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Baroness Hamwee: Indeed, it has. I will have to read the examples that the Minister has given to see whether there might be other examples that are less benign. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred to an "emergency situation" as distinct from an "emergency event". Perhaps the answer to that lies in the definition of "emergency" in the first line of the Bill, which says,
Regarding Amendment No. 26, the Minister referred to bodies taking responsibility for their own geographical areas but not other areas. That is sensible. But subsection (5)(a) refers to the "kind of
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emergency", not the place where it is happening. I suppose that one would not be expecting one service necessarily to be able to perform the functions of anotheralthough having said that, I remember the debates about whether defibrillators should be carried on all emergency vehicles. So the matter is not always straightforward.
On Amendments Nos. 46 and 47, the Minister talked about barring delegation. I understand that one might wish to prohibit delegation, but I wonder whether one would ever want to prohibit collaboration. There is much concern regarding this issue and I apologise to other noble Lords to whom all this might have seemed a bit opaque. I am grateful for the examples. I may wish to return to a couple of points at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"( ) Regulations under subsection (3) may, in particular, make provision
(a) requiring members of the emergency services as well as certain members of the relevant voluntary services to be vaccinated or injected against organisms which might be used by terrorists, notwithstanding existing health and safety, or other legislation,
(b) requiring those authorities which control ports, airports or frontiers as well as local authorities to install special equipment to monitor the control of lorries, containers or other objects, for suspicious contents or persons,
(c) requiring those authorities which control ports, airports or frontiers, as well as local authorities to install specified equipment designed to monitor persons, conveyances or other objects for radiological material, and
(d) requiring local authorities to obtain specific static or mobile equipment which is designed to identify the presence of chemicals or biological material, which might be used in a terrorist attack."
The noble Lord said: The amendment follows remarks that I made at Second Reading expressing my serious concerns at the nation's lack of preparation for a serious terrorist attack. I said then and say again that I believe that the Government and the nation are severely unprepared for the kind of attack which could confront us at any time.
I think that that says it all. To me, it takes little account of the remarks made some time ago by Eliza Manningham-Buller, Director General of the Security Service (MI5). She told the Royal United Services Institute:
"My conclusion, based on the intelligence we have uncovered, is that we are faced with the realistic possibility of some form of unconventional attack. That could include a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear attack. Sadly, given the widespread proliferation of the technical knowledge to construct these weapons, it will be only a matter of time before a crude version of a CBRN attack is launched at a major Western city".
The Government say that this matter is not urgent. I am sorry, my Lords, but I believe that it is very urgent indeed. It is made all the more urgent because of our association with the United States 18 months ago in attacking Iraq. I made a speech to your Lordships on the eve of that attack, when I dissociated myself from both my own Front Bench and the Government because I thought that it was a mistake. I shall not get into all that, but that attack has made us very much more exposed to a terrorist attack than we would otherwise have been.
The Bill deals largely with an emergency. An emergency is defined in one part of the Bill as a situation which is about to occur, is occurring or has occurred. My belief is that this is all far too late. The Government should have powers to take firm measures in certain directions long before an emergency is about to occur. In addition, in many cases where an emergency is about to occur, it is then far too late to deal with many of the things that should have been dealt with.
When he first wrote a letter to many noble Lords following Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, made no reference whatever to the comments that I made at that stage of the Bill. When I protested about that, he was kind enough to write to me again on 7 September at some length, but he said in that letter that my comments were "outwith the Bill". However, the Long Title states that this is a Bill:
I should be very surprised indeed if he seeks to argue today that the amendment that we are now discussing is not entirely a provision about civil contingencies. Therefore, I reject that part of his comment entirely.
I come now to the specifics of my amendment. In paragraph (a), I have sought to give the Government powers to require certain members of the emergency services to be vaccinated as a precaution against various bacteriological or virus bodies which could be used in a terrorist attack. I should have thought that it would be basic common sense that a large number of people in the emergency services must be prepared to deal with anyone who becomes ill as a consequence of a biological terrorist attack. I agree very much with the attitude of the Government as expressed in the letter which the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, sent me on 7 September. He told me that it was the Government's view that,
"it would be prudent to have a small cohort of key health personnel in each Region vaccinated in advance of an outbreak of smallpox [so that any initial or suspect cases could be dealt with safely], a limited vaccination programme of key healthcare staff who form the basis of the Regional Response Teams has been undertaken and vaccination of a number of ambulance workers in each Region is underway".
But let us look at the result of that programme. Back in March, I asked how many doctors, nurses and so on had been vaccinated. I was told that the answer was: 140 doctors over the whole country and 123 nurses. I
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asked the same Question in July. I was told that the number of doctors had gone up by one to 141, that the number of nurses over that four-month period had gone up by three to 126, and that now, if you please, over the whole country only six ambulance workers have been vaccinated against smallpox. I am talking about smallpox but everything that I said applies equally to anthrax and other medical situations.
I believe I told your Lordships at Second Reading about a visit that I made to the United States earlier this year with the Civilian Affairs Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, on which I represent your Lordships. I was in California discussing these matters with one of the premier scientific organisations which make it their business to find technical ways of combating a terrorist attack of all kinds. I was told that at present in the United States 40,000 doctors, nurses and ambulance workers are vaccinated against smallpox, compared with our miserable figure of 270 or so emergency health workers.
If we do have an attack of this sort, it could come totally out of the blue, without any warning. For some days, we might not even know that an attack had taken place until clinical symptoms began to appear among those unfortunate enough to contract whichever disease. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, wrote to me saying:
Of course there is not. I know that. We all know that. But cultures exist, although there are no cases of smallpox in the world at present and there have not been for many years, thank goodness. But, of course, cultures exist, some in fairly doubtful security conditions. It is perfectly clearand it is understood by anyone who has studied this matterthat there is a real possibility of an attack of smallpox, anthrax or a similar dreadful disease.
If the threat exists, one has to ask why the United States has reacted as it has and on the scale that it has, whereas here we seem to have done very little indeed. I know that privately the Government are very concerned that the scheme has not been much more widely taken up. That is a concern. There have been some stories about the effects of a smallpox vaccination. I note that in that letter of 7 September the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said:
I was puzzled about that, so I asked a question of the Government about what evidence they have quantifying the risk of acquiring smallpox as a result of vaccination with live smallpox vaccine. On 11 Octoberthis very weekI received a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Warner, to a Written QuestionHL4154that I asked, in which he said:
I am sorry to burden the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, with his own letter, but it is important in relation to this highly difficult and urgent matter. He said to methis astonished mein that same letter of 7 September:
I am bound to say that if that is true, that is an idiotic situation. If we have an outbreak and we have only 270 doctors, nurses and ambulance workers who have been prepared in advance for a smallpox attack, and it is not possible to undertake compulsory vaccination, we are living in a totally mad situation. Therefore, it is all the more important that the Government should have the power to require emergency service workers to be vaccinated against smallpox.
I do not know what all the fuss and talk of risk is about, because I suspect that there are very few people sitting in your Lordships' House at the moment who have not, at some time in their lives, been vaccinatedmany of us on frequent occasionsagainst smallpox. I do not understand. Only a relatively few years ago, if one went to various countries where there may have been a possibility of a smallpox outbreak, it was standard procedure. Many of us as children were vaccinated against smallpox as a routine so I cannot see why the Government sit back and say that there are all kinds of risks with regard to vaccination.
I believe that, if the situation worsened, the Government should be able, at once and if necessary, to say, "We believe that the danger has escalated", and to use the necessary powers. I am not saying that immediately everyone in the emergency services should be vaccinated, but I believe that the Government should have the power. That does not mean that an emergency is about to occur, but the power should be available to the Government now.
I turn to paragraph (b)the final three paragraphs deal with more technical matters. As I have told your Lordships, I visited California earlier this year with a NATO group. We visited a remarkable company called SAIC in San Diego, southern California, where 40,000 people are employed in the production of items concerned with the protection of the civilian population, among a good many other things. There we saw a piece of equipment that was demonstrated to us, under the name of VacisI am sure that there are other similar technical systems in the world. A lorry or a container is put through a monitoring arch and one can see whether there are people or suspicious objects inside.
I believe that the Government should have the power to insist that the authorities that control entry points into the United Kingdom should install equipment of that kind. The Government may already have such a power, but if not, I believe that they should have. Likewise, under paragraph (c) of the amendment, well known, well authenticated equipment is mentioned.
I have here a file with definitions and specifications of all kinds of such equipment that are increasingly and widely used in the United States as precautionary
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measures. I am not talking about science fiction. It is possible to install equipment that will detect radiological material. I also believe that the Government should have the power to require authorities to install that equipment to discover whether radiological material is being brought into the country.
Finally, on paragraph (d), the Government should have the power to require local authorities to install the kind of equipmentsome static and some mobilethat can very quickly tell whether there are chemical substances in the environment that could be from a terrorist attack, such as nerve gas and other dreadful chemical substances about which we have been learning a good deal recently. Some of the equipment is hand held and some is static, but it can detect both chemical and biological substances.
The important point about an attack, which could come out of the blue, is that one should know as quickly as possible what is being used and where, and whether it exists at all. That is the purpose of my amendment. As I said just now, perhaps some of these powers exist already. If they do, we can only hope that we shall be told so by the Minister today. It is very important that we know whether such powers exist.
I am not asking the Minister to tell us specifically what technical equipment is in use in this country. It would perhaps be foolish of him to tell us. But privately I know that there is nowhere near as much equipment as there ought to be. Therefore, in preparation for the Report stage I hope he will tell us what powers exist in the hands of government to provide such things. If there are noneI suspect that there are not as many as there should bewe can reconsider the matter on Report.
I am sorry to have gone on for so long but I feel passionately about this issue. I think it is essential to sound the warning. I have said beforeand I say it againif something dreadful were to happen, I am convinced that the Government would be open to the most tremendous criticism. Far be it from me to protect this Government from criticism, but in this case I think that it is essential to do so. I beg to move.
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