Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

  The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames welcomes the publication of the Civil Contingencies Bill.


  Overall, LBRuT is concerned at the lack of guidance and regulations, and trusts that an adequate consultation period will be allowed once these have been produced.

  Other concerns include the following issues:

    (a)  The lack of inclusion of the military.

    (b)  The lack of inclusion of duties for the central Government departments, particularly given that the lead department concept does not appear to have worked particularly well during recent crises.

    (c)  The failure to mention exercises and training, which are fundamental elements of civil contingency planning.

1.   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?

  LBRuT is concerned at the lack of mention of scale within the definition of emergency. Furthermore, it is felt that links to the definitions of major incident and catastrophic incident should be clarified.

2.   Do you agree that the obligations posed 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?

  Given the numerous references to regulations, guidance and secondary legislation, it is very difficult to answer this question fully, although it is felt that the obligations will reinforce current good practice.

  It is felt that placing "a strong emphasis on risk assessment" on Category 1 responders will neither be operationally effective or financially efficient. Whilst a hazard indentification process will assist in emergency planning, it is felt that a full risk assessment will add little of benefit. As an example, LBRuT has hazards, such as the fact that it is the only Borough with both banks of the Thames, and liable to substantial flooding, it is on the flight path, has road, rail and underground networks, and has a COMAH site and gas pipeline. These are all hazards, and the generic plans in place are able to be applied to respond to any incident with any of them.

  A risk assessment of any of those hazards would include an assessment of the probability and potential impact. Take for example, the flight path. The Borough does not employ anyone with the expertise or experience to be able to judge the probability of a problem on any part of the flight path, at any given time of day or year. Furthermore, given the events of September 11, it may be that problems do not occur on a recognised flight path.

  The knowledge of a potential aeroplane problem occurring in the Borough is sufficient to be able to plan effectively.

  Should more detailed risk assessments be required, then it should be a duty of the Category 2 responders to complete a risk assessment identifying the more vulnerable stretches of road, rail, air and water, and then sharing that information with the responding agencies.

  LBRuT is surprised that the duty to carry out Business Continuity Management applies to Category 1 responders, and feels that this should apply more widely to Category 2 responders.

  LBRuT is concerned at the fact that local authorities will be "required to promote BCM within their area". There is no definition of "business", and it is recognised that most large businesses employ their own Business Continuity experts. Again, this is left to regulations for clarification, leaving little ability to comment objectively.

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

  The military have a dual role within the civil contingencies arena, both as a potential responder through traditional MAC procedures, or through the newly formed CCRF, but also as the operator of, for example, airports and ports. It seems strange, therefore, that the military are not listed as either a category 1 or 2 responder.

  Further omissions include, for example, the organisers of large venues, such as sports stadia and others, particularly given the recent problems at Knebworth and Silverstone.

  Furthermore, LBRuT believes that COMAH site operators should also be included within the list of Category 2 responders, particularly here in London where the COMAH sites are dealt with through LFEPA, potentially leading to a lack of liaison at the local level.

  Given the pivotal role that the BBC and other media will have during an emergency, LBRuT find it surprising that there is no mention of any media within the list of Category 1 and 2 responders.

4.   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.

  LBRuT is concerned that the regulations may not be given the same consideration and consultation as the Bill.

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

  Whilst LBRuT has the equivalent of a Local Resilience Forum already in place, it is recognised that this is not the same for all London Boroughs. Furthermore, in a London context, it is difficult to see how this would work at Borough level considering that some organisations (such as utilities) will cover more than one Borough, and may find problems in attending all such liaison meetings. Whilst liaison at the Mutual Aid Group level might then be considered, this causes further problems in that, for example, the Health Authority boundaries are not coterminous with the Mutual Aid Groups. There would also be complications in deciding which MPS and LFB should attend, given that their divisional boundaries are along Borough lines.

  There is little clarity as to who would be expected to lead the Local Resilience Forums, and thus provide the staffing (in terms of minutes, etc) and funding, such as for meeting rooms.

6.   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?

  LBRuT believes that there are inaccuracies within this chapter of the Bill. LBRuT has been informed that only 15 of the 756 damaged businesses failed to return to Manchester following the bomb.

  LBRuT is further concerned that the costings seem only to have been completed for Category 2 responders, and businesses. It does not address the extra costings that would arise for Category 1 responders.

7.   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 retrained?

  LBRuT agrees.

8.   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 level of funding is currently inadequate, and does not fully cover requirements such as training, emergency facilities and other administrative necessities. The additional responsibilities detailed within the Bill will result in further deficiencies. LBRuT will now be required to additionally perform the following:

    (a)  Risk Assessments which, as discussed above, are believed to add little of value, and yet will require completion, and then regular updating if they are to have any validity.

    (b)  Business Continuity. Whilst there is currently a Business Continuity programme within the Authority, the level of additional duties gained by the Emergency Planning Officer will result in the requirement of additional personnel. This will be of particular relevance given the requirement for local authorities to promote business continuity within their area, where professional support and advice will be expected, and there is the potential for personal and professional liability.

    (c)  Liaison at the Local Resilience Forum, and at the various Regional meeting, will result in further expenditure in terms of time and travel. Already, various commitments to London Resilience Team initiatives are resulting in additional costs to LBRuT. LBRuT is in the fortunate position of not having to fund a secondee to the LRT.

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

  Existing mechanisms will be fine, although there is concern as to who would be qualified to audit subjective issues, such as planning arrangements and risk assessments.

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

  LBRuT is concerned that this role does not impose on what are already well-established systems. The appointment must be flexible, there should be an ability to change the appointment as the situation develops.

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

  LBRuT has no objection.

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

  LBRuT agrees.

13.   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?

  LBRuT agrees.

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

  LBRuT agrees.

15.   Do you agree that the 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?

  LBRuT agrees.

16.   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 an alternative mechanism?

  LBRuT has no objection.

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

  LBRuT has no objection.

18.-22.  Not applicable to London.

23.   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?

  Further to the comments made at questions 5 and 8, LBRuT would like to highlight concerns regarding the use of short term secondees for staffing the LRT, and the additional costs that have arisen with the creation of the LRT. LBRuT would also like clarity regarding the liaison arrangements that will be required at the local level, and the funding that will support this.

Councillor David Marlow

Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning

14 August 2003

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