Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from Dudley Metropolitan Borough 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?

  Needs to state "either natural or manmade".


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 obligations placed upon Category 1 agencies, whilst vague, are sufficient. However, the intention of planning is not only a paper exercise. There is also a need to ensure that the facilities and staffing are available to deal with a disaster, and funding should take account of this.

  Catwgory 2 agencies have a duty to share information and for business continuity. There does not, therefore, place any obligation on them with regards to partnership working or attendance at exercises and meetings. The LRFs and RRFs could therefore lack the necessary expertise of these agencies. Further, the Bill does not place any duty on Category 2 agencies to assist Category 1 agencies during an emergency.

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

  Membership of Category 1 should also include:

  Central Government; Scottish Assembly; Welsh Assembly; Northern Ireland Assembly; Regions of England including London; PCTs; HPAs; and Health Acute Trusts.

  The inclusion of these is imperative in order that the lead body in any disaster is aware of its legal responsibility and the Bill should not allow for the opt out of responsibility for any tier of government who may be taking the lead.

  Membership of Category 2 should also include the Highways Agency and consideration should be given to including a commerce/business representative.

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.

  Agreed. It allows flexibility, recognises different practises across the country and encourages initiatives.

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?

  Yes, and should include Category 1 and 2 agencies, perhaps along the lines of the already established Local Strategic Partnerships.

  Without sight of the regulations it is difficult to comment, but the creation of multi-agency LRFs will not necessarily mean consistency unless a definitive list of attendees and duties is specified in the Bill.

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 assessment does not reflect all costs which would potentially be incurred by agencies and businesses listed in Category 2. The costs would be totally dependent on the size of the organisation and geographical area covered. Seven Trent Water, as an example, covers seven metropolitan boroughs/cities and seven counties (and part of an eighth). The costs to this agency would significantly increase if they were to exercise with all the Category 1 local authorities and emergency services on their patch. There will also be more than one RRF/LRF for them to attend.

  The partial Regulatory Impact Assessment should therefore be reassessed.

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?

  Funding for the Category 1 local authorities should remain in the form of a grant, unless ring-fenced within the RSG, to ensure that the finance could not be curtailed in order to fund more pressing matters.

  The grant currently enables Emergency Planning Officers a certain amount of versatility without the restraints of local government or political interference—particularly in the areas of training volunteers or assisting voluntary organisations.

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 response to Question 6 outlines the burden to private industry.

  The level of funding to local authorities is insufficient. The funding is sufficient to plan for emergencies and to train and exercise, however in order to ensure the actions of local authorities at the time of an emergency, as outlined in section 2c of the Bill, additional finance needs to be forthcoming in order to formulate agreements with agencies, adapt buildings in readiness (such as temporary mortuaries), control centres, dedicated 'phone lines etc.

  Presently the staffing at rest centres, reception centres etc, as well as the response in an incident, is often on a volunteer basis, and these volunteers are in short supply. Certain local authorities have to pay retainers or enter into agreements with other agencies, which require funding.

  The inclusion of promoting business continuity within the Bill is applauded. In order to encourage local businesses to pursue business continuity, any activity needs to be free to those participating and of such quality that will require significant levels of funding. The inclusion of risk assessment will also incur considerable costs.

  In order to ensure preparedness in all ways for disaster, enhanced financial support is essential.

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



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?

  The Regional Tier has no obligations under this Bill ie they are not a Category 1 or 2 responder therefore should any obligation be placed upon them as Regional Nominated Co-ordinators at all? Maybe this should be from an independent source. If disasters are less, in a geographical sense, than Regional who will take the lead, a Regional Co-ordinator, Category 1 Local Authority or Chief Constable? Chapter 5 of the Consultation Document, paragraph 19, bullet point three takes up this matter and suggests that the "triple lock" legislative measures should be declared on the minimum geographical area. Within the legislation however it would appear that the smallest geographical area is Regional.

  The Bill does not in its context state that the Regional Co-ordinator will be one of many persons in the same vein as Lead Government Departments—this is a major omission from the Bill.

  Should leadership ability be on the knowledge of the subject or capability to lead? Regional Nominated Co-ordinators/Emergency Co-ordinators are not appointed until Special Legislative Measures have been decided upon, this being at Level 3, however the Co-ordinator is expected to chair Level 2 meeting.

  This area of the legislation needs clarification.

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

  In order to have Special Legislative arrangements applied on a Regional Basis, the Region surely should be listed as a Category 1 responder.

  Again, if the disaster were in a smaller geographical area, on whom would these arrangements be bestowed? This should be outlined with the Bill.

  It would appear if the event were not national then it can become Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales or Regional but will stop at that level. In order to avoid confusion this needs to be decided. RRFs also have no membership list in this legislation, there is therefore no obligation on Category 2 agencies to attend and no indication as to the managerial level of any attendee.


Q12.   Do you agree that the current emergency powers framework is outdated and needs to be 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 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?


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

  Sub-UK yes, but Regions need including in the Bill. The possibility of smaller than Regional should also be considered. This should not, however, allow the Government to abdicate overall responsibility.

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?


Q16.   Do you agree that in the event the process of making 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, with the provision that Royal Proclamation is given as soon as practicable. Also the "triple lock" mechanism should be written into the Bill.

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.

  Yes, there should be as few methods of redress to the declaration of an emergency as possible.


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


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?


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?


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?

  The Bill does not state who or what reference the Regional or Emergency Co-ordinator has, the fact that there will be a choice of Regional Co-ordinator, dependent on the type of emergency, should be included in the Bill. It could also be argued that knowledge of a subject, from a lead agency point of view, does not also mean leadership qualities.

Q22.   Do you agree that the devolved administrations should be able to declare that special legislative measures are necessary, and take action accordingly? If not, please explain why.

  No. The ability to declare should remain with the Queen and in her absence the Secretary of State for the UK, Her Majesty's Minister, who would utilise the "triple lock" system. This would ensure continuity of decision for all areas/regions of the UK.

  Also the emergency regulations would need the approval of both houses of Parliament within seven days. If both houses have to consent then the ability to declare these powers should remain at central government.


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?

  Again the different arrangements for London are not mentioned in the Bill itself but in the consultation document, we would agree that London should be treated as a region in its own right and should have arrangements in force to combat threats to address its unique place within the country.


  With the emergence of the Civil Contingencies Reaction Force the armed forces should certainly be asked to attend the RRFs, and potentially the LRFs.

27 August 2003

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Prepared 28 November 2003