Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from Surrey Police

  1.  Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Draft Civil Contingencies Bill. I am responding as the Chairman of Surrey's Emergency Services Major Incident Committee (SESMIC). SESMIC performs the role of the Local Resilience Forum envisaged in the Bill. It consists of chief officers from Surrey's emergency services, local authorities, NHS, armed services and representatives from the Highways and Environment Agency.

  2.  SESMIC welcomes the Civil Contingencies Bill. Much of the Bill codifies the structures and processes that we and many other parts of the country already have in place and it reflects broadly Surrey's comments on your 2001 review of emergency planning. Our comments, which are set out below, concentrate mainly on issues that affect responding organisations jointly. Answers to the questions posed in the consultation document are at Annex A. My Surrey Chief Executive colleagues will provide more detailed comments on the local authority issues.


    (a)  The Bill correctly identifies the core responders (Category 1), less some NHS partners (see paragraph 3b), who must work together to make sure that emergency preparedness planning and the subsequent response are co-ordinated and effective. However, the list of Category 2 responders is not exhaustive. Although you consciously omit voluntary agencies, we suggest you include the key voluntary groups in Category 2. Also, within the subsequent regulations Category 1 responders should be able to nominate their own Category 2 responders to meet local needs.

    (b)  You ask for our thoughts on where the NHS should be included. Acute hospitals and primary care trusts, as well as the Ambulance Service, should be identified as Category 1 responders. Other parts of the NHS could then be included as Category 2 responders.


  The Bill covers the emergency planning cycle of preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation and places a duty on each Category 1 responder to do this. Lead organisations should be identified to be responsible for the:

    (a)  Co-ordination of Emergency Preparedness

      The inference is that Category 1 local authorities should take on co-ordination of emergency planning. They are well placed to provide the focus for emergency planning preparedness where their boundaries coincide with the police. This works well in Surrey where the County Council's Emergency Planning Unit already provides the Secretariat to Surrey's Local Resilience Forum, SESMIC. This would be more problematic where a police boundary includes a number of Category 1 local authorities.

    (b)  Co-ordination of the Emergency Response

      The nature of emergencies requires a robust level of co-ordination and leadership. In most emergencies the police provide this co-ordination and leadership through the Strategic Co-ordination Group. Partner organisations should be required to respond to an emergency as directed by this Strategic Co-ordinating Group.

    (c)  Coordination of the Recovery Following an Emergency

      Coordination of the recovery normally falls to local authorities.


  SESMIC is disappointed that this issue is still under-funded, especially given current threats. Year after year, it has been told that it must provide adequate funding. The Bill seeks to put more responsibilities on all responders. The new duty will be effective only if the Government demonstrates its commitment to emergency planning by providing adequate funds to all responders.


    (a)  The Government is developing statutory obligations particularly on local authorities and emergency services and it would be helpful to explain the reciprocal responsibilities that will be undertaken for central departments (except it seems for maritime and coastal matters).

    (b)  The Government also seems intent on retaining the lead department principle when recent experience during the fuel crisis and the outbreak of foot and mouth disease has shown that it does not work. We need to be assured that any Government contribution to the emergency response will be well co-ordinated and that there will be a clear common purpose.

    (c)  Regional resilience teams are now established in the Government Offices. It is too early to say what added value they will give. Care must be taken that the resilience teams do not just interpose another level of bureaucracy. Hopefully, they will help resolve some of the difficult problems of policy, providing advice on national issues and how Government departments will become involved locally during national crises. If they were to be included in the Bill, their role would become clear.

    (d)  The Government will use Government Offices as the focus for a co-ordinated response following the implementation of emergency powers. The appointment of Regional Nominated Co-ordinators risks repeating the problems caused by the adoption of lead government departments. SESMIC is concerned that the Government would consider a functional leadership approach during an emergency (eg in a health crisis it could be given by the Director of Public Health or in the case of an animal disease presumably by someone from DEFRA). Undoubtedly people in these positions will be competent in their professional field, but they will have limited experience in co-ordinating many agencies in a fast-changing scenario. It may be worth leaving leadership and co-ordination to organisations that provide them during their every day operations.


  While SESMIC supports the introduction of a Civil Contingencies Bill, it has a number of reservations, the greatest being how Government and its regional offices will integrate with the local response. We will be able to provide more comprehensive comments when you have drafted the regulations that will form such an integral part of the Bill. We hope to be consulted when you begin this process.

Denis O'Connor

Chief Constable

Chairman of the Surrey Emergency Services Major Incident Committee

13 August 2003

Detailed comments on questions


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.

  The emergencies defined in the Bill cover most foreseen eventualities. Currently we have a trigger point for declaring a major incident. The regulations should provide guidance so that, particularly, category 2 responders know that we will expect their assistance at this stage.


2.   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 regulations should make it clear who has lead responsibility in each phase of the emergency. Each Category 1 responder has wide ranging responsibilities but it cannot be held responsible for a partner's failure to fulfil its duty.

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

  Apart from the Ambulance Service, acute hospitals and primary care trusts should be identified as Category 1 responders. Other parts of the NHS may then be included in Category 2. The list of Category 2 responders is not exhaustive. Although you consciously omit voluntary agencies, we suggest you include the key voluntary groups in Category 2.

  It is sensible for there to be a mechanism for including additional organisations as responders. Within this mechanism, Category 1 responders should be able to nominate certainly Category 2 responders to meet local needs.

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.

  The Bill appears to have the right balance. However, it is important that we are consulted fully on the regulations that give the detail to the Bill.

5.   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?

  The Bill encourages the creation of Local Resilience Forums and believes that consistency can be achieved within police boundaries. This will work well where a Category 1 local authority and police share the same boundary. Where police areas include more than one Category 1 local authority, this may be difficult. A way forward would be for Local Resilience Forums to be given the responsibility for coordinating emergency preparedness and powers to enable it to require responding organisations to work together.

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?

  The partial Regulatory Impact Assessment does not take proper account of the wider scope of risk assessment and business continuity. Resource requirements should be based on a comprehensive evidence based assessment.

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 retained?

  Surrey Chief Executives will respond to this question in more detail. However, in their response to the 2001 review of emergency planning, Surrey Chief Executives commented that by funding emergency planning through the Revenue Support Grant, the Government will shift all responsibility for funding emergency planning onto local authorities.

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.

  SESMIC is disappointed that the Government will not address the issue of funding. Additional responsibilities must be accompanied by sufficient funds. The experience and expertise of all partner organisations have in dealing with emergency situations can only be put to the most effective use if responders are supported by an adequate level of funding.

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

  There is a need for a simple auditing process that gives a true picture of the preparedness, not just of individual responders, but also of their joint preparedness. The Home Office Standards for Civil Protection would be a good start point.


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

  The appointment of Regional Nominated Coordinators risks repeating the problems caused by the adoption of lead government departments. SESMIC is concerned that the Government would consider a functional leadership approach during an emergency (eg in a health crisis this could be given by the Director of Public Health or in the case of an animal disease presumably by someone from DEFRA). They will have limited experience in coordinating many agencies in a fast changing scenario. Leadership and coordination are best left to organisations that provide them during their every day operations.

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

  Disasters are no respecters of boundaries. A mechanism should be available to allow a geographical area to be identified that affects more than one region. For example, a catastrophe in London might affect the counties in, say, two regions that share their boundaries with London but not outlying counties in those regions.


12.   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.

  The current emergency powers are outdated and the implementation of local emergency powers will enable the Government and the local responders to take the necessary steps to control activities in order to allow an effective response.

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?

  The proposals are sensible but safeguards must be put in place to ensure that emergency powers are not imposed for the convenience of Government.

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

  See answer to question 11.

15.   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?


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 another alternative mechanism?

  Yes. It must also be accepted that in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, local strategic groups will have to make decisions to ensure the well being of the population in their areas. These may precede these legislative measures.

17.   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.



18/19/20  Do you agree that the arrangements proposed for Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland strike the right balance between reflecting the devolution settlement and ensuring consistency across the UK? If not, what changes are necessary?

  There should be consistency across the United Kingdom.

21.   Do you agree that the role and accountability of the Emergency Coordinator in a devolved country should be flexible to reflect different types of emergency? If not, what alternative role should the Emergency Coordinator have?

  The Emergency Coordinator in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should have the same role and accountability as the English Regional Nominated Coordinator.

22.   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.

  Emergencies do not respect boundaries and if they spill over from a devolved country, particularly Wales and Scotland, to an English region it would be unhelpful to have two methods of declaring the special legislative measures.


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

  London does require special arrangements for cooperation but these should include its immediate neighbours. As well as preparing to respond to their own crises, London's neighbours will have to respond to an event in London.

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