Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from Ceredigion County Council


Q1.   Is the definition of emergency the right one? If not, in what ways should it be tightened or expanded to exclude certain classes of event or situation?

  There should be clarity regarding the scale of event that defines a serious threat. It is suggested that government should adopt the phrase from Dealing with Disaster—an event on such a scale that the effects cannot be dealt with by the emergency services, local authorities and other organisations as part of their normal day to day activities.

  In light of the definition of emergency being broadened, supporting regulations and guidance must clarify lead organisations in relation to varying types of emergency.


Q2.  Do you agree that the obligations imposed on both Category 1 and 2 responders by or under the new framework will ensure operationally effective and financially efficient planning and response to emergencies at the local level. If not, how should these obligations be increased or reduced?

  The Bill will only deliver if the regulations define standards and performance management systems.

  Government needs to recognise the requirement for establishing guidance if it wishes to achieve its own goal of National Standards.

Q3.   Do you agree that the membership of categories 1 and 2 is right? If not, which organisations should be added, moved or removed?

  NHS Trusts, Local Health Boards and National Public Health Service for Wales should all be added to Category 1. The Military needs also to be included when considering its new civil contingencies initiative (possibly as Category 2).

  Central and Regional Government are conspicuous by their absence and should appear at Category 1 to strengthen the lead department concept. The absence of Government Departments contradicts the ethos of response through the Lead Department principle.

Q4.   Do you agree that the Bill gives the government the right balance of regulation making powers to meet its aims of consistency and flexibility? If not, please explain how the powers should be expanded or constrained.

  An assessment at this time is very difficult in the absence of detail. What is crucial is the opportunity for meaningful consultation regarding the Regulations.

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 would consistency be established?

  Very much agree that consistency needs to be a primary aim and that arrangements accommodate multi-agency working. The most likely wide scale solution would be to base Local Resilience Forums on existing Multi Agency Strategic Groups established on Police Force areas.

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

  The Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) does not reflect the costs and benefits on Local Authorities arising from the Bill.

  Funding for Civil Contingencies needs to be exposed for its inadequacy as the definition of emergency takes Civil Protection well beyond its current scope. It is noted with interest that the Commons Defence Committee stated that local emergency planners will not be able to meet their new business continuity responsibilities without increases in budgets.

  Local Authorities have to date received nothing to assist with the Resilience Agenda. There are great expectations placed at our door, but no finance to address the significant issues of responding to displaced people. There are no stockpiles of equipment to assist the task as Central Government Stockpiles for Civil Defence have all been dispersed.

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?

  Whilst the LGA support funding via RSG the real concern rests upon adequate funding finding itself to the service. It would also be helpful to agree a transitional ring fencing arrangement whilst fundamental changes are taking place.

  Clarity is sought sooner rather than later regarding funding distribution arrangement via the Welsh Assembly Government.

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

  The existing funding level is inadequate to meet current spending levels let alone addressing the additional responsibilities proposed. The following represent some of the current inadequacies:

    —  No money for purchasing emergency equipment required for the care of displaced/evacuated people. The definition of Rest Centres in the CBRN Guidance has been extended to suggest buildings are suitable for overnight accommodation. Are you expecting the whole financial burden to fall on Local Authorities?

    —  Significant investments made for Emergency Services and Hospitals for CBRN, but not a single penny for Local Authorities. What about training implications and personal protective clothing?

    —  Annual contract for a Temporary Mortuary Service provider. Two options in the private sector at a cost. This should be addressed at a national level by government.

    —  Military Aid to the Civil Community comes at a cost unless we can prove it to be life saving. This represents double payment as the Military is financed through the taxpayer. This should be regarded as a central resource that will be deployed to assist the community in times of need.

    —  Local Authorities are expected to be a front line responder in the event of Coastal Oil Pollution. Whilst government earns significant revenue from taxing fuel it makes no provision for planning training and exercising for responders to coastal oil pollution when problems arise from the transportation of oil products.

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

  Audit of performance management in relation to Civil Contingencies is required and the Audit Commission should undertake this responsibility in relation to Local Authorities. Developed Regulations and Guidance will be expected to provide clarity regarding roles and responsibilities for all partners covered by the Bill.

  However, the imposition of Performance Management and Standards monitoring processes on CA11 responders with no additional funding to meet those requirements needs to be addressed.


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?

  In agreement and propose that individuals be pre-identified for this role. As indicated by the Select Defence Committee the Regional Nominated Co-ordinator must be able to provide strong leadership and posses crisis management skills.

  It would be reasonable to consider re-identifying the National Assembly for Wales "High Level Group" as the Welsh Regional Resilience Forum. The group/forum should be flexible to allow for varying emergencies and enable the drafting in of relevant advisors.

  Within the Welsh context we need clarity regarding the potential of a Welsh Assembly Government Minister being appointed as a Regional Nominated Co-ordinator. This needs to be considered in light of the Lead Government Department principle versus the principle of local accountability, knowledge and familiarity with local structures.

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

  Yes. However, it is suggested that devolved administrations should be given the powers to declare an emergency as they are best placed to interpret local circumstances.

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

  Emergency Powers frame-work needs to be revised to address the modern day risk profile.

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 of the UK and to threats to its security resulting from War or Terrorism? If not, how would you like to see the circumstances narrowed or extended?

  Yes. It needs to be broad enough to address a wide risk profile.

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 Authority to declare that 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?

  No. It would be sensible and practical to remove the Head of State and place the responsibility directly upon Government Ministers in England, Welsh Assembly Government in Wales and the Scottish Parliament in Scotland. By their very nature, these measures would be undertaken in emergency situations and every effort should be made to ensure the most efficient means are established to achieve a declaration.

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, acting on the advice of Ministers? If not, is delay acceptable or is there another alternative mechanism?

  Yes, but instead of, as opposed to in place of. See response to previous question.

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

  The advantage of treating emergency regulations as primary legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act would be that there is a presumption that all primary legislation considers the provisions of the Human Rights Act, and this might assist.


Q18.   Do you agree that the arrangements proposed for Scotland strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency across the UK? If not, what changes are necessary?

  No. Believe that the Scottish Parliament should be granted the powers to declare an emergency. After all, Foot and Mouth was dealt with more efficiently in Scotland!

Q19.   Do you agree that the arrangements proposed for Wales strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency across the UK? If not, what changes are necessary?

  No. Welsh Assembly Government should be granted the powers to declare an emergency and respond as necessary.

Q20.   Do you agree that the arrangements proposed for Northern Ireland strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency across the UK? If not, what changes are necessary?

  Same principle as applies to answers to questions 18 and 19.

Q21.   Do you agree that the role and accountability of the Emergency Co-ordinator in a devolved Country should be flexible to reflect different types of emergency? If not, what alternative role should the Emergency Co-ordinator have?

  Yes, and should be empowered to deploy as necessary in response to an emergency situation.

Q22.   Do you agree that the devolved administrations should be able to declare that special legislative measures are necessary and take action accordingly?

  Yes. This point has been elaborated upon in previous answers.


Q23.   Do you agree that London should have different arrangements for co-operation and that the proposals set out are the right way to deliver this? If not, what arrangements should be put in place?

  Whilst it would be difficult to argue against the high risk profile for London it should be emphasised that other regions should not be ignored at the expense of the English Capital.

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Prepared 28 November 2003