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Lord Dixon-Smith: I am sorry, I need to pursue this matter a little further. I was thinking of something even more specific perhaps than that; I was thinking of the 1951 floods when there were major breaches to the sea wall. Inevitably some transport firms became very heavily committed in the movement of materials to repair those breaches. While I would accept that perhaps it is not appropriate to try and deal with this on the face of the Bill, I thought that the Minister may have had some more specific thoughts about how that sort of situation might be dealt with, rather than just saying that the circumstances would be left to unfold.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: In that sort of situation obviously there would have to be compensation. I hope the noble Lord would expect that for compensation or payment for providing a particular serviceyou are moving people or goods from one place to another in response to something like a floodclearly there will have to be agreement. That sort of arrangement is probably, as the noble Lord acknowledged, not best dealt with on the face of the Bill but in regulations and in guidance, so that the events can be covered in that way. I think that would be a far better way of doing it. That is why we resist this particular amendment.
Lord Jopling: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps he would consider another aspect of this, which I think is extremely important. In the event of a terrorist action which involves a nuclear explosion, one of its often forgotten side effects is that there is a magnetic pulse effect which totally collapses the working of nearly all motor vehicles. If we were to haveone dreads to think ita nuclear explosion, the street would be entirely cluttered with abandoned, immobile vehicles. If the emergency services were to work in those circumstances, they would somehow have to clear those vehicles from the streets to get through to do the work that they need to do. Inevitably, that would have to be done by pushing them physically off the road on to the pavement and in other ways. Would that situation also be covered by compensation? That is an important matter.
I have asked Questions about magnetic pulsing before, but have never received a good Answer. I can imagine huge damage to motor vehicles in the area
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around a nuclear explosion in order for the emergency services to work. I am not at all clear what would be the position regarding compensation.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am not going to make Dispatch Box pronouncements about precise details of a compensation scheme that might have to be put in place to deal with the inevitable side-effects of an explosion, nuclear or not. Such situations are in extremis. However, I am advised that for insurable loss or where a fault lies with the company or a third party, arrangements may have to be put in place. There may be emergencies in which the impact is spread across a community as a whole. Obviously, in such cases, the loss will be spread over the community and compensation may not always be appropriate. So it is difficult for me today to be precise about every set of circumstances in which a compensation scheme may or may not have to be put in place. It would be unwise for me to offer more than that at this stage.
Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his response, but we are talking about what happens in extremis. That is the whole point of the Bill: it is about what we do in an emergency. I am concerned by the Minister's reply. I hear what he saysthat Clauses 2 and 3 relate to duties to assess, plan and advisebut the amendment asks for a fair contribution in compensation for carrying out any duties in response to regulations that are laid down. Clause 2(3) states:
The Minister's reply has caused me to think more closely and clearly about the problem that we face. It is not at all clear to what extent those regulations might command a category 2 responder to act in a particular way. I hear the Minister's response that it is about assessing, planning and advising, but the regulations are actually about doing something. For the Minister to say that there cannot be any thoughts about compensation at this stage is a concern.
Perhaps I should take the Bill away and think again about where we should pin the Minister down in the Bill on compensation for actions carried out by category 2 responders because, at the end of the day, that is what I am focusing on. However, I assumed that the regulations, following on from assessing, advising and planning, would talk about action. What is the point of having category 2 responders unless the regulations will talk about what they are to do? So in my view the Minister's reply is not satisfactory and poses more questions than it answers.
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As an aside, we must think about the role of some category 2 responders, how they operate and how they are already investing financially and in manpower to prepare, plan and respond to emergencies. For example, mobile network operators tend to plan nationally, rather than locally, and are crying out not only for clarity in the Bill about financial compensation, so that at least they know where they stand, but for the Government to appreciate that dealing with category 2 responders on a local authority basis is unhelpful. For example, somewhere such as Heathrow and its environs may span two local authorities. In many ways, the private sector is thinking ahead on such issues rather more strategically and effectively in extremis, in an emergency.
Focusing back on compensation, I will take the amendment away, think carefully about the Minister's reply and consider how we may table an amendment on Report that demands a clear response from the Minister about compensation for action carried out by category 2 responders. However, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Lucas: I briefly ask why this duty is being put on local authorities. When it comes to local businessessay a hotel on the river in Boscastlethere is not much advice that you can give. Once the thing has been swept into the Bristol Channel, business continuance is a bit difficult. Local businesses tend just to have to put up with their discontinuance for a while because they are subject to any local emergency. Perhaps the Government can enlighten us and offer advice on ensuring that businesses keep the records and facilities in a way that enables them to be resilient, if they are operating on a larger than local scale and have an opportunity to continue in business if there is a local emergency.
That seems an essentially national question that should surely be addressed by national government. Why should ICI on Teesside be approached by its local council about how it ensures the continuance of its petrochemical business in the event of a local emergency in Teesside? ICI will consider that nationally, if not internationally. What does a local authority bring to that discussion that could not be better done nationally?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Taking the noble Lord's point about Boscastle, that is an example in which it is most appropriate for services administered by the local authority to act and intervene. That is why local authorities have the lead responsibility to initiate recovery work and ensure that there isin the jargonbusiness continuity management.
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The noble Lord made a point when he asked what would happen in the event of an incident involving a national resource, such as an oil refinery, which caused a local problem. No doubt, there will have to be some national response mixed in with the local response. However, because of their understanding of the locality and the work that the emergency planning chief officer and his staff will have done with local businesses and so on, it is felt that such people will be best placed. No doubt, they will also be able to understand whether there is a need for other parts of the national resilience framework to be brought in in that circumstance. That is why the lead responsibility has been placed with local authorities.
Our experiencemuch of this is drawn from experienceis that local authorities have done an extremely good job in dealing with such problems and crises, even with terrorist attacks such as those at Bishopsgate or Manchester. Manchester is a good example of a case in which the local authority played a key role in response to a terrorist attack on the part of the commercial sector, pulling together organisations and working hand in hand with the business community to ensure the regeneration and recovery of part of the city centre. That is what works best, and it is on that experience that we have based the clause.
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