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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 14. The aim of the amendments is to ensure efficient co-operation between category 1 and category 2 responders by a fairly minor insertion of the word "efficiently" in page three at line 47 and page four at line two. My noble friend Lord McNally wrote to the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, to explain the background to that on 2 November. We have not received a reply, but I should like to explain for the benefit of your Lordships the thinking behind the amendment.
The example that we cited was mobile network operators, which are entirely supportive of the Bill and already contribute to several of the emergency planning bodies, including the Telecommunications Industry Emergency Planning Forum, the London Resilience Forum utilities sub-committee and the Cabinet Office emergency planning exercise steering group. However,
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unlike most category 2 responders, they have five competing national infrastructures and are not national or local monopoly suppliers. Furthermore, their responses to local, regional and national emergencies are planned and managed nationally. They are all competitors with each other, so they feel that they would not adequately be able to represent each other with category 1 organisations, which may also be customers for mobile phone services.
The mobile network operators feel that it would be highly inefficient for the large number of local resilience forums separately to specify their planning and information requirements from national service providers. Such an approach would generate an unnecessary cost burden on mobile operators and other industries and may fragment the existing, consistent national emergency response process.
So it would be much better for such category 2 respondentsof course, the Bill will apply in future, when we do not know what will be the arrangements between other utilities, so we want the Bill to cover all eventsto communicate their consistent national plan and information to the local resilience forums on a regional or national level, rather than to every local authority and other category 1 responder in the UK. A standardised approach would allow those private sector companies to focus their limited resources on providing specialist support for high-risk installations or extraordinary requirements that need to be met in the most sensitive locations.
We are looking for efficient arrangements so that lots of co-ordination is not repeated. We ask the Minister, when looking at the draft regulations and guidance documents, to consider aspects relating to communication providers separately from those relating to utilities. Like other category 2 responders, the mobile network operators provide services to category 1 responders, but they are also the means by which category 2 responders communicate with category 1 and other category 2 responders.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 46 to 48, 52, 55 and 56, which are grouped with Amendment No. 11. Through these amendments we are trying to address what we perceive to be serious omissions from the list of bodies that should be included as category 2 responders.
In many emergencies, maintaining adequate food and fuel supplies, evacuation assistance and general information is critical to the success of an emergency response plan. Therefore, the failure to include services such as major bus and coach services, as detailed in Amendment No. 55; the petrol and diesel industry, as detailed in Amendment No. 46; the food distribution industry, as set out in Amendment No. 48; and the national, chemical and radiological hazard identification and response schemes, as detailed in Amendment No. 56, is a striking flaw in the legislation.
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The amendments would widen the scope of category 2 responders to include industries that will presumably play a large role in any emergency response plan. We understand that the Government intend to focus on the core organisations at the heart of the emergency planning process; therefore, it is important that they address these issues.
Let me touch briefly on our two new amendments not tabled in Committee. Amendment No. 48 would include the food and distribution industry. Surely, the resources available to the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda would make them invaluable in any emergency. They have significant distribution networks that could be used to transport food and other basic supplies around the country or to a specific area affected by an emergency.
We welcomed the opportunity to discuss issues such as food distribution with the Minister before today's debate. The Minister explained that already there were arrangements with some local authorities for food distribution. But if the Bill is to provide properly coherent, clear direction on civil contingency planning, there should be a specific reference to food distribution.
Amendment No. 52 would incorporate airlines in the same category as airports. The question is short: why airports but not airlines? Surely the likes of British Airways or even easyJet could transport hundreds of thousands of people out of an affected area in a matter of hours. Should civil aviation not be utilised alongside its military counterpart in any emergency?
The Minister will notice a subtle change to Amendment No. 55 that now allows the Secretary of State to decide on the nature and, more realistically, the size of the coach or bus company that could be included in the clause. The Minister's argument in Committee that that was impractical given the plethora of small bus companies has, therefore, been overcome. The Minister should therefore have little problem in accepting the amendment.
The amendments would ensure that the Government, in co-ordination with private industry, could effectively and efficiently respond to emergency situations. I do not agree with the Minister's comments in Committee that existing legislation is sufficient to provide for that co-ordination. What is the purpose of a Civil Contingencies Bill that relies on other arrangements to govern emergency responses?
I note with interest that the Minister has tabled an amendment that would include electricity generators and distributors as category 2 responders, therefore it is impossible to lengthen the list. I can only take from that that the Government are unsure about who should be included in the listunless the Minister can reassure us otherwise after this debate.
We hope that the Minister will give us a full and proper explanation of why it is crucial that electricity generators are now included as category 2 responders. I must press the Minister: if those involved in the production and distribution of electricity are to be included, why not those in the production and distribution of petrol and diesel, as set out in
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Amendment No. 46? Why are the London Underground and trains, but not buses and coaches, included? Why airports but not airlines?
There appears to be no clear rationale behind the Government's approach to category 2 responders. That said, I hope that the Minister listened to our discussions and that he will reassure us today. I support entirely all that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Garden, on network operators and the prudence of taking a different approach to communications systems that do not necessarily fit in with the way that they are expected to in the Bill.
Lord Monson: My Lords, I have no quarrel with the thrust of the amendments, but I should point out that, if Amendment No. 14 is agreed, it will result in a split infinitive. Of course there are many worse things in the world than a split infinitive; nevertheless, I do not think that one should be incorporated into an Act of Parliament.
Lord Berkeley: Follow that, my Lords! I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 49 to 51, 53 and 54, which are tabled in my name. I also support the amendments tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Garden, and the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, some of which duplicate my amendments to some extent, but I shall leave that matter aside for the moment.
I still have problems with who is in and who is out of Schedule 1. Managers of infrastructure such as ports, rail, roads and airports are all included, as should be the case; it is a totally consistent approach. The problem arises at the next levelwhat one might loosely call operators, perhaps even network services, telecoms and other services. I am grateful for the meeting that my noble friend had with me and others before this stage. We gained some useful information. But why are certain organisations included? Is it because they are a source of danger or because they can be helpful in an emergency?
If it is a source of dangerwe were told that rail freight wasthen buses and coaches are such a source. I do not know why rail freight is deemed a source of danger. If it is because trains carry nuclear flasks, then ships carrying nuclear material should be included, because operators of such services travel into ports. If buses are a source of danger, then any other vehicle that moves by means of an internal combustion engine is a source of danger, too, but they are not included. Is being a source of danger a reason for inclusion or exclusion? I do not think that it can be both.
I wish to ask about organisations that operate locally. Rightly, this Bill provides for local work, so it includes organisations that operate locally. I do not think that any rail freight organisation operates locally; they are national. Conversely, buses operate locally. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, summed up the situation very well. I do not accept that there are too many bus companies, as we told the Minister at our meeting. In Cornwall, there is one companyFirst Devon and Cornwallso there would be only one bus company to talk to. In Oxford, where I live,
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there are two bus companies, which are well known national operators. Of course there are lots of little companies, but the two main ones, which probably provide 90 per cent of the traffic in an area, are well known and possibly should be involved in the discussions.
I question whether trains can help very much. I had an interesting discussion with someone who had just returned from New York. I was told about the experiences after the 9/11 attack, after which the underground and railway system of New York was closed for five hours. In the subsequent eight hours the system carried only 3,000 people because nobody wanted to use it. They walked, however far their journey. We must put such issues into perspective.
My amendments are a small attempt to rationalise matters but I am not sure that they are the right answer. I had a telephone call from a passenger train operator only this morning. That company does not want to be in this category and thinks that it could be represented by Network Rail. I suspect that the airlines might suggest that they could be represented by the airport operators. Similarly, some of the shipping lines might be represented. But there must be some logic. If the Government insist on keeping rail freight in this category, while accepting that Network Rail can generally deal on its behalf, then they should accept that ferries and air services should be in it and that the harbour authorities and the airport operators could attend meetings on their behalf.
I suspect that the Minister will not like the text of my amendments. But he could say that the matter is too complicated and that the infrastructure managers, who I mentioned earlier, could be left in and everybody else could be taken out. Clause 13 could then be relied on. It allows the Government to add in other organisations that it could justify and find useful in an emergency and in planning. That seems to me to be a much more logical way of taking this forward. The only exception to that might be buses because, whereas ships and ports, airlines and airports, and trains and Network Rail have relationships, I am not sure that buses have a relationship with the Highways Agency. I shall be very interested to hear what my noble friend has to say about my last suggestion.
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