Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 236-239)


16 OCTOBER 2003

  Q236  Chairman: Minister, good afternoon. I am sure you will be happy to know that the press and televisions have decided to ignore us on this occasion. We know both your team members. Perhaps for the sake of the record you would introduce them to us.

Mr Alexander: Sure. I am conscious of the fact that there is a large number of questions to answer so perhaps I could make a very brief statement and during that I will introduce both my team members. First of all, it would be remiss of me to say anything other than I am delighted to be here and to have the opportunity to provide evidence to you before the Committee. You will have seen from my letter updating you on the Government's position on some of the key issues that no doubt you are keen to discuss today, but I would emphasise that I regard that as the starting point of the discussion. We will be happy to elaborate on any of the points that were raised in the letter. Thirdly, I would also want to place on record that already the Government has found great merit and benefit in the pre-legislative process that we are undergoing at the moment and in that regard we are already grateful for your endeavours on this Committee. Roger Hargreaves is head of the team that is responsible for the Bill and Rebecca Lane is the lead lawyer supporting the Bill through the Cabinet Office. That concludes my introductory remarks. I am happy to answer your questions.

  Q237  Chairman: Thank you very much. When do you expect to publish the draft regulations for Part 1?

Mr Alexander: The draft regulations will be published alongside the Bill, when it is introduced. We will consult publicly on the regulations following Royal Assent.

Q238  Chairman: So this will actually be a fresh consultation exercise?

Mr Alexander: There will be a public consultation following Royal Assent. But the draft regulations will be available from introduction onwards, so discussion of our proposals will begin much earlier.

  Chairman: Thank you.

Q239  Lord Archer of Sandwell: I wonder whether I could ask you first about clause 1(1), where it says that the definition of an `emergency' is "an event or situation which presents a serious threat to ...", and then the various things are listed. We have heard from some of our witnesses about the distinction between a serious threat of some kind of harm and a threat of some kind of serious harm. A serious threat seems to imply a threat of something which is likely to happen irrespective of whether, when it does happen, it is serious harm or not. Have you given any thought to that?

Mr Alexander: We have given thought to that matter. My understanding is that it actually reflects legal advice we have received, which is that the notion of serious threat incorporates both the concept of a prospective threat but contains within it the notion of serious harm and in that regard the distinction is not as great as it might appear upon first examination.

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