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Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it is important that the Civil Contingencies Committee should be able to form ad hoc committees relating to any major urban area in the United Kingdom?
Lord Rooker: Yes, my Lords. The Civil Contingencies Committee now has a separate sub-committee for UK resilience, as well as the London Resilience Sub-Committee. The third sub-committee deals with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents. The Question was directed specifically at London, but there is a high state of co-ordination among emergency planning officers in all the large cities around the country. Things have changed since 11th September, but our plans were well prepared before then because of the situation that we have faced for the past 30 years.
Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that co-ordination in London among the various different and very powerful bodies is not generally regarded as a classic text book example to follow? People will be slightly cynical. Who will be the most senior person? The mayor is obviously a powerful person. Is he subordinate to somebody else?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, operationally, the police are in charge. Let us get that clear so that there is no argument about it. The mayor has a key role in communicating and speaking for the people of London. He plays a central part in the London Resilience Sub-Committee and will communicate the issues to Londoners. There are 32 London boroughs, as well as the City of London, making 33 authorities. There are separate emergency services, with a London Emergency Services Liaison Panel. The plans of all the emergency planning offices are being reviewed at the moment. That work is ongoing. There is the issue of the utility undertakings as well. There is a lot of co-ordination going on. Exercises take place, although they are not always advertised. In June last year there was a major exercise in London called Operation Trump Card, based on a chemical incident. Many lessons learnt from that have been put into the existing plans.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, will the Minister kindly explain the relationship between the Civil Contingencies Committee and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority whose powers go back to the Civil Defence Act 1948? That authority would certainly consider that it had a significant role to play.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the Civil Contingencies Committee is a committee of the Cabinet. There are other liaison arrangements, but they are all co-ordinated from the centre. No one is going off doing
We are talking about emergency preparations. In the normal course of events, civil defence would mean defence against a hostile attack from a power. We are not talking about that. We are talking about possible terrorist attacks. That is where the Civil Contingencies Committee and the emergency planning come in.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, does the Minister agree that some of the speculation in parts of the media in the past few days about potential attacks on nuclear facilities and others borders on the downright irresponsible? Does he agree that careless talk not only costs lives but also sows seeds of doubt in the minds of many people and can therefore sap national morale? Nothing is to be gained by that kind of speculation.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. However, we must also take on board, and it is worth repeating often, that, in terms of preparation for possible terrorist attacks, things have changed since 11th September. Preparations and plans are being made in the light of what happened on that date.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, can the Minister say who exactly is in the lead for disaster and emergency planning?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, from a political point of view and in relation to co-ordinating the Government's response, it is the Home Secretary, as chair of the Cabinet Civil Contingencies Committee. That committee now has three sub-committees, which are designed specifically to examine London resilience, UK resilience, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear issues. Operationally in London, it is an issue over which the police have charge.
Baroness Rendell of Babergh asked Her Majesty's Government:
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, we are continuing to monitor the security
Baroness Rendell of Babergh: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Can she tell the House specifically what British nationals who find themselves in a foreign country should do in the event of a terrorist attack, or even in the event of the warning of a terrorist attack, as happened in the United States last week?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we recognise that no travel is entirely risk-free. On that basis, we give as much information as we can to allow travellers to make decisions about travel. Our advice will depend on where terrorist action occurs; for example, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office already advises against travel to countries which we consider to pose the greatest risk.
However, if travellers are with a group, we advise them that their tour operator will take responsibility. If they are independent travellers, they should contact their airline. They should certainly contact the British mission in the country where they are travelling, or, in the event of there not being a mission, the mission of another, probably European, country. They should also try to contact their relatives in the UK, who can then use that route to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. They should also monitor what the local authorities say about the situation on the ground.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, can my noble friend tell us what increase in workload has occurred since 11th September in relation to the service provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and what extra resources, if any, it has been able to provide? Does the Minister agree that the Foreign Office treads a very difficult line between being accused of being alarmist and being complacent? Does she agree that it does the job superbly well?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, first, I thank my noble friend for her comments about the work of the Foreign Office in this respect. It gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to the work in particular of our consular staff and of volunteers within the Foreign Office. Since 11th September, not only here and in New York but also in other parts of the world, they have worked round the clock to continue to provide an effective and immediate service.
With regard to workload and extra resources, following the events of 11th September the number of calls to our travel advice unit rose by more than
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, can the Minister say what advice is being offered to British citizens travelling in areas of conflict about their duties and obligations in respect of loyalty to this country? In particular, what further advice can be offered to people should they be seen to assist in terrorist activities, and can such information be made available on the Internet?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, it is important for me to say to the noble Lord that our advice is not to travel to areas of conflict around the world. A "Don't go" list is already in existence. It includes a number of countriesfor example, Burundiwhere there is either conflict or the possibility that conflict will occur. With regard to British nationals who may travel to areas of conflict around the world and then perhaps participate in that conflict, we would consider using existing domestic legislationfor example, the Terrorism Act.
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