expansion of duties being imposed on local authorities, which, if they are to be achieved to a set standard and expectation will require a resource input.

  The additional administrative requirements to establish groups, time spent in preparation of agendas, minutes, records to satisfy audit inspections.

  In addition to fulfil the Governments Capability programme, from a local authority perspective will require additional resources. Current plans fail to deal with large numbers of the public produced by the mass decontamination process is an example. To put this into perspective, the costs of setting up the mass decontamination system exceeded £50 million, yet local authorities were not consulted about the impact n their resources in supporting and managing the consequences of the system, or what funding is required to plan and prepare for this scenario. This would entail the provision of clothing, money and then accommodation for many thousands. Just the planning to obtain this and the arrangements to establish the ability for the provision of such items requires extra work. No thought has been given to what equipment Local Authorities have or may need to invest in to be able to support the demands made on them by mass evacuations/fatalities.

  The recent Home Office Guidance for Local Authorities on CBRN outlines extra issues to be considered, planned and arrangements in hand to execute. All of which are "new" duties or requirements to what is already being achieved.

Q9.   Do you agree that the performance should be audited through existing mechanisms? If not, what mechanism would you like to see established?

  In terms of local authorities we would expect the Audit Commission to audit the service under the Comprehensive Performance Assessment process. We are, however, concerned that if auditing takes place under the existing Comprehensive Performance Assessment that the weighting for, what would be modest expenditure by local authority standards, would mean that there would be only a little incentive to improve emergency planning performance. We would therefore expect that the weighting attached to civil protection should also take into account the absolutely huge costs to local authorities of responding to emergencies and the potentially huge costs that will occur if local authorities are not adequately prepared.

  There is also concern that existing audit processes may not address the qualitative issues that need to be addressed in emergency planning. There needs to be an audit regime that is able to measure capacity and competence that is not readily quantified. We would therefore expect to see personnel performing audits on behalf of the existing bodies to include appropriately qualified or experienced staff.

  In addition the bill focuses on "multi-agency working" and this must form part of the auditing process, requiring an integrated approach by the inspecting regimes.


Q10.   Do you agree with the role of Regional Nominated Co-ordinator? If not, who should take responsibility at the regional level, and with what responsibilities?

  Yes. In principal, the appointment of a RNC during a regional crisis would be expected given the emerging regional structure. It will, firstly, ensure that the communications link between central government and local multi-agency commands is greatly improved, a single reporting centre will reduce demands at a time of a crisis, and, secondly, provide the embracing leadership necessary for regional emergencies.

  However, while we understand the Government's wish to mirror central arrangements for crisis management, ie different lead Government Departments for different types of emergency, we support the Select Defence Committee's concerns that the RNC will be selected with a greater emphasis upon specialist knowledge rather than leadership skills and crisis management experience. We agree that specialist knowledge is required, but it should be in an advisory role to the RNC.

  The lessons learned from FMD and the fuel crisis demand that any individual appointed has real authority, and is a respected and credible lead individual.

  We note that the consultation document refers in paragraph 18 to suggest that the RNC "could include the direction of resources to pursue national and regional priorities". If this is to be the case, it must be met by appropriate funding. How will this relate to the Bellwin rules and any subsequent claims? If the RNC declares certain action should be taken that is beyond the local resource level, even given partnership working, is there an implied guarantee that Bellwin—or something else—will follow?

Q11.   Do you agree with the principle of applying special legislative measures on a regional basis? Please explain your answer.

  We agree with the principle of applying special legislative measures on a regional basis. It may be desirable to consider applying special legislative measure on an area smaller than a region. Particularly, in the event of an outbreak of a disease (whether animal or human), a whole region may not be affected, but special measures may be required. The Bill should allow this flexibility provided the appropriate checks and balances are built into these measures.


Q12.   Do you agree that the current emergency powers framework is outdated and needs replaced? If you do not think it should be replaced, please explain why.


Q13.   Do you agree that the circumstances in which special legislative measures may be taken should be widened from limited threats to public welfare to include threats to the environment, to the political, administrative and economic stability if the UK and threats to security resulting from war and terrorism? If not, how would you like to see the circumstances narrowed or extended?


Q14.   Do you agree that the use of special legislative measures should be possible on a sub-UK basis? If not, please explain.


Q15.   Do you agree that the authority to declare the special legislative measures are necessary should remain with the Queen as Head of State, acting on the advice of Ministers? If not, who should it sit with?


Q16.   Do you agree that in the event the process of making a Royal Proclamation would cause a delay which might result in significant damage or harm, a Secretary of State should be able to make the declaration in the place of The Queen as Head of State, action on the advice of Ministers? If not, is delay acceptable or is there another alternative mechanism?

  No, this would entail constitutional change and we do now perceive this is necessary within this bill.

Q17.   Do you agree that emergency regulations should be related as primary legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act? If not, please explain why.

  No. We do not believe that there should be provision to treat specialist legislative measures as primary legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act.


  We have not commented on Chapter 6 as we feel this is a matter for those devolved administrations.


  Although we acknowledge that London is unique in being the capital, we would point out that Bristol is a Regional capital, which, together with the many organisations who have now re-located their Headquarters here, also means that we have a "resilience requirement", not dissimilar to London. Consequently there are some similarities. We are in the process of building local "business forums" across the City Centre to enable a wide range of stakeholders to be involved in the process of resilience and business continuity. In addition we are also developing and hope to launch this autumn a "warning and informing" capability across our City Centre businesses and residents.

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