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Lord Dixon-Smith: I hear what the Minister says. I am in absolute agreement that the legislation needs to
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be brought completely up to date. It concerns me that we are introducing a lot of powers which necessarily affect all sorts of bodies across the whole of the country. From what I have read about the Bill, I am not absolutely convinced that we have got the necessary legislative authority for the Government. That is really what lies behind my noble friend's concern in putting down her amendment, which makes very plain what the Minister admits he thinks is the situation. I am quite happy for the Minister to continue to explain this, but perhaps subsequently he would write and tell me specifically where the legislative authority for the Government to continue their emergency planning role lies after we have passed this Act.
Lord Elton: Will the Minister tell me whether I have got this right? These exchanges are about the legitimacy and completeness of government power to plan for emergencies. My noble friend brought forward an amendment suggesting that in this Bill there was no provision to involve elements of central government, which she listed in her amendment. As I understood it, the Minister said, "Well, you needn't bother about those because those are already happening anyway".
My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said that what is happening anyway is being wiped out in the schedule of repeals. It does not seem that the Minister can maintain his original argument if my noble friend is right in that assumption. He must find some other place for the Government to have their powers. I would like to hear where they are.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am in some difficulty here because it seems that two different sets of questions are being asked, which I think I have answered. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, was after an assurance that we were not repealing things that we need and that that was his general thrust.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: We are not repealing measures that would in any way detract from our ability to deal with emergencies. The Government do not have and do not need specific legislative authority to plan for an emergency. Their inherent powers are entirely and completely adequate. The Acts being repealed do not relate to the powers of central government. We have covered the point and nothing in the list of repeals undermines what we are seeking to achieve in this piece of legislation in terms of modernising the legislative framework for civil protection. I hope that that answers the noble Lord's point, because it should.
Lord Lucas: I chide my noble friends: we must trust the Government that they have done their homework
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on the abolition of these powers in exactly the same way as they did when they abolished the post of Lord Chancellor.
Baroness Buscombe: At the beginning of our debates today, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, used the word "opaque". That word is appropriate to much of what we have been trying to glean from the Government throughout our discussions. I believe that, with the help of my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith, we have raised a very important point here.
Local authorities are being asked, pursuant to this measure, to take on enormous responsibilities in relation to civil protection. They do not deflect from that one iota, nor do we seek to criticise the Government in any way by asking where their authority is to come from when all these Acts have been repealed. What we are seeking to understand is how civil protection can be seriously effective if there is no clear and proper link between local government, government agencies and local responders, and that link made clear in the Bill.
With the best will in the world, we cannot rely on the Minister's assumptions. Much as we would like, we cannot take his word that all the powers that are required will remain because we do not know what they are. We are being asked simply to accept that central government and government agencies are doing their bit. In being asked to do that, it is a step too far.
The hour is late and we have had some time to discuss this matter. I appreciate that it is a subject that has been raised in a sense throughout today's debate. However, I urge the Minister to consider what we have had to say before we return to this crucially important point at the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"9 (1) The Health Protection Agency established by section 1 of the Health Protection Agency Act 2004 (c. 17).
(2) Until its dissolution consequent upon the coming into force of section 1 of that Act, the Special Health Authority established under section 11 of the National Health Service Act 1977 and known as the Health Protection Agency."
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 83B I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 83C, 86A and 86B. In so doing, I appreciate that I shall be repeating to an extent some of what was said in relation to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. At that stage I was in two minds about whether to intervene, but I was concerned that I might confuse the Minister more by interjecting with different amendments that would have to be taken out of place. So I shall attempt to be brief and I apologise for any repetition.
In bringing forward this group of amendments we are again attempting to redress what we on these Benches perceive as serious omissions from the list of those bodies that should be included as category 2 respondents. There are a number of striking general omissions: broadcasters, bus and coach companies, the entire food distribution and sales industry, the petrol and diesel distribution industry are not included. National chemical and radiological hazard identification and response schemes such as NAIR, RADSAFE and CHEMSAFE are also missing.
The omission of such organisations is all the more puzzling given the important role that they would play in any large-scale emergency or incident. For example, bus and coach companies, presumably, would have been a vital component of most evacuation plans in assisting to transport large numbers of people away from the affected areas. On this issue, perhaps the Minister can explain why, if London Underground, train and airport operators are included on the list, bus and coach companies are not.
I additionally would have thought, given the events of the September 2000 fuel crisis and the near standstill that that incident brought to the country, the Government would have been keen to include in the Bill the producers and distributors of fuel. Again, I look forward with anticipation to the Minister's answer on this issue.
Furthermore, why is there no mention of broadcasters among category 2 responders? Surely it would be up to both national and local media outlets to publicise during the crisis what was going on and, indeed, to offer advice on what people should be doinga point we made earlier in relation to
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informing the public. They could advise, for example, whether they should be staying in their homes or mustering at an evacuation point. Where else are we going to get our information in times of crisis?
In addition, in any specific locality there are likely also to be particular organisations whose co-operation may be vital to comprehensive planning, such as the operators of major shopping, leisure and sporting complexes. Again, these are not included.
I hope the Minister will be able to provide an assurance that the reason why these organisations are not included as category 2 respondents on the face of the Bill is that they are already adequately included in other legislation. If the Minister is not able to give me that assurance, I anticipate that he will be happy to accept this group of amendments today. I beg to move.
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