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Lord Berkeley: My Lords, can my noble friend explain when there was last a major rail freight accident that caused multiple fatalities? I believe that it was in the last war when an ammunition ship blew up.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I will not get into the business of trading examples. My point is that there is a much greater likelihood of a freight incident that would cause more widespread emergency problems than would necessarily be the case with a road accident. The noble Lord is right: accidents involving freight trains are very rare. But when they occur they have the potential to cause major problems. The other important consideration is that they also share the same infrastructure as passenger train operators.
We have sought to minimise the burden on rail freight companies by brokering a deal whereby Network Rail would represent them wherever possible
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at local resilience forum meetings. That means that all rail freight interests would be represented at minimal cost to the companies. I believeand I think that key figures in the rail freight industry agreethat that is a fair compromise.
As regards broadcasters, it is not appropriate for media organisations to be included within the list of category 2 responders. To make their participation in local civil protection arrangements a statutory requirement might impact on their independence as news reporting and investigative bodies in the context of emergencies.
We already have a long-standing arrangement with the BBC and there is an agreement in broadcasting legislation concerning broadcasters' contribution to defence and emergency arrangements. In practice, media organisations have shown themselves to be valuable partners in multi-agency plans for informing the public during and after an emergency. That is expected to continue under new arrangements. This must be a relationship of co-operation, not obligation.
Amendment No. 56, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, recommends including a number of schemes and national advisory bodies relating to chemical and nuclear hazards; that is, CHEMSAFE, RADSAFE, the NRPB and so forth. Those suggestions were made to us during the pre-legislative scrutiny process. But it was decided that it would not be appropriate to include them.
CHEMSAFE and RADSAFE are schemes which bring together a range of responders already covered by the Bill. These respondersfor example, the fire servicewill be well sighted on how those schemes operate and will bring that understanding to discussions.
The Chemical Incident Management Support Unit, based at Llandough NHS Hospital Trust, and the Chemical Incident Response Service, based at Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals, are very small expert advisory groups which do not need to be involved and do not have the capacity to be involved in local resilience forums. They are a national capability that can be built into plans, not a local responder that needs to be engaged in the locality of planning. The National Radiation Protection Board will be integrated into the Health Protection Agencya category 1 responderas of April next year. So, in a sense, it will already be covered.
The noble Baroness asked about the gas and electricity amendments. These government amendments would make a number of changes to the range of bodies in the gas and electricity industry that will be category 2 responders. Following detailed discussions with the DTI and the industry, these amendments would bring references up to date with changes following the Energy Act 2004. They would remove the operators of small private electricity and gas networks, which we never intended to capture, and they would add gas and electricity interconnectorsthat is, offshore power lines. These amendments ensure that only the most appropriate bodies are subject to category 2 duties and, in essence, are a matter of fine tuning.
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We have worked closely with practitioners over two public consultations and I believe that the list of responders set out in Schedule 1 is about right. Furthermore, category 1 responders believe it to be the right list as well. In the end, this is a flexible framework. As I have explained before, Clause 13 provides that responders can be added to or removed from the list. This gives us the ability to develop, build on and improve the framework in the light of experience.
I think that I have covered in my response most of the points that have been raised and I hope that it is helpful to noble Lords. I should also point out that I shall move the two government amendments in this grouping at the appropriate time. I apologise once again for the length of my reply, but the subjects raised were significant.
Lord Garden: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comprehensive and extensive reply to a long list of amendments which covered a number of different topics. I am not sure that within all that the particular and peculiar concerns of the mobile network operators were covered in any detail and I trust that we shall have a letter in response to our letter so as to allow us to look at that point more thoroughly.
I am slightly surprised that the Minister is not prepared to accept the word "efficiently", which presumes that he wants this to be done inefficiently. However, should the Minister decide in the mean time that it would be quite a useful word, I hope that we shall not split the infinitive. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"( ) permit or require a person or body, in maintaining a plan under subsection (1)(c) or (d), to have regard to the activities of bodies (other than public or local authorities) whose activities are not carried on for profit;"
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 23 I shall speak briefly also to Amendments Nos. 24 to 28 in the group. In view of the
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generous amount of time expended on the last amendment, I shall attempt to be extremely brief and try to use this as an opportunity for an equally short reply from the Minister.
Noble Lords may remember that in Committee I took exception to the different treatment allocated under Clause 5 to Scottish Ministers as opposed to everyone else. Clauses 1 and 2 list the people empowered under Clause 5, while subsection (3) makes it clear that anyone getting an order has to obey it. Under subsection (4), Ministers of the Crown are told precisely what they have to do. However, Ministers in Scotland sit collectively waiting until they get to subsection (5), at which point they have to construe a rather complicated piece of drafting:
Before today I had intended to give the Scots equal treatment with the English and others, but that was something to which the Minister was predictably opposed because it would have meant writing out again in a new subsection almost everything set out in subsection (4). Since then it has been suggested to me that it is simple to do as I have done in this group of amendments; that is, to incorporate the Scots with the English, disposing of all discrimination in subsection (4).
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I believe in doing my research before I get into debates of this sort. I thought that I should consult with someone who knows the noble Lord, Lord Elton, rather better than I. Probably some 30 to 40 years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, taught a good friend of mine. My friend remarked that the noble Lord was a very particular teacher who believed in getting things right in the detail, and that is exactly what he is trying to do here. However, in doing so, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has overstepped the mark. Indeed, he has probably offended his noble friend Lord Lucas who, in these matters, goes for brevity, simplicity and transparency. In seeking to be absolutely precise in detailing the effect of this part of the Bill, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has broken what I now refer to as "Lord Lucas's rule". I shall endeavour to explain why this has been so drafted, although I acknowledge that the amendments tabled by the noble Lord have a laudable aim.
Civil protection is largely devolved in Scotland. However, the Scottish Parliament passed a Sewel Motion giving its agreement to the UK Parliament to legislate on its behalf. Following Royal Assent, Scottish Ministers will make regulations and orders, and will issue guidance for bodies under their jurisdiction. In a sense, what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is doing with his amendments is querying the way that is set out in the Bill, which is fair.
As currently drafted, Clause 5(1) enables a Minister of the Crown to make an order requiring a category 1 responder in England or Wales to perform a function
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for the purpose of dealing with the emergency. Subsection (4) gives further detail about what kind of provision may be included in such orders. For example, paragraph (a) provides that the order may require a responder to consult a particular person, while paragraph (d) requires that the order may require category 1 or 2 responders in England and Wales to co-operate with other responders in the course of performing their duties under the order.
Clause 5(2) confers a similar power on Scottish Ministers to make orders in relation to responders in Scotland who are within their devolved competence. In general, there is no reason why Scottish Ministers should not be able to include in such an order exactly the same provisions as may be included in an order made by a UK Minister. So why not provide that subsection (4) applies to Scottish Ministers in the same way as it applies to Ministers of the Crown?
There are aspects of the list in subsection (4) which are not right for Scottish Ministers. In particular, while it might be appropriate for a UK Minister to confer a function on a Minister or a devolved administration, it would be inappropriate for the Scottish Minister to confer a function on a UK Minister or one of the other devolved administrations. Similarly, it would be inappropriate for Scottish Ministers to be able to require responders in England and Wales to co-operate or share information with responders in Scotland.
Rather than repeat the relevant provisions of subsection (4), the draftsman has applied it with the relevant modifications. This has meant that, rather than having an extra 21 lines of text, we have only 10 lines. Thus we have conformed to the "Lord Lucas rule". The draftsman has chosen this formulation because it is the clearest and most economical way of accurately reflecting the devolution settlement.
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