Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)|
9 SEPTEMBER 2003
Q100 Mr Allan: In terms of who is
best placed to carry out the risk assessment we had an interesting
submission from the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames which
said (and if anyone is from Richmond this may make them nervous)
the borough does not employ anyone with the expertise or experience
to be able to judge the probability of a problem on the Heathrow
flight path which goes over Richmond on any particular day at
any time of year and they suggested that the duty should be on
the category 2 responders in respect of the transport infrastructure
to perform the detailed risk assessments which they would then
share with the category 1 responders for their local plans. I
think that is probably a similar point to the one you made about
utilities. You do not know the threats to the National Grid but
the National Grid could do a detailed risk assessment which they
give to you. Does that sort of model seem sensible to you?
Mr Davies: I do think that you
need to draw on the expertise of others. I would not claim to
be an expert on flight paths, for example, or anything like that,
and if we do not draw together all the various strands then you
will not have the fullest possible picture. Again, this is a fairly
time-consuming process and currently we are in the second edition
of our own hazard identification and risk assessment and this
takes a long, long time to do properly. You draw on everyone's
best advice, to be honest.
Q101 Mr Allan: In the context of
legislation then in a sense we should be seeking to impose some
of the risk assessment duty on the category 2 providers rather
than expecting, for example, the local authority to compute the
probability of a plane falling out of the air on any particular
Mr Davies: Absolutely, but in
my view the organisations currently identified as category 2 responders
should automatically be category 1 and then they would get that
duty anywayutilities, for example. I would strongly advocate
Q102 Mr Allan: You would wish to
extend all the statutory duties in the Bill to the ones currently
defined as category 2?
Mr Davies: And beyond.
Q103 Mr Allan: Is that a general
view of local authorities?
Ms Lowton: Yes, well it is our
Q104 Mr Allan: That is the next question.
Can I move on again in the local authority context to the relationship
with the private sector and whether you think you have got sufficient
power. Sitting here I can think of immediate examples where services
are now in the private sector that did not used to be in the private
sector. If you wanted to use a school for emergency accommodationa
not untypical scenarioand that school is a PFI school and
therefore you do not have complete control over it, is that something
that is of concern to you? Do you believe, again, that the Bill
has sufficient powers to enable you to require a private sector
partner to co-operate with you in your emergency planning?
Ms Lowton: I think there are all
sorts of other arrangements that we need to ensure and they are
boring things like we need to ensure that in all our contracts
with private providers there are clauses to deal with emergency
situations, and we not always consistent and good at doing that.
That would certainly be the case, say, in a PFI school where you
would want access in an emergency. I think that there are very
complex arrangements now with local authorities and the private
sector. For example, as well as being borough solicitor for Camden
I am also the legal advisor to the North London Waste Authority
which is not on the list of authorities that are proposed to be
covered by the Bill but we are involved in a joint venture company
that runs the Edmonton B waste incinerator. None of those organisations
is included anywhere in category 1 or category 2 responders and
London Waste, which is the joint venture company, is a private
sector company and, yes, it is about treating those companies
who are carrying out public sector functions in a similar way.
I think we need to find some mechanism for drawing them into the
Q105 Mr Allan: A final question in
this section. The Government hopes to achieve "consistency
of activity across the local response", do you believe that
the measures contained in the Bill will create this consistency
in terms of resources, capability and efficacy?
Mr Cunningham: In terms of activities
the Bill certainly creates consistency in that all responders
will actually know what they are supposed to do, but I think that
in terms of resources and capabilities the Bill does not actually
address these at all. What the Bill does do is set out a framework
for how each of the organisations named in the Bill can achieve
resilience and I think the Bill does that very well. I think it
is also very important to remember that the framework should be
supported by the four cornerstones of regulations, guidance, political
will and funding, and if any one of those four corners is not
there then the framework will topple down and all the hard work
of the Government and everyone else will come to nothing.
Mr Davies: Again eloquently put.
There are anomalies still contained within the draft Bill. From
a metropolitan district point of view I would very much like to
see the responsibilities under other related regulations (COMAH
for examplethe Control of Major Accident Hazards) and the
duties given back to the metropolitan districts and the London
boroughs. I do not understand why this anomaly is not as clearly
addressed as it could be. I only hope that through the consultation
process this is picked up.
Ms Lowton: We need to be sure
that when we talk about consistency of activity we do not edge
toward uniformity of activity because obviously the issues that
we face in Camden, with significant transport links, with a significant
increase in population during the day (our daytime population
is three times our night-time population) and with a large non-English
speaking population, obviously the responses that we would have
and the kind of activity that we would be undertaking would not
be the same as in a large rural authority, so there has to be
some level of consistency but there also has to be a recognition
that local authorities are very different beasts and have very
different areas in which they operate.
Chairman: We had the first half of the
questions on funding but Elfyn Llwyd wanted to follow up on some
of the points.
Q106 Mr Llwyd: On the question of
audits in general how would you say one would judge the adequacy
of civil contingency planning? How would that be measured and
audited and how could the joint preparedness be tested and audited?
Mr Davies: I think there are a
number of processes already under way which can lead us to come
up with appropriate measurement techniques. I know that the Audit
Commission is already looking at the development of some performance
indicators for local authorities and I know that a lot of these
things are already in place for a lot of other sectors, fire and
the police. My concern is really how these sort of things get
linked. The Dealing with Disaster guidance that was issued
some years ago talks of the founding principle of emergency planning
as integrated emergency management. If we have the audits taking
place separately I would like to know how we would ensure that
there is a seamless response at the local level, and that is one
of the things that I am most concerned about. There are various
ways in which the assessment might be done. One suggestion has
been self-assessment. To be honest, if we are trying to raise
the profile of emergency planning not only at the local level
but also at a higher level I think we need very much more than
that. I very much welcome not only the likes of the Audit Commission
and maybe similar agencies coming in, but also the process of
peer reviews. I think we can learn a lot more from other practitioners
coming in and saying what are the problems you have been dealing
with, how did you go about doing this? Certainly that is the experience
that we have.
Mr Cunningham: The only thing
I would like to add to that is just to reiterate that when all
this takes place and good practice is found there should be a
mechanism to distribute that good practice nationally because
that could help other people.
Q107 Mr Llwyd: On the question of
the inter-relationship between the central tier and regional tier
of government, how do you say that co-ordination of emergency
planning will be undertaken? What added value do you think the
proposed role of regional and emergency co-ordinators might bring?
Are the specific duties of local and regional and central government
clear? Although we need co-ordination, are those duties clear
in fact? Are there any duties in particular that you think a regional
tier ought to undertake?
Mr Cunningham: I think it is important
that there is a regional tier, particularly when we have those
emergencies that do cross current administrative boundaries. We
have got a very new regional level set-up at the moment and I
do not think it is clear what the role of the regional level is
and it is certainly not consistent throughout the United Kingdom.
Different regional government offices seem to be approaching the
task in different ways, and that is something that we hoped would
not happen, in all honesty. I think that the main role for the
regions is that of co-ordination and there are some fears amongst
local authority practitioners that there may be additional workloads
falling on the local authority practitioners because of any influence
or demands that the regional bodies might be making, without perhaps
as much thought being given to it as there should be.
Mr Davies: I think the key role
is co-ordination and making sure that there is an appropriate
flow of information from the local to national level and back
down again. The arrangements that I have seen slowly put into
place I am broadly happy with, although there are differences.
I am surprised that there is not the consistency we expected,
and Patrick has certainly touched upon that. Our experience has
been fairly good within Yorkshire and the Humber. We have had
a lot more information and they have been very forthcoming with
us, and that is perhaps an experience that is not replicated in
the North East. They have also gone for a fairly light touch approach.
They are not trying to force us to do things that are not our
responsibility, so I am fairly happy on that front, everything
seems to be worked out. Again it is slightly remarkable that duties
at the regional level have not been set out in the Bill because
it would make a lot more sense. It is all there, it is just a
case of adding it to the Bill as far as we are concerned.
Q108 Lord Roper: Could I go back
to two questions, one on funding and one on finance. First of
all on funding, do you see a workable alternative to the Bellwin
Mr Cunningham: Definitely. I do
not think that the Bellwin scheme works particularly well at the
moment. I do not think it has ever really worked. In my view there
should be a reserve contingency fund to give local responders
the confidence, if you like, to make financial decisions during
emergencies that are not going to cripple their ability to provide
other services. I would be in favour of a reserve contingency
fund rather than the Bellwin scheme, which is a very discretionary
and very bureaucratic process to go through at the moment.
Mr Davies: Because of the size
of our authority we would have to spend an inordinate amount of
money to be able to claim under the scheme. I think the contingency
fund idea is very workable but would need to be explored. The
thing about Bellwin that is most interesting, with reference to
today, is the fact that again it has not been brought under the
aegis of the Bill and again if we talk about having a single framework
for civil protection why not have a particular aspect within the
Bill that covers that. We talk a lot about one-stop shops these
days and it seems the perfect opportunity to put that in and get
the thing right for the first time.
Q109 Lord Roper: On a second point,
which is a rather technical one, the draft Bill does allow the
government to either requisition property or allow for the destruction
of property, animal or plant life with or without compensation.
Do you believe that it ought to be clear that normally compensation
should be given?
Ms Lowton: Yes, there cannot be
any question about that. For it to be left in doubt is far too
Mr Cunningham: I would agree with
Chairman: Excellent, I like certainty.
Q110 Lord Condon: I would like to
ask about the regional nominated co-ordinators. In identifying,
training and preparing them, what should the balance be between
selecting people who are very much experts on the subject matter
of an emergency and more generic leaders who are identified for
their crisis management skills who would draw on experts? Where
do you think the balance should lie? Should the co-ordinator be
a very tight, specific expert or a more generic leader?
Mr Cunningham: I personally believe
that it should be a more generic leader. I think there was a very
good example of that during the foot-and-mouth crisis in the North
East region when there were a vast array of organisations responding
to that. As well as the people from Defra, the military were there,
there were lots of central and local agencies involved and the
person who led the local response was the Director of the Regional
Government Office, who is sadly retired now but I thought that
he did an excellent job. He listened to all sides, he took on
the advice from all of the agencies and then he made a decision,
and I thought he did very well.
Mr Davies: I think that is absolutely
right. It gives the opportunity to the identified person to build
up their expertise through various methods. I think it also mirrors
best practice at the local level. You would not have this sort
of position within the police or within local authorities in terms
of their emergency response. It would be the same people regardless
of the incident and you would draw in the experts to inform the
response. I find it quite strange that people should be chosen
to lead on the basis of some sort of specific qualification.
Q111 Lord Condon: Even if it was
a very specific health issue, a pandemic around health, you do
not think that would push you towards saying the health expert
should be the regional co-ordinator?
Mr Davies: I think it would just
mean in terms of the constituency of the response team you would
have more of a health slant, but that they can be getting on doing
things. A non-health person might be able to see the bigger picture
a lot better and a health person might just get immersed in the
detail. Personally I think that particular aspect is very badly
Q112 Lord Condon: Could I then move
on to a related but slightly different issuethe role of
the military in local resilience regionally and perhaps even nationally.
Are you comfortable with just the allusions to this? Do you feel
there should be more on the face of the Bill on issues around
military involvement in any or all of these issues?
Mr Davies: I must admit I do not
have a great deal of experience of dealing with the military and
maybe that is a reflection of a metropolitan district. If we had
a large local military contingent we might work with them more
closely. My understanding is that there are issues around having
the availability of troops because of commitments abroad and so
on and that might make it more problematic. If we had the duty
placed upon central government departments more clearly that might
take the focus away from the military and place it more squarely
on the Ministry of Defence. I do not have a problem either way,
to be honest, it is not something we rely on tremendously because
we have a very large number of other resources, but rural local
authorities might feel a lot more strongly about that sort of
Mr Cunningham: The military do
tend to be represented on the equivalent of the local resilience
forums that exist at the moment but it is very difficult for military
personnel to give a commitment to a certain amount of resources
to local response because they never know what they are going
to be doing at the same time.
Ms Lowton: At a local level we
do not have that relationship with the military and from what
my colleagues have both said I think it would be very difficult.
There may be a role at the London Resilience level but the reality
is that if it is the sort of situation where the military come
in, then they will take over and the emergency plans do operate
but not in the same way once the military is engaged.
Q113 Mr Jones: All those answers
intrigue me in the sense that the MoD announced last year that
they were going to set up 500 volunteers in each area in the military
to help with such emergencies. In effect, it is a news release
that has gone nowhere if it has not actually been enacted. I thought
of it at the time as being quite an important step forward for
military emergency planning integration at a regional level but
it does not seem to be working.
Mr Davies: I think it was a step
in the right direction and I do not think I would want to be critical
of it, but it is quite clear because of the nature of the troops
(they were territorials for example) that they could not be mobilised
very quickly. Certainly that is the understanding I was given,
that they could not respond. I think we were talking about a minimum
lead time of 18 to 24 hours and possibly longer to try to get
the levels of resources deployed and I think we were talking about
500 or 600 troops in our area. Again, it is not something that
we feel we have to depend on particularly for most forms of incidents,
but it is a nice back-up.
Q114 Mr Jones: It is not that, the
thing that concerns me is that there is a resource there, to come
back to the point you were making about this Bill trying to be
an all-singing all-dancing Bill about emergency planning, so surely
the military has got to be part of that? If we had an announcement
last year on that, I am intrigued why that does not seem to be
fitting into your plans or anybody else's plans.
Mr Cunningham: I think that is
a very good point.
Mr Davies: We cannot fault the
Q115 Mr Jones: I am not blaming you.
Mr Cunningham: To be perfectly
honest about it, I do not think the initiative that you have just
described has been promoted as well as it could have been. I do
not think that people are as aware of it as perhaps they should
Q116 Mr Jones: So would it be helpful
if it were integrated into part of this Bill?
Mr Cunningham: I think it would
be helpful personally. When the military have got involved in
emergencies they have performed in an excellent manner, in my
view, so it would be nice to be able to rely on them. I just go
back to my earlier statement that the advice from the military
themselves seems to be that we cannot rely on them as a guarantee
to be there.
Q117 Chairman: Can you just expand
on this. Is it not the case that this is a situation that we have
not been in before, this is a new thing, having the units in every
area. Is part of resilience not that you will look at possible
roles for groups like this and work them into your local planning?
If you are going to be resilient surely that would be one of the
main things you are looking to do, which is to look outside your
own box and see how you can use the other resources at your disposal?
Mr Cunningham: I think that is
completely correct. We would like to be able to count on that
as a resource but the military themselves are saying that we cannot.
Chairman: Not until they are trained
of course. They have got to know what they are going to be trained
Q118 Mr Jones: Can I ask one other
question about regional co-ordinators and about their role, which
I raised this morning. With the idea of co-ordinators clearly
individuals are going to have a lot of influence. Have you got
concerns that on the Bill their role is not spelt out and we could
have situation, if we are not careful, where we get conflict between
the regional figure and practitioners like yourself on the ground?
Would it be helpful if the roles of the regional co-ordinator
were spelt out and the limitations possibly of the regional co-ordinator
were spelt out on the Bill so that we do not get conflicts between
organisations like local councils that are democratically accountable
and possibly this figure, he or she, who really answers to no-one?
Mr Cunningham: Certainly it would
not do any harm to spell them out. It would certainly make things
clear in the planning phase as well as the response phase. I think
we would certainly be in favour of that.
Ms Lowton: It goes back to not
spelling out the duties of the regional tier and I think that
the two are linked and they need to be spelt out and go together
if the regional tier is going to be helpful and not another layer
Q119 Lord Roper: Just on that point,
you fit in in a region in which there is a regional tier of government,
which is rather different from the other two. Do you think therefore
that one would have to have a rather different pattern for Greater
London and perhaps Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales which
had got some sort of structure and another for other regions where
there was not that level of government?
Ms Lowton: Insofar as in London
the Greater London Authority in the form of the London Fire and
Emergency Planning Authority needs to be involved and needs to
take some form of lead in terms of the region. I think obviously
where you have not got a regional assembly that is not an issue,
but we could not not involve the GLA in that regional tier, and
I think that is the difference. Obviously then there may be an
issue in those areas, particularly in London, as to whether it
is the GLA or the Government Office that leads the regional tier
but at the moment it is GOL (Government Office of London).