Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from Kirklees Metropolitan Council

  With reference to your letter and enclosures of 19 June 2003, the following comments on the proposals for a new legal framework set out in the draft Bill and accompanying documents are forwarded for attention.

  In general the draft Civil Contingencies Bill is welcomed. There are, however, a number of concerns, which are summarised as follows:

    (a)  the omission of health service providers from Schedule 1 Part 1 and Part 2 responders;

    (b)  the omission of bus operating companies and/or transport authorities with bus operating responsibilities from Category 2 responders;

    (c)  the failure to deal with the anomalous situation whereby Metropolitan District Councils, the responding agency in conjunction with the emergency services, from undertaking contingency planning for COMAH off-site emergencies, REPPIR and Pipelines;

    (d)  the failure to provide additional funding for local authorities despite the further resource implications which are placed upon them in implementing the proposals;

    (e)  the exclusion of Central and Regional Government from the provisions of the Bill;

      (f)  there is no power of arrest either implicit in the penalty sections of Clause 21(4)(d) or provided separately in the Bill.

  The detailed responses to the questions posed are as follows:

  Q1.  The definitions contained in Parts 1 and 2 appear to be comprehensive, encompassing emergencies which have recently occurred. The power to extend the definition as contained in Part 1 Clause 1(7), (8) and (9) does not appear to have been replicated in Part 2 Clause 17.

  Once a definition is agreed it is important that all agencies involved in the Civil Contingencies process are seen to be working to the same guidelines hence Dealing with Disaster fourth Edition should similarly reflect the revised definition.

  Q2.  In principle the obligations placed on Category 1 responders to plan for risk assessments, preventing, reducing, controlling and mitigating the effects of a wider range of emergencies are in accord with best practice. However, there is a confusing mix of statutory duties and regulation making powers. The requirement for local authorities to undertake business continuity planning in the community has resource implications.

  The continuing anomaly whereby all District Councils, with the exception of Metropolitan Districts, undertaking contingency planning for off-site COMAH, REPPIR and Pipelines incidents has been perpetuated, or even deferred to LRFs (Consultation Document, Chapter 3, Paragraphs 28 and 31) when the Regulatory powers to rectify the situation will exist under Clause 2 (2) and (3). The situation should be addressed before the Fire Service review legislative changes occur when FCDAs may change to Fire and Rescue Services.

  Q3.  With the exception of ambulance services, no provision has been made for any health service agency in either Schedule 1 Part 1 or Part 2. It is recommended that Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) should become Category 1 responders and Category 2 should include at least the Health Protection Agency and Hospital NHS Trusts.

  In addition Category 2 responders should include major bus operating companies and/or transport authorities. Similarly aircraft operating companies need to be considered for inclusion in Category 2.

  In recognising the lead government role and the failures during recent national emergencies, it is surprising that government departments have "responsibilities to plan, prepare, train and exercise" yet are not to be included in the Bill. Lead government departments should be identified within Parts 1 and 2 of Schedule 1.

  Similarly, other than the power to appoint Regional and Emergency Co-ordinators, there is no statutory duty on the new Regional administrative tier to undertake any of the functions applied to Category 1 and Category 2 Responders.

  Q4.  There are extensive regulation making powers, however, these are permissive powers with no timescale or indication as to a consultation process prior to implementation. The detail contained within the regulations will indicate whether or not the correct balance is to be achieved.

  Q5.  "Local Resilience Forums" already exist under a different name in some areas. It should not be necessary to impose countrywide conditions that may be inappropriate to particular areas on the basis of one size/shape fits all. Where existing arrangements co-terminus with police force boundaries already exist and work well, then they should continue.

  Q6.  The RIA identifies the Government's commitment to enhancing the co-ordination of local responder organisation. The preferred Option 2 obliges Category 1 organisations to carry out the full spectrum of civil protection activities and goes into detail about the benefits and costs for businesses and organisations other than local authorities, yet the consultation document Chapter 3, paragraph 35 indicates that the current level of funding is sufficient to support the basic responsibilities for local authorities despite some local authorities having found it to be necessary to fund the activity above the level of grant (RIA Paragraph 64). The RIA concentrates on costs for Category 2 responders and is dismissive of the additional costs particularly to the emergency services and local authorities.

  Q7.  Yes.

  Q8.  The present funding arrangements are insufficient for local authorities to undertake the additional duties being proposed under the Bill. In 1992-93 a sum of £22 million was allocated for contingency planning by local authorities. This figure was successively reduced until 1998 and has only recently been increased to the present £19 million. None of these funds are identified for the response to an emergency. The additional duties on local authorities proposed in the Bill have a resource implication despite the opportunity to charge external businesses for promoting business continuity planning in their area.

  Q9.  It is agreed that existing mechanisms will ensure consistency of performance. Local authorities are subject to CPA and Best Value regimes. Cabinet office guidance, standards and performance indicators provide a foundation for local performance monitoring. Any additional tier will undoubtedly divert necessary funding away from the key issues.

  Q10.  In principle the appointment of a Regional Nominated Co-ordinator is agreed along with the terms and employment conditions for co-ordinating a particular emergency. It will be necessary to have contingency arrangements available to ensure a rapid and effective appointment is made at any time immediately following the imposition of emergency powers.

  Q11.  The declaration of a regional state of emergency with the special legislative measures is a sensible approach to dealing with sub UK emergency events.

  Q12.  Agreed.

  Q13.  Yes.

  Q14.  Yes. Regional applications can be scaled up to multi-regional applications for cross boundary events.

  Q15.  Agreed.

  Q16.  Agreed.

  Q17.  Agreed.

  Q18.-Q23.  Are appropriate for responses from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and London Authorities.

Janet Russell

Director of Environment and Transportation

1 August 2003

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